Why do Texans pronounce e's like i's

I was raised in Texas and such words as pin and pen or pronounced the same. The same applies for tin and ten. Names like Brenda are pronounce Brinda. I never noticed myself until harrassed by others when going out of state

People from Maine use all the R’s that Bostonians leave out. It all evens out in the end.

I’ll be damned. I’ve lived in Texas most of my life and never even knew there was a difference. In fact, I thought you were crazy until I looked in my dictionary and found that the pronunciation of “pen” has a little e with a curved thing on it and the production of “pin” has a little i with the curved thing on it.

The pronunciation recieved depends to a great extent upon which part of the Southern Central North American Continent (i.e., Texas) you’re listening to.

Yeah, yeah,…“i” before “e” except after “c”…

I’ve lived in Texas all my life, and while I can say that the phenomena you describe are common, they are not universal.

I make sure to pronounce those words differently if there’s any chance of confusion, and generally even when not. Sometimes, I’m lazy and just use the short “i”. Then again, I’m somewhat atypical, as I distinguish between “Mary”, “Merry”, and “Marry”.

My mom (also Texan) is very bad about pronounciation, though not in the way you’re talking about. “pen” or “pin” both become “peeyin”, perhaps best written “P.N.”

Sometimes I have trouble understanding her. Like when I was looking for a job recently and she suggested “You could get a job with Dale”. It took me a few minutes to realise she meant “Dell”, not some guy named Dale.

Oh 'Nerd, you reminded me of something pronuciation-related from years back.

As often happens in business, I conducted several interactions with an individual from South Texas (and I’m Texan myself) whom I came to know as Dale Weems over the telephone, without ever meeting. This relationship endured for two years before I finally met Darrell Williams.

So would that make the two famous texan exports, stirs and quirs? :slight_smile:

i’ve lived in texas my entire life and have no trouble at all distinguishing between e’s and i’s

I concur with Beatle. A lot depends on what area of Texas you are from. In South Texas (San Antonio down), which has a predominantly Mexican-American community, the “drawl” is not that heavy and you will not confuse from pen from pin. Sorry for not answering your OP.


As a person who was born in the Chicago suburbs and moved to the Texas panhandle 10 years ago, I can vouch for studoggie’s point. When I say the word, “pen”, people can’t even figure out what I’m saying.

Me: “May I borrow your pen?”
Clerk (looking puzzled): “Ya wanna borrow mah pan?”
Me: “No; pen.”
Clerk: “Pan?”
Me (enunciating carefully): “Pen. You know, a writing implement.” (I illustrate my point via pantomime.)
Clerk(suspicious): “A raht’n what?”
Me: “Forget it. Could I use your pin?”
Clerk (happily giving me her pen): “Sure! Here!”

That makes me laugh, because the correct spelling of your user name would be “linoleum420”.

When I was in basic training I was a young lad from Chicago suddenly surrounded by an overwhelming majority of southern folk for the first time in my life. I noticed that whenever they had to write something down they used an “ink pen”. After a few weeks of hearing this, I finally asked someone what other kind of pen was there that could possibly be confused with an “ink pen”. (The only thing I could think of was a pig pen, and I didn’t know why the distinction would ever need to be made.) I was told that there lots of kinds of “pens”, stick pens, safety pens. I took me a while to figure out that they were pronouncing pin and pen identically.

Just wanted to note that the raising of /E/ to /I/ is distributed all over the South, not just in Texas. It seems to always happen before n. Something about the n does it. You don’t notice anyone saying /pIt/ instead of /pet/.

A dialectologist was in South Carolina asking an old lady what metal is used to make cans. She said “tin.” Then he asked what number comes after nine. She said “tin.” Scribbling in his notebook, he said, “So . . . you pronounce them the same.” She said, “I do not.”

I wonder if the raising is of Gaelic origin. There’s an old dialect joke:
Q.What time is it in Ireland when one car follows another?
A. Tin after tin.

I’m originally from Shreveport, Texas. (That’s a joke. People from the area will get it). Anyway, I certainly do pronounce “pin” and “pen” the same. I’ve been sitting here trying to pronounce them differently (pig pen/bobby pin; pig pen/bobby pin; pig pen/bobby pin). Nope. Even trying, I can’t seem to effect a difference.

Now, the East Texas nasal twang is, I think, the defining accent of the region. For this, “i” sounds are short and twangy. I can’t really describe it. For example. “Kite” would not rhyme with “height” or “blight.”

I’m flabbergasted.

I’ve always thought of myself as a Texas without an accent (except maybe when I’m drunk or tired or speaking with my more thickly-accented relatives), and then–just now–I discover that the rest of America says words like “pen” WRONG!

I’ve been (/bin/) sitting (/sitin/) here in front of my computer (/computo-box/) for several minutes (/minits/) now, trying (/tryin/) to say “pen” like (/lahk/) “/Pehn/” and I just (/jist/) can’t (/kaint/) do it without shuddering (/shudderin/).

I don’t know what to think. Although it does clear up for me why some people (East Texas folk, that is) insist on saying “ink pen” when I’ve always thought that it was very clear that it was just a “pen”. Pin. Whatever.