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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Talk This Way

A confluence of languages has shaped our dialect.

Visitors and new residents to Evansville often make logical but incorrect stabs at pronouncing the names of streets and businesses until a kind soul fills them in.

For instance, Evansville’s 151-year-old Koch Enterprises may initially be pronounced like the famous political conservative Charles Koch (Coke) or the well-known three-term mayor of New York City, Ed Koch (Cotch). Here, we say “Koch” as “Cook.”

Evansville native Christia Ward understands why: The University of Evansville Theatre Department professor emeritus works as a dialects adjunct professor at the University of Southern Indiana. After spending her childhood in Guam and attending college in Evansville, her years of observing dialect quirks have informed her precise skills of ascertaining an accent’s origins.

The fact the city has always been a crossroads community explains a lot.

“Evansville has a South Midland region of dialect because when Indiana was the Western Frontier, people came from Appalachia, from Kentucky — think of Abraham Lincoln,” Ward says. “I think that’s where the intrusive ‘R’ came from — underneath it all is that southern dialect.”

As well, Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and Irish immigrated to Evansville to work in the area’s coal industry, expanding the city’s dialect with European flair.

“Germans kept Evansville’s accent from getting super southern,” Ward says. “That’s what makes it unique.”

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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