Durham, NC– Yet another Philadelphia native angrily brews pot after pot of coffee, unable to successfully order the mysterious beverage from local restaurants. It’s there behind every counter, coffee that is, brewing next to the friendly waitress, but, like many Philadelphia natives, Chris struggles to cross the language barrier that separates Philadelphia from the rest of the world. “Come auwn!” exclaims Chris at the local Waffle House, “Yous guys don’t underssand what a cup of kawfee is? Lemme just have some wooder.”
The Philadelphia accent is a common disposition for folks living in Philadelphia or its suburbs, up through Reading, PA and its suburbs, as well as most of southern New Jersey. Our manner of butchering such simple words as coffee and water may seem crazy, but there exists reason to our madness. Such a manner of speaking is rarely heard nationally because this accent is amongst the hardest to emulate. This difficulty stems, considerably, from the remarkable degree of vowel volatility. The most prominent example of this draws from our pronunciation of the “short a” phoneme. In Philly, “ah” becomes “eah” if an “a” is followed by “m,” “n,” “ss,” “ff,” or ,”th;” as in: lamb, man, bath, pass, or path. Contrarily, short a stays “ah” for every other use, such as lab, badge, or pal. The exceptions to this rule are: and, an, am, ran, swam, and began. Another tell-tale indicator of a Philly accent is the emphasis which we tend to place upon long “o’s.” More so than any other accent, the long “o” in such words as “mode” and “phone,” is drawn out… until the long “o” is placed before “l” or “r,” at which point we use an emphasis similar to general English.
Confused yet? That’s okay. Due to the complexity of the Philadelphia accent, “natives,” portrayed on film, generally substitute the similar New York or general American accent, as occurs in the Rocky series and Invincible. That’s right, even Rocky. Heavily contributing to the uniqueness of the Philly accent is our hybrid geographic position. Being “midland,” Philadelphia accents combine elements of both Southern and Northern speak. For example, “yous” is considered essential slang from Baltimore to New York City but, south of Baltimore, you will more likely here “y’all.” Distinguishing Philadelphia from its northern brethren are several southern tendencies such as our pronunciation of “ow.” Philadelphia pronounces words containing the “ow” phoneme such as “how,” “now,” and “brown” with a southern twist by proclaiming “hayw,” “nayw,” and “braywn.” Such pronunciation is why “crayon” and “crown” sound identical when spoken by someone with a true Philadelphia accent. Also, like Southern folk, “on” and “off” are spoken more like “awn” and “awf” than the Northern pronunciations: “ahn” and “ahf.” As a result, “coffee” is “kawfee” although it’s just as good.
Are you starting to understand the Philadelphia accent? Or, perhaps, just recognize it? If so, let’s shatter your confidence with an inexplicable exception: “wooder.” Only in Philadelphia can water give you splinters. Why? Well, speculation abounds, leaving an overall consensus that Philadelphia is just unique. Say to yourself: “water.” Record yourself saying this word, several times in a row, then listen. Would you like a glass of 2 by 4’s?
Was this inability to distinguish between a crayon and a crown why we broke off from England? No, but if you ever leave our special region, make sure to brace yourself for the blank stares that will accompany your requests for “kawfee” or “wooder.” Until then, contact our helpful representatives by web or call our Philadelphia-speaking sales team at (800) 924-6841 to set up home or office delivery of Philly’s best wooder and kawfee.