My Family Can’t Talk To Each Other; Y’all How About Yours?

My family needs to talk.


It’s not so easy.

“Ah, yes, raising two teenagers,” you nod in compassion and understanding.

Yes, thank you.

But that’s not it.

Well, it is many days.

The problem, I’ve diagnosed this week is something bigger.

It starts at the beginning.

We don’t speak the same language.

Ours is a family with folks raised in California, the Midwest, and the South.

The basic problem–no one can agree on how to speak.  I’m talking simple pronunciation.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 2.14.33 PM

There are members of my family who swear the pen you write with and the pin you use to stick something should be pronounced the same.

They’d wager that bet and bit should sound the same.

Let’s all sit here awhile until we’re all set.

Might as well, since “sit” and “set” are meant to sound the same.

To them, anyway.

I tried a little test, writing three words down on a pad of paper.  “Say each word,” I instructed my daughter as I revealed each one individually.

“Bin,” she said as I showed her the first word, b-i-n.

Next came the boy’s name, B-e-n.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 2.25.43 PM

“Bin,” she said again.

“You say, ‘bin’ and ‘Ben’ the same?” I asked, making double-sure.

“Of course,” she was already bored with me. “How else would you say it?”

“I say, ‘bin’ for the container and ‘Behn’ for the boy’s name,” I shared.

“No one talks like that,” she informed me with great teen authority.

“We can make this even more interesting,” I said revealing the third word, b-e-e-n.

“Bin,” my daughter said for the third time.

“Let’s call your aunt in Canada,” I offered, “And ask her.”

“Why? How would she say it?”

“Been, same as lima bean,” I ventured, thinking of how some Canadian pronunciations have crept into my sister’s speech in the seven years she’s lived there.

Not that I can point fingers.

When I moved to Atlanta more than 20 years ago to work for CNN, my parents were thrilled for the career opportunity and terrified for what the move could do to my speech patterns.

xmas letter 050

“The first time you say, ‘y’all or ‘fixin to,’” my California native parents declared, “we are coming and packing your things. No child of ours will speak like that.”

Y’all, they had no idea what was in store or how bad and confusing things would get around here.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 2.23.28 PM

It makes for great, shall we say, “debates” at the dinner table where no one agrees that my California speech pattern is accent-free.

Midwestern Husband looks at me like he married a cross between exotic flower and California hippie.

The teens just think the way I talk is simply further evidence of how weird I am.

At least this does explain one mystery of life.

These teenaged girls can’t be blamed for not cleaning their rooms.

Poor dears, simply don’t understand what I’m saying.

And you, Dear Reader?

Are you living in a house with multiple accents? Spell them out for me in the comments section.

Find more stories on my website,

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.




  • I’m Australian. My son was born right here in Atlanta. His mother is from Copper Hill, Tennessee.

    Need I say more?

  • Your story reminded me of my best friend when I lived in Georgia. She was from Clemson, S.C. As a native midwesterner, I’d ask her to repeat words a half-dozen times because I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. She’d get frustrated. I wondered why she didn’t know how to pronounce simple words!

    After 15 years in the south, I returned to the midwest and brought “y’all” with me. People make fun of me sometimes. Ce la …

  • l w c

    Bless y’alls hearts !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

My Family Can’t Talk To Each Other; Y’all How About Yours?

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
%d bloggers like this: