Utah Dialect: What's the Big Dill?

Before I begin this entry full of personal interests, I'll let you know that this might be the last time you hear from me for a few weeks. I will be running several metaphorical life marathons. Without further adieu then, let's take a good long look inside my head:


Growing up, I never realized there was anything different about the way Utahans speak.

Then I went to college; not a college for local kids, but a college for young adults from all over America and the world at large. And I got made fun of for my dialect because as it turns out, some young adults from the world at large are bullies and Utahans are too nice to fight the stigmatization of their variety of English. (Hence this post. I'm a baby and I want to cry about it.)

Next thing I knew, I was in a major where I get to study dialects of English in many of my classes. The course goal in one of these expressly reads: Tolerance of All Dialects and Regional Variations. I've realized I'm unnaturally passionate about Sociolinguistics. As such, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a lecture on the Utah Dialect of English led by a panel of doctorates from Utah, Texas, Vermont, and Alaska, all specializing in and researching the Utah Dialect. This may not be your thing, but please don't mock it until you take a few ELang classes. Okay, go ahead and mock it, just don't let me find out. (Because I'm a baby, and I might cry about it.)

After attending and thoroughly enjoying said lecture, I'd like to debunk a few myths about the way people perceive Utah English:

1) Everybody "swallows their T's" in words such as fountain, mountain, and button. This occurs not only in the U.S. but also in Great Britain. As it turns out, non-Utahans glottalize in this way even more than Utahans! The difference is that Standard American English releases the glottal stop (the stopping in the throat where the T should be) out through the nose while Utahans release through the mouth. This is substantially more common among Utah females in their early 20s, which means that it's actually on the rise. Sorry, bullies.

2) Fer vs for. This is also common everywhere in rapid speech. It's not going anywhere because rapid speech necessarily has different features than slow speech. Outsiders may pick up on it more often in the West because we speak faster (sorry, that's life), but if you go home and pay attention, you may be surprised by what you hear.

3) Geneva Steel Mill. How do you read that? The fantastic thing about living in Utah is that there are probably half-a-dozen variations on the way we can pronounce "Steel Mill." Our dialect is a complex system with many freedoms. I know that I seldom discriminate between fill and feel, dill and deal, hill and heal/heel, or pill and peel. Guess what? Not a Utah thing. If you think it is, it's because Utah's the only place West of the Mississippi where you've spent any amount of time. This pattern of non-discrimination is found all along the I-80 freeway from Kansas to the coast, and it's common all throughout the South.


Though most of these "Utah-isms" actually define speech throughout the entire west, there are two parts of speech that we can claim as ours and ours alone:

1) The Pro-Predicate Do: "You ski much?" "Used to do." This came over from Great Britain with the English converts to the LDS church. Utah actually has the highest rate of individuals in America with strong English ancestry, and the unique sentence-structure stuck!

2) The adjective "lurpy," i.e. "My little brother Jordan and my VB blog pal Jacob are both sooo lurpy." Meaning tall, gangling, and uncoordinated, this might be my favorite adjective of all time. Good work, Utah.

That's all I've got for now, but more of the same on the Utah Dialect in a short BYU Magazine article can be found here.


  1. Is it "You ski much?" or "used to do" that has the weird sentence structure?

  2. "Used to do." I don't do this very much, but I have heard it around.



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