Over here in http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=780114, the “marry, Mary, merry” vowel regional pronunciations is being hacked around again, with specific reference to local favorite Berry Obama. This is a spin-off, which I’m wondering is just me or is for real:
I’ve sensed the opening of the word “Chicago” not as a pure “sh” as westerners know how that as pure. I’ve heard – and this is a difficult thing to describe – a touch of “ch” as in “chatter.” The tiniest suggestion.
In my experience/aural and written, the letters “Xi,” freestanding, stand for a sound in Chinese that is in between “s” and “sh.” What I’m getting at is that kind of mixture, but with different sounds.
It is possible I only heard this from one person, which imprinted me: my Mother, who would have given Dr. Ruth a run for her money as to German accent.
It’s also worth a note how vowels have the vast majority of regional variation, but so do consonants. Why is that?
I’ve bugged Chicagoans about it, if that was their thing, but they’ve said no.