If you’ve been around St. Louis for a while, you’ve heard the city’s accent. It’s an island within the state and is even different from other large cities in the Midwest. And there are many specifics that make it unique, like the way people pronounce “Louis,” “car” and even words like “organize.” Randy and Jeff Vines, owners of STL Style on Cherokee Street, have a fascination with how St. Louisans speak and have served as the colloquial guides in author Edward McClelland’s book “How to Speak Midwestern.” They joined us this week to talk about the city’s dialect.
They say that many St. Louisans use their local dialect to connect with other St. Louisans and as a form of pride. They point out that they tend to enunciate their vowels and pronounced their Rs with a raised sound. And they have a specific way of saying certain phrases, such as the way that people refer to their moms by pronouncing it maah-mah. Another way they show their pride is in the word hoosier, which was a slur when used against workers for Anheuser-Busch, but has become a signifier of St. Louis pride and even a source of humor.
But the dialect is changing, Randy says. He notes that the Northern Cities Shift that started in Chicago is creeping into St. Louis, especially in the neighborhoods on the south and north sides of the city and in the inner-ring suburbs. But he says that there are still pockets of strong, thick accents in St. Louis, particularly with those who have been there their whole lives and in the city’s blue-collar neighborhoods. He adds that even in those pockets, some of them have started to merge with the Inland-North accent variant and are watering down their regional accent.