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There are an estimated 7,000 languages in the world, and countless more accents and dialects. An accent can reveal a lot about a person – a spectrum of sounds with differing vowels and consonants, lilts and drawls, it can betray someone's geographic origin, level of education, social class.
But accents are malleable; they grow with you. I'm sure mine has changed since I first came to this country.
A new book published in the U.K. on accents caught my eye this week. It's titled You Say Potato. Focusing mainly on the British Isles, where the authors say an accent shifts every 25 miles, the book explores the way an accent can reflect identity.
On the book's website, people from around the world can upload how they say "potato" to a map. The title brings up the question: Does anyone actually say “potahto,” or was it just a good rhyme for the song made famous in Shall We Dance?
So far, we didn't find any "potahtoes" but the authors said there is a historical reason for this pronunciation – the "ah" vowel can be traced to the end of the 18th century in Britain.