Reasons to Love Memphis No. 49: Our Accents

Reasons to Love Memphis No. 49: Our Accents

The Memphis accent is a beautiful thing.

No Lurkin'!

This may come as a surprise to those of you who don't live in the South, but all Southern accents don't sound alike. The thick, honeyed drawl that one you've probably heard in movies or on TV is more closely associated with rural areas and the Deep South.

The Memphis accent is more delicate. It's in the way we pronounce our vowels and slightly slur our consonants. It's not a drawl so much as a lilt.

It's one of the things that bothers me most when movies and shows are set in Memphis. Most of the time, the actors way overshoot the accent, catapulting it from the Mid-South to somewhere between a bad stereotype and rural Alabama. (One notable exception is Craig Brewer's "Hustle and Flow" - it's pretty dead on.)

I was thinking about this today because fellow Memphis blogger Kalisa posted her "accent vlog". The accent vlog has been circulating for the last few days, and it's a pretty cool way to see how other people talk. Basically, you read a list of standard words and then answer a handful of questions in your normal voice so that others can hear how you pronounce them.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours:

As a sidenote, the list didn't include a lot of the words that regularly fall victim to my accent. I've been told that "bacon" and "baking" sound the same coming out of my mouth, as do "pen" and "pin".

So, what's your accent like? What do you think a Memphis accent is, exactly?

Comments Make Us Happy

Leave a Comment
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
That was interesting, lol...
October 18, 2011 12:16pm
Andrea O
I did an accent vlog from a list that was being passed along's mine from a few months ago-
October 18, 2011 12:19pm
Love it, Kerry! Good job. I would've mentioned that many Memphians have less of a traditional "Tennessee southern accent" like one would find in Nashville or Knoxville or Chattanooga. I believe we have more of a Midwestern-ish version of a Tennessee accent - in the sense that we don't sound as Southern. I mean to say that Memphians are more likely to sound like people from St. Louis than from East Tennessee. Just my opinion.
October 18, 2011 12:21pm
I've always called sunshine through rain " the devil beating his wife". I have no earthly idea why weather would be related to evil spousal abuse, but it was what my Mamaw told that it was called when I was little.
October 18, 2011 12:43pm
Are Saint Lewis soccer team is kummin' to Mamfis for a tern a mint. I tried to write that like we talk. We are confused in St Loo. Southern like Arkansas, black street, Irish, with some lurking Chicago Pole. I will tell the boys to slow down when addressing folks, er "fokes"!
October 18, 2011 12:46pm
You can tell someone is from Kentucky by the way we put an e in there where the a is supposed to go. Sounds like "deddy."
October 18, 2011 1:08pm
The response to the the rain/ sun question, so I've heard, is... " the devil is beating his wife." You could also preface the phrase by saying, "I guess..." or "the devil must be beating his wife". It really doesn't make any sense but I grew up in Memphis since age 4 ( now 30) and oddly I've heard the expression hundreds of times.
October 18, 2011 1:47pm
LOL, Elizabeth. You forgot they say Kentecky! They have odd sounding words more than accents. We Memphians, as is true of all Southerners, have no accent.
October 18, 2011 1:55pm
Too cute!!!
October 18, 2011 2:41pm
Andrea O
I think it also has to do with our parents, and our families, who are our first mimics. I have a mother born and raised in Memphis and a father from northern Illinois, who has lived in Memphis since 1974. A grandmother is from Chicago, so I have a mix of Southern and northern voices in my life.
October 18, 2011 3:22pm
Ooo! What timing! I decided to look up "memphis accent"...because I wanted to know what my narrator would sound like. I'm writing a young adult novel right now that's set in Memphis. I had been lazy with my research (I plucked a few real places for my story, but I rely on Google Maps :/), but I'll scan through this blog to see what I can use to inject some local flavor into the story and make it feel more real, instead of being a Midwester's version of a Southern city. Research is important.
October 18, 2011 10:57pm
And for my money, "ya'll" is spelled "ya'll"...not the "y'all" that my iPod and email is always trying to correct me to! What do you think, ma'am? :)
October 20, 2011 2:37pm
The Popdose In…
[...] about the new album, but his career and process. It was a conversation that was as relaxed as his Memphis drawl and as you’re speaking with him, it’s not hard to hear how much Jamison loves the life and [...]
December 18, 2012 1:55pm
Steven Elvis Haldane
Hi I am originally from the southside of Memphis, but left the USA as an 11yr old boy. I am in the UK and lost my Memphis accent over the 41/42 years I've been away : - (. I love our city and its citizens.
February 18, 2020 10:44am
Holly Whitfield
What a great story, Steven! I hope you can back "home" to visit one day!
February 18, 2020 2:01pm

Frayser gang 4life !

November 30, 2022 10:44pm