The Insidious American Schwa

When I moved to the States, Americans made fun of my interjection of choice–eh?

I found it preferable to theirs–huh?  Sounds a bit less dull-witted, but gradually and for the most part I lost my eh.
I resisted, however, succumbing to the American habit of converting all vowel sounds to the schwa which permits them to pronounce things like "uh elephant ate uh apple" with ease. Truly, the indefinite article "an" is unamerican, at least around here. Maybe even pretentious. And even the ones that do  say "an apple" it's not "ahn apple", it's "uhn apple."
This morning I asked a child if they would like uh egg. 
In my defense, mentally I mixed the schwa in "some eggs" in there and changed my mind at the last second to say "an egg" and lost the n in the process. I most definitely uttered an "uh". Realized that I even if I'd squeezed the n in there, I was still going to say "uhn egg". Realized that I have lost all my "ah" sounds. I think I probably say "uhn apple" now with the rest of them.
Not proud to be American this morning. 
Glum even. 
So to all my Canadian family and friends–Happy Thanksgiving, eh? I miss your clean snow and your wide open prairies, your mountains and your diction! 

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6 responses to “The Insidious American Schwa

  • Karen

    I enjoyed this as I am obsessed with linguistics, accents, and why people pronounce the way they do. I absolutely hate the way I talk–I'm from the midwest, and don't have a cute Chicago accent, but kind of a whiny, nasally central Illinois way of talking. I'd give anything for a British accent.

  • Emjay

    There is very little that I have changed since arriving here. I had to change "zed" to "zee" because no-one knew what I was talking about and I changed my pronunciation of schedule like shed to sked…. everything else stayed the Queen's English Australian style – even when people laugh at me. The only time I spell the American way is in business letters and emails – hence you will find colour and centre in my posts.

  • Jane Finchwood

    I become frustrated with imprecise diction. I hear accents from different parts of the world everyday and am always listening very carefully to what they say in an effort to understand and communicate. My brain gets tired. Then, when faced with a born and bred American who slur all their words together, I get frustrated. They should know better. Accents are ok, not enunciating kills me.

  • Kimber

    See, I can't remember which is my native tongue–I try to remember as the Z approaches in the song, zee, or zed, and I get it wrong, every time. Words like bagel and bag–and some others that aren't coming to mind–get me in trouble. My kids always make fun of the way I pronounce those, but every time I try to think of the American way, and consciously choose that one, I get it backwards–I can never remember.

  • Kimber

    Yes! That is something else they do–okay, I'm probably guilty now too–drove me nuts when I came down here and they slurred entire sentences together. Omitted half their consonants! I'd forgotten about how crazy it made me when I first arrived.

  • P.S.


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