Bernie Sanders does not talk like a Vermonter. True, he’s not good on his Rs. He complains about “millionaihs and billionaihs,” but that doesn’t give him a Vermont accent. He also pronounces coffee as “cawf-fee” – but he still doesn’t talk like a Vermonter.
Sanders clearly talks like a New Yorker (lower middle class Brooklyn Jewish, actually). The tell is the way he says “Vermont” with an ever-so-slight “tuh” at the end.
If Bernie wanted to talk like a Vermonter, he would have to say “Vermon’.”
How To Talk Like a Vermonter
Don’t pay attention to the old Newhart sitcom, either. No one in the show talks like a Vermonter. People in Hollywood lump all New Englanders together, and they couldn’t tell the difference between a bus driver from Cranston, R.I., and a lobsterman from Jonesport, Maine.
If you really want to sound like an old-time Vermonter, find a video of Fred Tuttle. A dairy farmer born in 1919 in Tunbridge, Vt., he decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 1998 because it was easier than farming. Tuttle easily defeated his primary opponent, a flatlander who ran in Vermont because it was easier than running in his home state of Massachusetts. Tuttle then lost to another U.S. senator from Vermont without a Vermont accent, Patrick Leahy.
Five Ways To Talk Like a Vermonter
Five key words can make you sound like Fred Tuttle. Perhaps the most important: Cow. (Vermont does not have more of them than people, by the way.)
Vermonters pronounce “cow’ as “ke-ow.” At least the old male farmers do. University of Vermont professor Julie Roberts says that idiosyncrasy is dying out among everyone else.
Then there’s “fight.” They like to turn the I into OI, so “fight” sounds like “foight.” Another one on the way out, according to Roberts..
Mountain: Vermonters do to the T in mountain what they do to the T in Vermont. They kill it. So the Green Mountains become the “Green Moun’ains.” Unlike Keow and foight, moun’ain and Vermon’ are gaining steam among young people.
Barn. Bernie pronounces this the way a Vermonter would: “bahn.” The flat A, as in most of New England, turns “car” into “cah,” “bath” into “bahth” and “dance” into “dahnce.” Bahn boots, along with winter camouflage, suspenders and hunter’s orange hats, form the basis for many a Vermon’er’s wardrobe.
Hockey: You hear this in the rest of Northern New England, too. It’s “hawkey.” Green Mountain Coffee is Green Moun’ain Cawfee. Good luck finding a Starbucks, though. You might try a maple latte at a gas station.
One way to practice the Vermon’ accen’ is to order a lot of different kinds of beer (bee-uh).
You can get Heady Toppah from Alchemis’, Hahlan from Hill Fahmstea’ Brewery or Brave Little State from Lawson’s Foinest Liquids.
Many zylophiles consider Vermont the Napa Valley of craft beer.
Noted zylophile Homer Simpson discovered a stash of beer in the Vermont woods when he made the classic observation: “Ah, beer. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
Comedian Rusty DeWees jokes Vermonters don’t measure snow in inches, they measure it in bee-uhs.
The real, old-time Vermont accent still exists in the Northeast Kingdom — Essex, Orleans and Caledonian counties.
The Northeast Kingdom accent is also known as gargling marbles. Older Kingdom dwellers have a distinctive nasal quality in their speech, and they love to elongate vowels. “Cat” might sound an awful lot like “caaat.” “Idea” sounds like “Oideer.”
According to Northeast Kingdom etiquette, Hello is “hoight” and goodby is “boight.” (Hat tip to Charlie and Margaret.) They also follow a back-road waving code. While driving, an approaching vehicle you’ve never seen before deserves a one-finger-off-steering-wheel wave along with a slight nod. A neighbor gets two fingers and a slight nod. Family and close friends get four fingers and maybe even a smile and eye contact. Be careful of the eye contact though, unless you want to engage in a 15-minute truck-to-truck confab on the road. And that would comprise a Vermon’ traffic jam.
Names of Things
So you’ve got your flannel (shirt), your bahn boots and your hunter orange cap and you’ve mastered the back road wave. You’re ready to fit in as a native Vermon’er, also known as a woodchuck.
You have to know certain place names. You pronounce Montpelier as Mon-PEEL-yer, Rutland as RUH-lin, Vergennes as Vurr-JENzz and Bradford as BRED-fud.
If you note the smell of manure wafting from a dairy farm, you might comment on the dairy air. If it were especially pungent, you might exclaim, “Jeezum crow.”
Should you want something sweet, Vermont has sugar on snow during winter – maple syrup poured on snow. It’s one of the five major food groups in Vermon’, along with cheese, beer, bacon and Ben & Jerry’s, according to DeWees. You can substitute a creemee — Vermon’ese for soft-serve ice cream. For a real Vermon’ delicacy, order a maple creemee.
Going shopping for those food items means you’re “makin’ groceries.” You don’t face the same kind of traffic congestion motorists in Massachusetts deal with. Instead of traffic reports, Vermont gets foliage reports.
Finally, a couple of Vermon’ expressions: “Had the radish” means done, exhausted, spent, the condition of the many non-working vehicles that decorate Vermont yards.
What most flatlanders call the basement, Vermon’ers call “down cellar.” And in the winter, Vermon’ers embrace “‘chining,” aka snowmobiling.
Vermon’ers also have some words of wisdom for getting through life: “You can’t make a whistle out of a pig’s tail.” and “A gallon of sap is worth one day’s labor.”
Images: Featured image, “Autumn in Barnet” by Carol Highsmith, United States Vermont Barnet, None. [Between 1980 and 2006] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2011630160/. 1936 Vermont Fair Scene United States Resettlement Administration, Carl Mydans United States Albany Vermont, 1936. Sept. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017716276/. Cows By redjar – jared benedict – flickr.com (also published on redjar.org), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13921. Guildhall By Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States – Guildhall, VermontUploaded by Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29774270. Bernie Sanders By Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America – Bernie Sanders, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87733803.