How Americans speak
I don’t know if it’s just that the debates about Daniel Miller’s speech in Berlin Station have raised my level of attention to the issue, but there has been a lot of discussion of speech issues around here lately. This morning on Wisconsin Public Radio, there was a call in show where an expert from New Jersey was talking about regional speech in the US with special attention to things we say in Wisconsin. It’s an interesting listen — but there’s at least one thing he says that I think is uninformed, and another I disagree with. He only seems interested in what people say but not why they say it that way (e.g., there’s no commentary on why people say “and so” in Wisconsin although I think it’s pretty obvious that it comes from German usage, and there are a lot of local usages that neither of them discuss. “Dassent” for “shouldn’t” or “mustn’t” is the most notable — all my father’s relatives say this but not my mother’s). In any case, perhaps an interesting listen. It also gets to what we think of as an acceptable explanation for something that’s hard to prove — which came up in the response to my remark on Twitter that it’s a mystery why Germans call a cellular or mobile phone “ein
e Handy.” Why do we prefer one explanation over another?