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Monday, April 25, 2011



Three years ago, I met a new neighbor who was from New York. I loved to hear her talk for she put an “r” at the end of lots of words when she spoke. She began to tell me that she wasn’t happy here and that she couldn’t understand us as we ran our words together: That was not a revelation to me! I found that out when I was five years old and in the first grade.

My teacher had us writing a lot by the end of the year and she had us write these two words: this morning. “Piece of cake” I said to myself and wrote this on my paper: this smorning. I could feel her hovering over me and then she asked me why I wrote morning like that. I told her it was how it was said [which was not a good thing to say to a teacher.]

Feeling shame, I didn’t think I would make it through the day but I did. When I got home, I was met by my babysitter: Told her what had happened and she said, “What was wrong with that?” Holy cow she was about eighteen and she didn’t know the difference either.

During my childhood, I realized that everyone around me—family or friends ran words together all of the time. Chest of drawers was pronounced “chester drawers;” good afternoon was run together as well making me think that it was one word. And “this afternoon” was pronounced “this safternoon” and still is to this day.

I spoke like everyone else but when I had to write these groups of words, I had to force myself to write them separately—and that was not an easy task. As I got older, I realized that this “running of the words together” is something unique to West Virginia just as speech in other states is different. When I was in my early twenties, I went to stay for two weeks with a college friend of mine and her husband—they lived in Tennessee. After two weeks of being there, I started picking up that accent as well as some forms of speech. The people I met thought that I was from the north!

When I returned home, I was speaking like they did in Tennessee but it only lasted for a spell and then I was back to running some words together when I spoke. Still do till I catch myself and stop. It is not like we are in a hurry here [Charleston is a big city with well-spoken people] to speak so fast; it is something that we have inherited from our ancestors.

I could list more words that are run together but I’d have to speak them first in order for you to know what they are. Maybe I can make a video and then you would know what I really am talking about. As a former elementary teacher, I had to do the same thing that my first grade teacher did: Had to make sure that my second grade students wrote down those words separately. Feel sorry for my now-gone neighbor for she moved back to New York: She didn’t give us a chance and if she had stayed here, she would have started running groups of words together too! It’s a West Virginia thing!

Sherry Hill

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