Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Appalachian Appellation, or the London Derriere

Many people I know, among them good friends and family members, get exercised if someone pronounces "Appalachia" as "Appa-LAYSH-a." You might say "them's fightin' words," except that it's more a fightin' pronunciation.

In case you don't know, dear innocent person from outside Appalachia, the correct pronunciation is "Appa-LATCH-a" (or Appa-LATCH-an, if you're walking a certain trail by that name).

And when I say "correct," all I really mean is that I have to say that. Unless I want to be visited at night by an unruly crowd of certain good friends and family members, who, normally calm and reasonable to a fault, lose all sense of proportion when confronted with an alternate pronunciation of this word.

There'd be a howl like you wouldn't believe.You'd think someone was trying to pry the family musket from hands that weren't quite cold and dead. Or mine coal underneath your house without paying you for it. Or not let you kill Injuns.

Sorry. I take that back. Sorta.

Most recently, the Appalatchian pronunciamentally-correct applauded novelist Sharyn McCrumb's high-horse pontification on the subject: it's like saying "Londonderry" in northern Ireland, instead of "Derry." If you say the former, heaven forbid, everybody knows you're siding with the enemy. Everybody knows you've taken sides with those who stole the land from the original inhabitants.

Aside from its tendentious inaccuracy and over-simplification, what's so goldurn hilarious about this is that the people who "stole" the land in Ulster were the same people who, for the most part, "settled" the Appalachians ... in the latter case at the expense of the people from whom came the word "Appalachian." So don't be saying a pronunciation pits a goldurn furriner agin you, and you's a by-god native and you know what's what ... when in fact you ain't the native. When in fact you did the takin'. WHEN IN FACT ... sorry, let me not howl. Let me just ask, "How do you pronounce 'hypocritical?'"

I grew up in Chattanooga. Nearby was Lafayette, GA, which natives pronounce "Luh-FAY-it." The Lafayette in Indiana is pronounced differently by the natives there. And neither one is how my French-speaking Louisiana creole grandmother thought it ought to be. And by the way, she came from "Nawlins." What am I supposed to say to someone who says "New ORlins" or even more horrifyingly, "New OrLEENS"? Who's right, the French who say "Paree," or the rest of the world who say "Perris"?

The reality is that the Appalachian pronunciation "controversy" is a simple sectional disagreement over pronunciation, nothing more. People above the Mason-Dixon Line who live in the Appalachian region, and who have lived there ever since they settled it away from the by-god Injuns, tend to pronounce it "Appa-LAYSH-an." People below the line in the south pronounce it "Appa-LATCH-an." Friends and family: This is just another example of Yankees being wrong, y'all. Simple as that. What do you expect from people who don't drink iced tea year-round?

As for Londonderry, I'm sure everyone knows that the popular song Danny Boy is sung to the tune Londonderry Air. If you decide to take Sharyn McCrumb's advice and abbreviate the name of the tune and announce that you will sing Danny Boy to the tune of the Derry Air, you'd better be prepared to, as it were, back it up.

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