A 19th-Century New England Voice

Elf photo

This is a little article I wrote for the Aug. 10, 2017 edition of the weekly Elf magazine of my New Hampshire hometown newspaper, The Keene Sentinel.  I had seen a tombstone in the cemetery of nearby Fitzwilliam, NH which has a poetical inscription that rhymes “calm” with “arm.”  This quaint example of a fossilized echo of the famous New England accent (“cahm” = “ahm”) got me thinking about how we know how languages were pronounced in pre-audio-recording eras.  Of course, there is a great deal of scholarly work on this issue, especially on spelling mistakes and changes in orthography.

A 19th-Century New England Voice