‘Utahisms’: New book explores Utah’s unique expressions, inventions and place names

Jul 20, 2022, 8:18 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2022, 11:12 am

PROVO, Utah — A linguistics professor at Brigham Young University says some sayings assumed to be homegrown to the Beehive State actually exist elsewhere and that some of Utah’s unique pronunciations can be traced to pioneers.

“People have a lot of ideas about what Utahns say and a lot of them aren’t particular to Utah,” said David Eddington with BYU’s Department of Linguistics. “Things like, ‘How do you fill? I felled the test.’ That’s found all over the U.S.”

Eddington wrote the book “Utahisms: Unique Expressions, Inventions, Place Names and More,” which was released this month.

“We found that Utah is the state with the most people of English ancestry,” Eddington said.

Eddington said we can trace certain pronunciations to Utah pioneers, like the city of Hurricane in Washington County.

“In southern Utah, people say ‘Her-ah-kun,’ and they get laughed at like they took it and they somehow made it bad,” Eddington explained in an interview with KSL TV. “And actually that’s just the British pronunciation.”

Utah also has one of the largest populations of people that claim Danish ancestry, Eddington said, and that could have influenced certain Utah phrases.

“One thing that may be Danish: Have you ever heard anyone say something like, ‘Oh, for cute. For cool?’” Eddington said. “You find that in Utah and you also find it in Minnesota. What do Minnesota and Utah have in common? Scandinavians.”

Eddington said Utah received a huge influx of people from the Northeast and that also flavored certain pronunciations like calling the Utah County city of Spanish Fork “Spanish Fark,” which can also be traced to Ireland.

That pronunciation is dying out in Utah, he said, underscoring how language is always changing.

“Even if you go to one place, even if you go to Utah, you’ll find variation according to where people are from, how old they are, how educated they are, things like that,” Eddington said.

Read more about Eddington’s book here.

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‘Utahisms’: New book explores Utah’s unique expressions, inventions and place names