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Help us hear how Washingtonians talk

Argue.jpeg.JPG(Photo by Robert A. Reeder)

New York has an accent. So does Boston and Philly. But does Washington? If so, what does it sound like? Or are there several? A little ways down I-95, the classic slow, southern Virginian drawl survives, though in dwindling numbers. Go north toward “Bawlmer, Merlund” and people start to sound completely different. On the Chesapeake Bay, there are watermen who say “arsters,” instead of oysters.

Why do we talk so differently, and what does it say about us? And has the way we talk changed over the years? There’s been so much growth, such an influx of people from all over the country—and the world—it has to have had an effect on the way people in the Washington area speak.

We're going to try to find out, but we need your help. We have a few ideas of places where there are good examples of regional accents--Café Hon in Baltimore (“J’eet yet?”), the Fauquier Livestock Exchange, maybe Laurel Park. But we'd love for the collective wisdom of Post readers to guide this project. So if you think you have an accent distinctive to where you live, or know someone who does, let us know, and perhaps we’ll come visit. And we'd like to hear you--literally. Email me and let's talk--we'd like to get some of you on video to get a good sense of the range of voices and accents in our area. Or send us your favorite local expressions.

While you're thinking about how we talk, check out this effort to chronicle accents, by the folks at George Mason University.

You can post your ideas and leads on the comment board below, or by emailing me at davenportc@washpost.com

By Christian Davenport  | December 3, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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