I grew up in Minnesota and moved to Kentucky when I was 18. I’ve been in Kentucky now for, well, more years than I would like to say. The accents in these two places are pretty different. When I moved down here I had a hella Minnesotan accent. Now I have a bit of a Kentucky drawl to my words. But mostly I fall somewhere in between the two accents, saying some words (like ‘bag,’ for example) Minnesotan-style and other words (like ‘hi’ and ‘bye’) Kentuckian. If I’m talking to a Minnesotan, my accent will become more like theirs. If I’m talking to a countryish Kentuckian (the accents around and in Louisville aren’t that thick), I speak more like them.
I’m a little bit of an accent chameleon, I guess.
But sometimes I run into people here that show me that I’ve never truly grown a good ear for the Kentucky accent. Here’s a little case in point.
Last night on my way home from the day job, I stopped at a small country store to buy some pet food. I live in horse country and this was a horse/farm type of place. They were moving stuff around or moving in or out, or I don’t know what. In any case, the store was in disarray. I asked the man where the specific cat food I wanted was and he says (much to my surprise)….
“It’s over there sitting on that slab of semen.” He jerks his head toward a pile of horse blankets and other things and goes back to his box.
I stand, head cocked to the side, blinking. Semen? There’s semen here? Wait…there’s a whole SLAB of SEMEN??!!
“Uhm?” I start to say, eyebrows raising. “Where’s the s–s–slab?”
He turned to me and points at the pile of horse blankets again. “Over there.”
I walked around and find a slab of CEMENT upon which rest the cans of cat food I seek.
Cement, not semen. I am relieved. The guy had pronounced cement like SEE-meant, only he’d dropped the ‘t’ or I hadn’t heard it because he’d already been turning back around to his box.
I say sa-MEANT, he says SEE-ment.