Y’all Talk Funny: Regional Accents May Be Getting Stronger, Expert Says

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Illustration by Alexander Ho for TIME

Forget about ditching that Southern accent. William Labov, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, says regional accents may actually be getting stronger and more pronounced. There’s been no better time to be proud of your twang.

It’s not entirely clear why accents are growing stronger, but Labov says that the sound differences are increasingly being exaggerated. His other explanation is that “…dialect differences have become associated with political differences, so that the Blue States/Red States division comes close to the boundary between the Northern and Midland dialects.”

With about 10 major regional accents in the country, most people tend to keep the accent they grew up with. Children mimic their parents’ dialects and that of their peers, with not much changing as they reach adulthood. Although that’s something we’re sure some people are fixin’ to change, they might just be better off embracing it.

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Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.