Colorado is ranked 39th in the country for "sexiest accent."
Every now and then, the question comes up in relation to the speech tendencies of those who live in Colorado, and if we have an accent that is unique to the state. The answer is not actually a simple yes or no. Instead, Colorado is typically not associated with a specific or highly recognizable accent.
First, let’s define what an accent is versus a dialect.
A simple definition of a dialect is a manner of speaking, language, speech, and a manner of speech of a certain population or area.
An accent is a part of dialect and refers to how people pronounce certain words and phrases. Put simply, an accent is a way that different people pronounce words from the same language differently from each other.
Officially, most linguists would say that Coloradoans have an unmarked, neutral, or no accent, commonly known as Standard American English. Without a very distinctive sound in our speech that is highly recognizable or that makes people go, “Oh, you must be from Colorado!”, it is hard to say that there is a specific Colorado accent.
Experts have weighed in on the issue with a range of insights. Ted Taylor, a Ph.D. in linguistics and professor from the English Department at Colorado State University in Pueblo, says that the answer is no, but that Colorado speech is unique through dialect and vocabulary.
“The short answer is that linguists do not distinguish a Colorado accent,” he said. “Colorado speech can be distinguished by vocabulary, however.”
The language of the state has Spanish, Mexican, Native American, Western, Californian slang, Mid-western, and other influences that have impacted and shaped the way we speak and created this shared dialect. Dialects in Colorado then differ within the varying regions of the state and are influenced by the speech habits and dialects of the states surrounding us.
According to Taylor, this is how language works, and different dialects are influenced and then changed, constantly evolving.
“Language changes spontaneously all the time. It changes with different places. A change in one place isn’t necessarily happening in another, especially if there are geographical and cultural differences," Taylor said.
If you take a minute to stop and listen to the accents, dialects, and language habits of those around us, you will start to notice some things that are unique to our state.
Take the word, Colorado, for example; those who have lived in the state most of their lives pronounce it "Color-ad-o", with a “rad” sound, whereas those from outside of the state often say "Color-od-o," making a “rod” sound in the middle. Other pronunciations you will hear around the state include “Col-uh-ray-doh”, “Col-uh-rad-uh”, and “Coh-loh-rad-o”.
Another commonly present pronunciation in those local to Colorado is the word coyote, which many locals pronounce “ky-oat” with two syllables rather than three.
Coloradoans, in general, tend to pronounce words with an “a” sound as an “ah”, which has a Spanish influence.
There are many other speech variances within the state, like the town Pueblo can be heard as “Puebla”, “Pee-eblo”, or “Pea-eb-low”, among other pronunciations. The Poudre River is the “Poo-der”; Buena Vista can be "Beau-knee”, "Byoo-nah Vis-tah”, or “Bew-na Vista”; Iliff is said "Eye-liff”; Louisville is “Lou-is-ville”.
A poll by Big Seven Travel.com ranked the top 50 sexiest accents in the United States, and Colorado made number 39 on the list. Here's what they had to say about the Colorado accent: “Coloradans don’t have a distinctive sound, but there’s definitely an accent here, despite what some people might say. It’s recently been influenced by the Californian vowel shift, yet still holds on to dropping the ‘t’s, so mountains becomes ‘moun’uns’.”
Everyone has a personal way they say things, so we all have an accent of some sort, but it may not be recognizable until we are outside of our dominant culture. With such a wide range of people here in Colorado, we have a mixing pot of accents and dialects, some of the speech habits and mannerisms of surrounding states creep into our language in those areas.
What about you, do you think there is an accent specific to Colorado? Have you ever been asked where you are from based on how you say a specific word or phrase? Do you notice any spoken trends or mannerisms we have here that are unique to the state? Let us know in the comments below.
Also, be sure to check out our guide of Colorado lingo—it's the ultimate list of terminology that's specific to The Centennial State!