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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
y name is Mike Szelog, I’m 42 years old and live in the city of Manchester,
state of New Hampshire—USA.
I was born and raised in Manchester and have lived here most of my life.
I am of Polish, French Canadian, Breton and Penobscott/Abenaki descent. Polish
and Canadian French, in addition to English were the languages heard at home
I have been interested in languages as far back as I can remember. I’m
not really sure where the interest came from; perhaps it was from hearing French
and Polish spoken by grandparents. While other kids were making “secret codes,”
I was using ancient alphabets as codes—my way of learning them better. According
to my mother, when I was very little and played with my toy animals, I would
be having conversations with them, but they weren’t in English (or anything
else my mother was able to recognize at any rate!), so, I think my interest
in languages has always been a part of me in some strange way.
People sometimes ask me what my favorite language is—I don’t know that
I have a “favorite language”—all languages are fascinating in their own way!
In addition to modern languages, I do like ancient as well as older languages.
If I had to pick a favorite here, I’d have to say that Egyptian/Coptic is probably
right on the top of the list.
A sort of pet peeve of mine is that I can’t stand it when a “dead” language
is “spoken” by someone and it sounds just that way; i.e. like it really has
been dead for 1,000 years! I try in my pronunciations and reading of texts
in these languages to breathe some life into them and try and make them sound
as much as possible like the living languages they once were. I hope that will
come across in some of my attempts at reading in these older languages on the
No, I really don’t know how many languages I’m familiar with (another
common question I get asked)—never really counted and when people ask, I
really don’t have an answer, though I wish I spoke them all with equal fluency!
Coupled with my love of languages is my love of folk music. I suppose
in a way, the two almost go hand in hand. This has led to an interest in playing
several folk instruments from various places around the word—again, I don’t
really have a favorite here, but the mountain dulcimer (Scheitholt, langspil,
espinette, hummel, langleik,etc., etc.) is definitely at the top of the list.
I’m married and have two wonderful children, a daughter and a son. As
you can tell from the picture (only recent one I have of me—I’m usually the
one taking them!), I’m active in the Scouting movement here in Manchester
am an adult leader in our local Cub Scout Pack.
Anyway, to get back to my particular dialect ...
The dialect/accent I’m representing is that of New England, specifically
my home state of New Hampshire.
I must confess that I, as well as most people from Manchester, don’t usually
speak with such a thick/broad New England accent in everyday speech—this
is something you’d tend to hear more out in the country; away from larger cities,
but you can indeed hear it mainly amongst older people and the very young in
larger cities. So to switch into it now (I’m not going to attempt to spell
it here, just speak it) ...
Before I start, I’d just like to add that as a native speaker and a linguist,
I feel that what we have here in the US is more of what I’d call regional accent
than dialect. Unlike in Europe where, for example, a person from the Hamburg
area might have a communication problem with someone from a small town outside
Munich, when they’re both speaking their local dialect, that doesn’t really
happen here in the US—we can understand each other fine, everybody else just
sounds really funny compared to us! Now some of the words used may indeed be
true dialect words, but they’re not unknown in other parts of the country,
they may just be used for a something slightly different than what they’d be
used for in our part of the country.
Now you take, for instance, the word “spider”—in NH it refers to an
arachnid—you know, those furry golf balls with legs that scare the bejesus
out of you when your in your garden or out in the corn. On the coast of Maine,
however, in addition to the above meaning, “spider” can also refer to that
NE delicacy, a lobster.
Our dialect has been made somewhat famous by a very notable author of
the horror genre (one of my favorite authors), Stephen King. He uses it quite
a bit in his books and there were some pretty good attempts at it by actors
in some of the movies made from his books.
To paraphrase from a presentation on our dialect given by a popular NH
New Hampshire people feel we have just about the perfect amalgamation
of New England speech, in fact, if you were to draw an ‘X’ from the four corners
of New England, the center would come out just outside of the small town of
Wilton, New Hampshire. Wilton is about a 30 minute drive West from where I
live here in Manchester.
