Border English in El Paso

After living in El Paso, Texas, off and on for about three years, I just yesterday had the idea of describing the dialect around here. El Paso is mostly surrounded by desert, so in a lot of ways, it's like an island. Add to that the fact that (according to the 2001 census) 70% of El Pasoans speak Spanish at home, and you're bound to notice some peculiarities in the local English.

The dialectical trends I describe below seem particularly prominent in El Paso, but I'll bet they apply to some degree all across the Mexican border.

  1. "Right now" either means very recently, something like "just now", or very soon.
    I was talking to Joe right now and he said no.
    We're gonna leave right now so get ready.
  2. "Barely" means extremely recently, much like "just".
    I barely got to my desk and the phone rang.
  3. "Put" is very flexible and used really often. It might take the place of other verbs like "give".
    Put me some.
    I just put it.
    Could you put the dog some food?
  4. The meaning of "ugly" is extended just a bit to apply to smells, attitudes, and cleanliness.
    It smelled ugly in there so we left.
    Sorry my house is so ugly today.
  5. Brand-name association (like the words "band-aid" and "kleenex") are much more common, with words like "pampers", "kotex", and "charmin" being synonymous with "diapers", "tampon", and "toilet paper" for some.
  6. For native El Pasoans, the speech sounds of English are all pretty well present, but some odd pronunciation occurs nonetheless. For example, the "a" in words like "can" and "man" may be more open and less nasalized than in more standard American dialects. Occasionally, a word-final stop may be devoiced (as in "goot" for "good"), fricativized (as in "blanketh" for "blanket"), or both (as in something like "standarh" for "standard").
  7. When a given word contains more than one stressed syllable, the primary stress may fall on a different syllable than in other American dialects. The tendency is for main stress to fall toward the end of the word, especially in Latinate words such as "simplify" and "frustrating".
  8. In two-word adjective-noun combinations like "rubber band" and "corned beef", the first word often takes the primary stress, just as it would in noun-noun combinations such as "light bulb" and "ice cream". This also applies to some initialisms like "TV" and "CD" (which can sound a bit more like "teevy" and "seedy").
  9. Intonation can be quite a bit like Spanish, giving each syllable about equal prominence. Phrasal stress often falls on unexpected words, causing a surprising amount of confusion for the uninitiated.

That's all I've got right now. If you can think of any properties of Border English that you've noticed, let me know by leaving a comment. Just keep in mind, I'm not talking about Spanglish here; I mean English as spoken by native (or near-native) speakers.

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