Utah Speak

Utah has its own language and its own dialect, especially when you get out of the cosmopolitan areas. This list of Utah words was assembled by the Radio from Hell show.

Liar
Skiddin
Sway
Mart
Al
Scout
Strew
Sarah
Zrenny
Meetin
Smelp
Bulimia
Cheatin
Skit
Sain
Skweet
Jeat
Snot
Stew
Zis
Smee
Frude
Frignernt
Melk
Mungry
Lechin
Galna
(lawyer)
(just kidding)
(this way)
(my heart)
(owl)
(lets go out)
(it’s true)
(is there a)
(is there any)
(I am eating)
(some help)
(believe me, I …)
(what are you eating)
(let’s get)
(saying)
(let’s go eat)
(did you eat)
(is not)
(is too)
(who is this)
(it’s me)
(for rude)
(for ignorant)
(milk)
(I’m hungry)
(let you in)
(gallon of)

Other phenomena have been observed, such as the tendency of vowels to go from tense to lax before /l/, resulting in things like “Bell the Hay, George, there’s a hellstorm coming.” The phenomenon is not limited to production, but also perception; my ex-wife always referred to my cousin Del as “Dale” – i.e. she couldn’t hear the difference between the two phonemes in that position.

Southern Utahns have a heavy tendency to pronounce words like “born” and “Mormon” as “barn” and “Marmon.” This has been stigmatized as “hick speech,” and some people, aware of this, can overcompensate when trying to avoid the appearance of being a jay, coming up with things like “horpsichard.”

Here in Utah, we call that little gray bug that rolls up when you touch it a “potato bug,” rather than whatever you probably call it, and the thing that goes down the middle of two freeway lanes is called a “bar pit.” “Caught” and “cot” are identical here, as are “Mary,” “merry,” and “marry.” Coming from New York, I distinguish between these words, and have never given up the distinction although I’ve lived in Utah for 46 years.

Lastly, Utah is famous for its double modals, such as “might could,” “might would,” etc, as well as the odd names with interstitial majuscules like “LaVar,” “DuWayne,” and such things. If you want some real technical stuff, a preliminary survey of Northern Utah speech can be found here.

Strew.

The Old Wolf has spoken. Er maybe spoke, dunno.

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3 responses to “Utah Speak

      • But if you acknowledged your sources and put your own stamp on it, it could be a really cool blog post. Surely you’ve known some names that made you go “What??? Oh, yeah, Utah Mormon.” I’d like to know *why* Utah Mormon names are so strange.

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