Tag Archives: Accents

It’s elementary…or is it pronounced elementary?

Pop quiz:

How do you say the word elementary?

If you’re like most Americans, you pronounce it like documentary or complimentary just like Merriam-Webster suggests.

But here in Upstate NY, people pronounce it differently. In Upstate, elementary rhymes with fragmentary. The emphasis is on the wrong syllable (the penultimate one in case you pronounce the other words differently, too).

This regional dialect seems to be largely overlooked by the many regional dialect maps. As far as I can tell, there’s one working paper that explores this odd pronunciation for elementary (it does reference a couple of other studies). All Over Albany made a brief reference to this odd pronunciation, and the Central New York Wiki page refers back to the same working paper.

I haven’t noticed too much of an accent for the Albany area (aside from the airport, of course), but the working paper from U Penn sums up the importance of elementary’s pronunciation:

[The pronunciation of elementary’s] overall distribution is shaped by overt regional
boundaries and communication patterns. The stressed-penult -méntàry pronunciation, therefore,
can be seen as a unifying linguistic feature of Upstate New York.

So, how do you say it? If you’re from Upstate, you probably pronounce it differently from everyone else. It certainly drives me crazy.

Enter your card with the stripe up and to the right

I love the Albany Airport. The security lines are rarely long, except in the morning. The staff are friendly, it has free WiFi, and despite an increase in fares recently (and relatively pricier flights), it’s still my airport of choice for domestic flights.

But perhaps the most endearing aspect of the airport is the voice at the parking machines – a voice with an assertiveness and accent perfectly suited for NY. I was recently reminded how noticeable the accent is when my out-of-town relatives visited and immediately commented on the accent, not once, but twice…and without speaking to each other first.

I wish I had a recording of the voice to share, but alas, all I could find was this video of the parking garage elevator ride. I guess you watch this video if you need to ride the elevator one final time.