"Sit" pronounced as "set" - a Midwestern thing?

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Zager & Evans. This group, for those not familiar with them, is from Lincoln, Nebraska, probably one of the few well-known rock groups to come from there. I’m noticing in a lot of their songs they pronounce the word “sit” as “set”. As in, “Hey man, you’re settin’ in my chair” (Fred), “I’m settin’ here cryin’ in my coveralls” (Mr. Turnkey) and several other examples that I can’t think of off the top of my head.

In Taxi Man, they also pronounce “conservatives” as “conservateeves.” I usually pronounce that “I” in “conservatives” like the “I” in “Israel” - but Zager & Evans pronounce it as an “ee” sound. I’ve heard this in other things too, most notably in the Fairy Land sequence in Breakfast of Champions. “This is a black suit! It’s a conservateeve black suit!” shouts Nick Nolte.

It strikes me that these sort of pronunciations are a Midwestern-ism. Is this assumption correct?

A Texan (Houston) friend of mine says “set” & “settin” for sit & sitting, too. I’d thought it was a southern thing.

Perhaps they don’t know when to sit or set. I wouldn’t bring up the use of wrong words if it was a likely possibly.

I live in Lincoln, Nebraska

I hardly ever hear “set” to mean “sit”

Now, get just a little bit out of town and the colloquial accents can vary quite a bit.

I should note that comedians from Nebraska often overplay the rural perception that the rest of the country has about our state.

I wonder if this has any connection to “settle” meaning a wooden bench:-


Agree with pan1. (I’m in Omaha.) Not that it’s not possible for any one Nebraskan to have more of a southern accent, but I’ve not heard Nebraskans talk that way.

Also note, I’ve never heard any Nebraskan talk like Larry the Cable Guy does (who’s from small town Nebraska).

BTW, for future reference, if you refer to the “great plains” states as the “midwest”, people from the Wisconsin/Northern Illinois/Michigan area will tell you snottily that the Midwest only refers to that area.

Of course, everyone else in the nation includes the plains areas out to the rockies.

Is it a question of pronunciation, or are they using the word “set” where we would use “sit”? If they were reading aloud something that said “sit”, I would imagine that they would pronounce it as “sit”, not “set”.

If they wrote it down they would write “set.” They are two different words, though they sometimes mean the same thing.

I lived in Missouri for 31 years and haven’t heard “set” for sit. I have heard “warsh” for wash though.

Of course, I don’t recall ever hearing the term “missourah” either, always just “missouree” and people say everybody in Missouri says it that way.

What about the Conservateeves thing?

Upstate New York: “sit” is common in precise speech (and not necessarily “It was I” precisionism, just relatively careful diction), but “set” for “sit” is common in casual conversation, especially in more rural areas.

I don’t think they are mispronouncing the word. I think they think “set” is the right word. I used to work with someone who always said “set” instead of “sit,” as in “I’m just going to set here in my chair.” I was working there as an editor, so needless to say my need to constantly correct her drove me nuts.

And yes, I know I split an infinitive up there.

As a Wisconsinite, I must admit that I wasn’t about to “snottily” point that out. However, since you brought up the point, I will correct you and say that the area you’re talking about is considered the “Great Lakes States” (though that leaves out Pennsylvania, New York and Indiana) or “Upper Midwest,” (though that leaves out, at the very least, Indiana) not the “Midwest.” Nebraska is included in the “Midwest.” We’re not dumb here; we know the Midwest is bigger than ourselves. We’re also pretty darn welcoming here… so I’m not sure where you’re perception that we’re snotty comes from… except that it’s cold and we snotcicles sometimes while shoveling the driveway for the 7th time that week. :smiley:

I merely was going to add that I don’t hear that much in the area of the Midwest that I live in. Although, if you go much further north from where I live, you hear a totally different set of inflections: Canadian!

Did you miss the part where the pronunciations of performers is part of the gag?

I hate to burst your bubble, but Nebraska is, dialectually, pretty basic American English, no different than most of the midwest (Western Pa to Iowa and Colorado.). Gallup considers us to have such neutral dialect that they’ve based their call centers here, as do several national telephone-polling and telemarketing companies. More americans speak the same dialect as Nebraskans than any other dialect. (Midland dialect)

So, next time you see Larry the Cable Guy and his Rural accent, you lose out on the fun because you know he’s faking it. He’s actually a brother of a woman my wife used to work with in Seward. I haven’t met him ( I know with only 8 of us in this state, it seems so strange to not know everyone) but I’ve met the sister several times, and his sister speaks without any ruralism to her language. She’s also come out and said, that he talks normally when he’s not in character.

It’s part of the act and not representative of even rural nebraska. It’s just representative of how the general population thinks rural nebraksans should talk.

Sounds like something a young Bob Dylan woulda said.

In the hillbilly accent to which I subscribe, the eh and ih sounds are mostly interchangeable. I think the mispronunciation came before the word mixup.