By Cindy O. Herman
The Daily Item
I can’t hear it. My husband laughs at my coal cracker accent, but for the life of me, I just can’t hear it. Say “curtain.” Now, if you heard
me say it, you’d laugh. Unless you were a fellow Coal Region native, and then you’d say, “What’s wrong with it? I can’t hear it.” Kitten. Mountain. Milton. It’s something to do with all those “en” words. At first, I thought it was the pronunciation of that last syllable. Was Isaying “kittin?” Mountin? Miltin? I was relieved, thinking I had found it, but no, there was more to it because my Snyder County husband also laughs at how I say “Martin.” “Martin,” I say.
“Martin,” he insists, and I just can’t hear the difference. “We’re saying it the same way,” I cry, but he laughs. And he’s not the only one. Few people find their speech patterns laughed at as much as those of us who grew up in the Coal Region.
My sister knew a man from Shamokin who was so anxious to get rid of his accent that he took speech classes. Some time after the classes, he was in North Carolina paying for something in a store, and the clerk asked him if he was from Shamokin. True story. She said she could tell by the way he spoke.
I would have to say, judging by my Shamokin classmates’ last names, that our speech is influenced by the Slavic countries — Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia — and by Italy. Or, in Shamokin talk, Itly. Thus, you have speech patterns that sound almost Mafia-ish: Dees guys. Dem t’ings. My brudder, Ant’ony.