The speech of all three a joining states has influenced the New Hampshire
accent—We have influences from Maine (a front-of-the-mouth type accent),
Vermont (a more mellifluous use of some vowels) and Massachusetts (a more slurpy
sounding accent—a remnant from the old upper class Bostonians who came to
summer in NH)—all varieties are authentic.
As a very basic overview of the New England accent (northern New England),
you’ll note a few things—we don’t seem to have the letter ‘r’—it’s usually
replaced as though the word was spelt with an “a-h” so a good example is the
state I live in and its capital. However, if you listen closely, you’ll notice
we put ‘r’ on the ends of words that end in ‘a’—now it ain’t New Hampshire
or New Hampshire, what it is, is N’Hampshah. Our capital city is not Concord,
but rather Concord (KON-k’d)– So , Attilar the Hun nevah conquered Concord!
The country I live in is, of course, Americar—it lies to the north of Cubar.
Our southern most state in the continental US is, of course, Floridar.
The ‘ing’ endings on words tend to be dropped in favor of “in,” so it’s
speakin’ not speaking.
The intonation, I find, is also rather unique. Some will say it’s as flat
as a pancake with the exception of a phrase ending slur (whatever that may
be). Though that form is correct, what I tend to hear more of is the distinct
sing song type quality of the intonation. Now it’s quite possible that this
may be a remnant of the so-called Irish lilt and the Scottish burr from earlier
times when most New Englanders were from these two countries along with, of
course, the English.
It’s generally difficult, unless you’re trained in the field, to tell
if someone is from ME, NH or VT—we all tend to sound alike in the tri-state
area. The accent of the Maine coast is very similar to the accent of the deep
Massachusetts, however, has a slightly different variety of the New England
accent—I dare say, it’s partially influenced by the typical NY accent. For
example, we say Boston, but someone from Boston says “Boston.” People from
CT and RI, though located in what is geographically NE, do not speak with a
NE accent—it’s actually more NY so I don’t really include it here.
I feel I have to address what may be the two most quintessential words
in the Northern New England repertoire. They are, of course, “Ayah” and “wicked.”
Now, it really irks us when you get these people “from away,” like down
to New Jersey, who try and imitate these words and their uses! It just don’t
The word “Ayuh”, though it may seem at first to have a positive connotation,
may in fact be used both positively and negatively—it has extremely subtle
undertones which, if you’re not native, can never hope to master. Only a native
New Englander can discern exactly how the speaker intends it by the subtleties
of intonation. Something which confuses people from away some wicked.
The other word “wicked”—in addition to its normal meaning of bad/evil—same meaning as in other parts of the English speaking world, in NE has an
added attraction. It is essentially an intensifier and may be used, like “Ayuh,”
in a positive or a negative way or even a fairly neutral matter-of-fact way—again, depending on the situation at hand. To complicate matters even more,
the word that “wicked” intensifies is frequently omitted!
Here’s an example of the use of “ayuh” and “wicked”—I’m going to be
speakin’ this short dialogue in a wicked thick/broad NE accent. Something more
like what you’d be likely to hear in the backwoods of NH.
“Hey, John! Heard Chester an’ Vern went
up to Berlin this past week ta do some huntin’, snow and all!
Ayuh, said they had a wicked hard time gettin’ up there with the snow,
but the huntin’ was wicked good. ‘Course that blizzard they had the last night
there was a wicked pisser, ayuh! Guess they couldn’t get that Joe-Jeezly car
of Chester’s started the next mornin’ thought they’d have to the barn and get
that John Deer tractor goin’ and ride it all the way back to Franconia!
Ayuh, but it was worth the trip—heard
they got a moose and a couple a wicked crunchers.”
As you can see, the use of ‘ayuh’ and ‘wicked’ varies here. A “crunchah,”
by the way, is a wicked big deer.
Ayuh, so, there we have it, folks—the New England accent in a nutshell.
While I’m at it, I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank the List
Members for all the interesting topics! I’ve learned quite a bit on this list,
and it’s nice to see all the local varieties of lowlands languages/dialects!!
It’s kept me up on the “latest” with one of the areas that really interests
me in the field of Linguistics—Germanic dialects/languages.
Keep up the great work and have a wicked Happy Anniversary!