Monday, April 14, 2014

The Sound of Sound

Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, in their book Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks, have this to say about the sound of "sound":

"Despite the fact that the hoi toide sound seems to capture everyone's attention when they talk about the [Ocracoke Island] brogue, there are a number of other distinctive vowel sounds that more subtly act to set the brogue apart from other dialects of American English. One of these is the Ocracoke pronunciation of ow, as in town or sound, as more of an ay as in say, so that town sounds like tain and sound like saind."

They go on to say that "what we hear in these words isn't exactly an ay, just as what we hear in i-words isn't really oy. Rather the Ocracoke ow is actually two sounds spoken quickly together, just like the i sound. To pronounce the ow like an islander, you need to say eh as in bet, followed by ee as in beet. Thus sound comes out sounding like s-eh-ee-nd...-- almost like saind,...but not quite."

Wolfram and Shilling-Estes conclude that "The ow sound provides us with direct evidence that Ocracoke English is not the language of Shakespeare -- but it's certainly not the language of mainland America, either."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a reprint of a 1948 article about the Mail Boat Aleta, "Boat Hauls Mail, More." You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Reminds me of the time I was to meet a friend for lunch in Beaufort. He suggested that we eat at the "Spider's Inn." Hmmm, I thought, sounds creepy. Turned out to be the "Spouter's Inn."

    1. A perfect example. Thanks for sharing.