A “Bayg” By Any Other Name


Suggested by Rebekah (waves to her), here’s my take on the Montana Accent:
Upon arriving in Great Falls in July 2002, I discovered that the locals had a delightful accent. I had never heard such speech patterns and pronunciations quite like it before, and the closest I could narrow it down to was the accent that I had heard in the movie “Fargo.” Well, not quite – the Montana accent isn’t as pronounced or deliberate, but it is definitely there. And it didn’t take long to begin speaking like the natives, to some degree: when I went to pick up our elder child at the airport about a year later, I told my younger daughter that we need to go to the “bay-gage check” area. She stopped dead-cold, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “WHAT did you say?” I repeated “bay-gage check,” and then realized how I had pronounced it. Of course, native Montanans often deny that they have an accent, but believe me, it is distinct from most others that I have heard. According to this source, “Montana” speech is part of the broader category of “Rocky Mountain” speech, although I’ve been to Denver and Colorado Springs many times, and would never confuse a native Montanan with a Coloradan. So what’s your take on this? Do you notice an accent here in Montana?

19 Comments

  • ajtooley (#)
    October 18th, 2006

    I think most of our verbal foibles are dialect rather than accent, but there’s no denying there’s a tiny bit of an accent there. Of course, I’m a native, so I’m honor-bound to at least downplay the existence of an accent.

  • GeeGuy (#)
    October 18th, 2006

    I have no idear what yur tockin about.

  • wolfpack (#)
    October 18th, 2006

    Is a man from Texas really eligible to assess the accent of other states?

  • ZenPanda (#)
    October 18th, 2006

    It’s them other folks who talk funny…we have no accent.

  • Oli (#)
    October 18th, 2006

    I think some Montanians have a slight accent that crosses between Canadian and North Dakotan, but I didn’t notice it too often. I was told I have an accent, and with my Northeastern roots that is distinctly possible. Although after hearing New Yorkers and Bostonians tawlk for many years, the Montana accent is much more subtle.

  • Mike Doran (#)
    October 20th, 2006

    Being a native I always felt I had no accent, but a visit to Manhattan (NYC) a few years ago prompted others many times to spontaneously ask me where I was from. The unusual part was that a surprising number still had no idea where Montana was geographically located afterwards. The explanation that seemed to somewhat clarify it for many of them was ‘west of the river’. If you want to examine dialect more closely, talk to an 80-year-old man who has never traveled out of his [ethnic] neighborhood in NYC.

  • Bulldog (#)
    October 20th, 2006

    I definitely noticed the accent when I got here, but just like others said it is not a strong, hard accent it is slight. When I heard it, it kind of reminded me of a mix of Fargo and the McKenzie Brothers. Take off eh!

  • lonestarbigsky (#)
    February 17th, 2007

    A certain colloquialism stands out to me more than an accent. “Yep.” Whenever I’m talking to someone and say “thanks,” “thank you,” “have a good weekend,” etc., the response I get is “Yep.”

  • Justin (#)
    February 6th, 2008

    I have lived in Missoula for 32 years and can only remember one person pronouncing the word bag as ‘bayg.’ That and ‘yep’ don’t really seem Montanan to me, but like I said, I live in Missoula, so maybe we don’t say that sort of thing here. I also have friends and family from across the state, Polson, Sydney, Great Falls, you name it, and I can’t remember any of them using words like that.

    Of course I don’t deny we must be using regional words, I just object to anything as dumb as ‘bayg’ or ‘yep.’

  • Aj (#)
    October 16th, 2009

    Excuse me, I grew up in MT and I have never heard ‘bayg’ pronounced another way until highschool my friend from VA sounded quite odd the way she said ‘baaaaaaag’ like it goes flying out the window. I think to say ‘bayg’ is an explanatory way to describe the object a bag.

  • Aj (#)
    October 16th, 2009

    I think it’s part of our culture to say ‘bayg’ and ‘yep’, not dumb, go home.

  • Aj (#)
    December 14th, 2009

    I’ve spent time practicing your pronounciation of ‘bayg’. Here’s a tip for fellow native Montanans, practice a sheep’s baaaaaa to form the word ‘bag’.

  • Aj (#)
    December 14th, 2009

    By the way, do you say ‘pronunciation’ or ‘pronounciation’?

  • Justin (#)
    December 14th, 2009

    Go home? What is that supposed to mean? I AM home, in Missoula, MT. Like I said already, bayg isn’t something I hear in Western MT. Where did you grow up in Montana? Maybe it’s an eastern thing. Personally I would say pruh-nun-ciation. Does anybody say pro-noun ciation?

  • Dale (#)
    January 7th, 2010

    Being an east coaster and very much interested in accents, I’ve been to Montana several times
    and I think the Montana Accent does have much more in common with someone from Colorado
    versus North Dakota.

  • Patrick (#)
    February 20th, 2010

    I grew up in Great Falls, and yes, “bag” is commonly pronounced “bayg” there. Missoula is a great town, but not the one to hear “authentic” Montana accents. Of course there are subtle differences between east and west and north and south within Montana, and different populations in Montana(American Indian and Hutterite, for example) have very distinctive accents.

  • Dee (#)
    August 8th, 2010

    We have an accent…somewhat. I was born in Great Falls and raised throughout Montana. I left to go to the southern mid-west for college.Saying “bag,” “flag,” and other words that I don’t rightly recall (lol) got many a raised eyebrow and a “So…where are you from anyway?” Face it…it may be subtle, but we have an accent!

  • Sasha (#)
    September 30th, 2010

    I grew up in Missoula, and say “bayg” “yep” and “y’guys.” My father was born in North Dakota, and I consider myself lucky that I escaped my family herritage of saying “crick” (creek) or “warsh” (wash).

  • jake t (#)
    December 16th, 2010

    HA! I had to laugh when I came across this. I was born and raised in Great Falls. I was never aware of our accent until I joined the military and was put together with people from all across the States. People constantly mess with me by saying “bayg” and “rayg” and “flayg” ,and it is very noticable when I visit home. But I do have to say that I am glad I have a “rocky mountain accent” and not an “upper east coast accent”. now thats a hard accent to get used too.

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