20 Distinct Regional American Accents, Ranked
From sea to shining sea, the United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet. This means there are plenty of opportunities to mess around with the language, and what defines an “American accent” changes depending on where you are.
Thrillist has taken on the task of ranking a sampling of American accents from the most vomit-inducing to the most pleasant, with a little bit of dry heave in between. See where you fit in:
20. New Jerseyan
Oh my gawd! Jersey gets a bad rap. But it’s not so much the state that is offensive as much as the accent. It’s akin to the sound of chain-smoking rats mating in an oil slick under the George Washington Bridge. Except somehow, the hair is worse.
Prime example: Pauly D (yeah, we know he's not really from Jersey -- but come on!)
America’s wang is well known for its tourist attractions and for producing the weirdest headlines in the country, from bath salts to diaper-clad astronauts. To replicate the accent heard here, huff the nearest paint can, grab a piña colada, and find an alligator to gnaw on your toe. It’s a mix between Southern, senior citizen, and misfit transplants from the Midwest and the Northeast. And it’s gloriously grating, y’all.
Prime example: It's an accent so odd that not even the mighty Janet Reno can suppress it all the time.
18. Southern Ohioan
We get it: y’all want to be Southern, but you just don’t quite get the right amount of twang in there, mainly because Ohio isn’t actually in the South. The result is a half-arsed attempt to sound “down home.” Give it a rest before you hurt yourselves, or just go ahead and make the move down to Kentucky.
Prime example:John Boehner
The Chicago accent is the aural equivalent of a flapjack served at a characterless diner off I-80, if said flapjack were completely void of flavor, stale, and still frozen, and the diner were really a public restroom full of old, hairy truckers yelling in grunts over the sound of overflowing urinals. Really -- it’s that bad. If you find yourself traveling to the Windy City, we recommend using charades as a form of communication in order to avoid hearing this God-awful accent.
Prime example: Chicago sports superfan Mike North, the real Bill Swerski
16. Long Islander
One of the most painful sounds to the human ear is the Long Island accent. Picture a screaming goat whose mouth is permanently jarred open blathering on and on about going to the “mawl” at “foyve o’clawk” to get some “cawfee” and there you have the accent of someone from “Lawwwwwwn Guyyyyland.” It’s enough to make you lose your “moynd.”
Prime examples:Fran Drescher and Howard Stern
Sometimes, Georgians talk like Andre 3000. Sometimes, they talk like extremely dignified Southerners from another era. But then, they talk like an extra from Deliverance. The one who was missing his teeth. And it’s goddamned impossible to tell whether they want grits or need to go to the bathroom.
Prime examples:Jason Aldean, those nice fellas from Burt Reynolds’ canoe trip
14. Pacific Northwesterner
This region earns its placement on our list for having a non-accent. Seriously, with all that time on your hands during rainy days, you couldn’t muster any unique way of speaking? You all sound like local newscasters suppressing inflection, except instead of issuing Amber Alerts you're complaining about how you ordered soy milk, but the barista gave you hemp milk.
Prime example: Any non-Southern 5 o’clock news anchor
We’re cutting residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a bit of slack for their obnoxious habit of turning every long “O” into an “ooooooh” sound based on the isolation and harsh weather conditions. But if this were just based on the sheer aural torment -- picture a tornado siren echoing through an empty grain silo -- you have to endure when listening to one of these backwoods creatures tell you about the big buck they bagged, “Oh yah, dat der buck was dis big I tell ya, eh,” it would probably be ranked closer to Chicago.
Prime example: Just rent Escanaba in da Moonlight.
12. Upper Midwesterner
It’s enough to elicit a look of disgust even if it weren’t being uttered by some of our generation’s goofiest politicians (Rick Snyder) and worst murderers (Fargo). Essentially, it’s the sound of a nasally mosquito with its testicles permanently frozen to its abdomen, and there are variations of it throughout the region. Specimens of this accent variety can typically be heard using the following words at least five times in one sentence: “now,” “then,” “there,” “what,” “now,” “who,” -- often summed up with a nauseatingly exuberant “You betcha!”
Prime examples:Bobby’s mom, Margie Gunderson
11. Southern Californian
Our undying love for Point Break prevents this obnoxious accent from being at the bottom of the list, but this squawking, nasally speech pattern sounds like somebody put numbing agent on your tongue. And tongue rings are soooooooo 1992.
Prime examples: Every Keanu Reeves character from the ‘90s
Forrest Gump brought international attention to this accent, which has resulted in the butchering of it over the last 20 years by anyone who didn’t spend the ‘90s under a rock. To replicate the accent, pull your tongue all the way back in your throat like you’ve just taken a big swig of sweet tea and let it dribble out a bit and cry “mah fanger hurts.”
Prime examples:Emmylou Harris, Jen-naee
The accent most often associated with Spanglish, it’s a blending of the two worlds and most commonly heard in parts of the country that used to be Mexico until we decided they should be the US, marked by extremely long pronunciations of words containing consecutive uses of the letter "E."
Prime examples:Cheech Marin, B-Real
We’d have something clever to say here, but something about the Hawaiian accent -- those elongated vowels, the extremely long words that roll off the tongue of locals like lyrics from a Bone Thugs song -- relaxes us far too much to try to be funny.
Prime example:Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole
Quite possibly the drawliest of the Southern drawls. Texans are known to speak and live at their own pace. There’s something oddly calming about the way it goes from rootin’ to falutin. Until the steers revolt. Then it’s all drowned out in gunshots.
Prime examples: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson
It still sounds like these people are fresh off the boat -- the lobstah boat. You barely speak American English, but fahk it, we’ll let it slide because you should be part of Canada anyway, ayuh!
Prime example:Jud Crandall from Pet Sematary
Something, something, moonshine. Something, something, no teeth. We kid! There’s something charming about a dialect of your own language that is almost completely unintelligible to 90% of native speakers.
Prime examples: Loretta Lynn and Mamie White
It’s hard to spend time around a Bostonian and not adopt the habit of extenuating the “ahhh” sound in nearly every word and the general habit of saying “to hell with the letter 'R.'” We realize it’s your way to really sticking it to the English and their language, because that lasts a lot longer than a “haaabaah” full of tea.
Prime example:Mahk Wahlberg
A dialect of Gullah, a language developed by African tribes to communicate with one another during the Atlantic slave trade, which then blended with the English of the Anglo plantation owners. The languages work together in a rhythmic melody that still thrives today in South Carolina and parts of Georgia, but only in the parts of those states where they don’t talk like Hee Haw extras.
Prime example: This lady
Known for its wide expanses, cow wrangling, sparse-but-prominent cults, and producing more than a few of America’s top fugitives, the Rocky Mountain states have a unique way of living and the accent follows suit -- a perfect yodel for calling the cows back home, shreddin’ the gnar, or in general, dropping out of society. It’s also extremely hypnotic. Which might explain those cults.
Prime example: Sam Elliott
The need for a translation device may put some people off, but we find it to be all charm. It’s an unrefined version of French, Southern, and God knows what. Kind of like what you might expect from a delicious “bayoh” jambalaya -- full of more ingredients than you can count, but you don’t really want to know what’s going on in there. Because the results are wonderful.
Prime examples:Shelby “Swamp Man” Stanga, James Carville
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Megan Frye is a Thrillist writer who doesn't realize how horrifying her accent is until she leaves Detroit. Follow her to overlong vowels @fryechild.