There’s no place like Miami. Anyone who has been here knows that even though we are a part of the U.S. it still feels like you should need a passport to come here. Among the varieties of culture and year round beach weather, Miami is also beginning to be known for something else. Miami now has its own dialect.
I remember the first time I realized I had a “Miami accent.” I was at a mall in Broward County and a man at the register asked me if I was from Miami. “Yes. How did you know?” I asked. He smiled as if there was a joke I wasn’t getting and replied “I can tell from your accent.”
I have an accent?
But... I’m American.
Turns out what I have isn't just an accent. Apparently my Miami twang is also accompanied by the Miami dialect. Want to know more about the difference between an accent and a dialect? Read this post by Ben Trawick-Smith on Dialect Blog. The basic difference is that an accent is what someone who is foreign born has when they speak English because English is not their first language. [Insert joke about Miami being foreign here] A dialect is something that native born speakers adopt when English is their first language.
I have a friend who is a Lebanese American and has lived in Miami his whole life. We went to high school together and I’d always assumed that somehow, like everyone else I went to school with, he was part Hispanic. Similar to native Miamians, his words were devoid of any long nasal vowels. Because of this, I always assumed he knew and spoke Spanish. Then, one day, he asked me to translate something on a menu for him that happened to be written in Spanish. I laughed at him.
“Dude, you can speak Spanish and not read it?”
“I don’t speak Spanish.”
Mind blown. For a minute I actually tried to argue that of course he spoke Spanish. I mean, he sounded like he spoke Spanish. That was when he broke the news that he actually had no Hispanic origins and didn't speak a word of Spanish. Oh.
The Miami accent strikes again.
Great articles exploring this phenomenon here.