Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More On Oranges

In my last post I mentioned how much I enjoyed the way those native to New England say the word orange.  I have many, many stories about the language and accent on that side of our country (and my interaction with it), but by far the best centers around the pronunciation of the word “orange”

As I have mentioned, I say “ornj”.  In New England, they not only pronounce the “a” in orange, they also overemphasize the “or”.  That, combined with pronouncing anything with an “r” as a harsh “ah”, the word “orange” comes out sounding like “ahhh-ranj”.  I found that most prevalent in Rhode Island. 

For about a year, I lived in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, RI.  Well known for its Italian restaurants, my roommate and I ate an abundance of Italian food while moving in and getting settled.  After a few weeks we got the hankering for some Chinese food but had not a clue where to go.  My roommate remembered that we had received an advertisement in our mail about a Chinese restaurant that delivered.  We decided to call in our order for delivery.  Since we didn’t have a menu we agreed upon a general order of beef and broccoli, orange chicken, and some rice – regular fare at a Chinese restaurant. 

I called the number on the advertisement and a man with a very thick Chinese accent answered.  I asked to place an order for delivery.  After taking down our address, he asked what we wanted.  That conversation went like this….

Me: Do you have beef and broccoli?

Man: Yes

Me: Ok, we’d like an order of that.  We’d also like some “ornj” chicken. 

Man: What was that?

Me: “Ornj” chicken.  Do you have “ornj” chicken?  Like “ornj” flavored chicken.  (Trying to remember what it was called in other Chinese restaurants I’d been to).

Man: (struggling to understand) Uhhhh

Then an idea popped into my head.  I turned on my New England accent (which I usually only brought out if I’d been drinking).

Me: “Ahhhh-ranj” chicken.  Do you serve “ahhh-ranj” chicken?

Man: Oh, yes, yes! (He said in his broken English.) We have “ahhh-ranj” chicken.

I finished the order but couldn’t help giggling.  Even an English language learner was saying “ahhh-ranj”. 


  1. Ornj and ow well, I am a California gal at heart.

  2. Where in the US is the most mid-accent for you outside of the local. You know the one that everyone hears and gets without any sort of retuning. And is there a country versus town accent in California. I'm assuming there is a north v south difference. Even I can hear a difference between Eugene and LA. While those I met from Lewis & Clark in Galway had a Germanic/Nordic timber on the bass notes.
    Until lately we had no inward migration so we never had odd combinations. But this film ten years ago set a lot of people back on their heels.

  3. That was sweet little film. It never occurred to me before that interaction that someone learning English is going to pick up the accent of who they learn it from...duh. But it's still a surprise to hear an accent on someone you wouldn't expect it from. I would imagine with that influx of immigrants to your country, you're seeing that disconnect of accent with nationality as people learn English there.

    I say here it is hard to distinguish a particular accent. So much of our population is from somewhere else. I have been told there is a difference in the N and S accents, but I can't hear it. I can tell a NoCal native by some of the vocab they use. I also can't tell the difference with anyone in the Northwest. I guess they are too similar to mine? Of course, I don't think CA has an accent :) but I've been told I do.
    Because I've spent a lot of time in the Northeast I can pinpoint MA, NH, ME, and RI pretty well. They have similarities but a few differences that I can hear. The South on the other hand has a very distinct (twangy?) accent that I can hear, but I couldn't tell who is from where. It sounds the same to me. The Great Lakes area (IL, MI, Western NY, MI) have switched their vowel sounds a bit on certain words that makes it easy to pinpoint their origin.

  4. In college an assignment was to call the 411 operators in different parts of the country and record how they said the vowel sounds and where the accents were....I have long forgotten all my answers but I do remember how expensive my phone bill was! Way back then there were actual "information operators...real people :)

    Your story reminds me of an east Indian kindergartner a few years back. He was excited as his uncle was coming to visit. I asked where his uncle was from. Kent' uh-kee he said. I said, "Is that in India?" I U.S. I was puzzled for a few seconds and then OH! Kentucky!!!

    My classes were so diverse- one year I had 15 different languages out of 20 students!! I became very good at deciphering limited English speakers with heavy a flea market in LA some Indian vendors were trying to sell a jacket to a woman...they kept saying it was "river- sable." After waiting for a few tries for her to get what they were saying I finally leaned over and said, "It is reversible."


    1. Oh, that study sounds FASCINATING! I read a book last year called Dialect Diversity in America by William Labov. It was so interesting.
      We don't have that kind of diversity at my school. Spanish is the main first language of most of my kids.
      Reversible! Ha ha ha!