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You Betcha! The 'Midwest accent' explained by a dialect coach

Sep 21, 2022 09:29AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Aarón Blanco Tejedor 

By Alicia Lewis - KARE 11 News - September 21, 2022

 We've all heard that strong Minnesota accent portrayed in the TV series Fargo, and you may be thinking... "Gosh, we don't really sound like that, do we?"

According to Keely Wolter, who just so happens to be an accent and dialect coach based in the Twin Cities... we do!

"A Minnesota accent isn't as culturally prominent, it's a little more niche and a lot of what I hear from actors is, 'This can't be right… you can't say this like that.' and I'm like, 'No we do, that's how we say it,' and it's great," said Wolter. 

Wolter teaches actors, like those vying for roles in the Fargo series, how to sound Minnesotan.

"When people think of a Minnesotan accent they are thinking of that white Eurocentric, a Euro-immigrant influence accent that has the long O's the flat A's, the very, like, Fargo accent that we are thinking of, and that is what is in our heads is a Minnesota accent, and obviously there are a lot of other people and accents here," said Wolter. "The accent you hear in the Twin Cities is different from the accents you hear on the Iron Range."

Keely tells me our strong O's and flat A's not only had some Scandinavian influence but also share similarities to the Irish or Gaelic language.

"We do the 'Oh' as a Monophthong which means one vowel sound," said Wolter. "So one vowel sounds like an 'Ee' is a Monophthong, because there is only one sound and we make our 'Oh' to a monophthong, so we say 'Oh.' Whereas in a general American accent or other accents in the United States, the 'Oh' is a Diphthong, which means it has two sounds. When I teach it to Minnesotans who are doing other accents I'm like 'It's the 'oh' you say when you are having an idea and you are like 'Ohhh' and you take longer to get there.'"

To our neighbors in Wisconsin, you fall under the Midwestern accent umbrella too, but Wolter says there are some subtle differences.

"I think the biggest difference is that Minnesotans tend to tighten and close their mouths more, so we tend to keep our teeth really close together and we have a creepy smile and then you have a tightness," said Wolter. "In Wisconsin, they do a lot of the same sounds but open their mouth a bit wider."

To read this original story and more news, follow this link to the KARE 11 News website.

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