Posted By

A recent article from the Tampa Bay Times looked into the question: Is there a Tampa accent or even a Florida accent? In the case of Tampa’s supposedly distinct dialect, deep-rooted natives say they know it when they hear it. First, they say it’s not so much a Tampa accent, but a West Tampa accent. Also, not everyone has it, but a small, dwindling group of people.

“I call it the ‘Tampa Whine,’” said Nikki Guerriere, 44. “It is a sound between Southern and Cuban and Spanish and only people who are from West Tampa, old West Tampa, have it.” People say it has something to do with Italian, too, with Tampa’s uniquely melded Italian-Cuban-Spanish history stretching back to the city’s cigar-rolling days.

Sociolinguist and Associate Professor in the Department of English, Phillip Carter, who has worked with researching Miami’s linguistic situation, came to the defense of those who hear the Tampa accent. “What makes a dialect?” he said. “Is it something that linguists uncover, or is it something the people think? If the people say there’s a dialect, then maybe there’s a dialect.”

Everyone has some kind of accent, linguists say, even newscasters — theirs just aren’t as detectable to the untrained ear.

Some possible characteristics of a West Tampa accent include:

  • Thee-ay-tur: A pronunciation of “theater” that enunciates all three syllables.
  • Sangwich: A “sandwich,” frequently a Cuban one.
  • Turlet: The bathroom, a.k.a., the toilet.
  • Sandy Claws: Nickname for Santa Claus.

So is there a Florida accent? We can say with certainty that Southern accents do exist in Florida and in Tampa. Accents in Florida also depend on where you are in the state, and how much that region has been affected by the mass, ongoing migration of people from the Midwest and Northeast. For example, the influx of Cubans and other Spanish speakers has changed how English is spoken in Miami, creating the Miami accent. These days, you’re more likely to hear a Southern accent around Tallahassee, outside of urban Jacksonville and farther south into the state’s rural interior than from West Palm Beach south.

Read the full story here.