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How To Sound Like A Local in Houston

Houston is an eclectic mix of elements Southern and Western, international and local, as well as urban and rural.

Outsiders without firsthand knowledge of the area might find themselves scratching their head when they first try to figure out what Houston is like. So, if you’re new in town, let’s show you how to sound more like you’ve been here before instead of sticking out like a newbie.

STREET CRED

In Houston, there’s a street named Elgin. Out near Austin, Texas, there’s a city named Elgin. The street is pronounced “el-jin” and the city is known as “elgg-in.”

Kuykendahl Road is pronounced, “kirk-en-doll” while Laura Koppe Road is “copy.”

There’s so much to cover. So let’s move this ride from the street into town.

Houston is also known as H-town or Hustle Town. When learning to sound like a local, it’s a hustle. Why? Because there are more than 90 languages spoken throughout the area and many flourishing cultures from other corners of the globe, what’s considered typical Houstonian isn’t really typical at all.

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BEFORE OIL WAS KING

Humble, a city located near northeast Houston, doesn’t sound like the word—humble. The letter ‘h’ is silent when you say it: “um-bull.” Don’t worry if you didn’t get it on the first or second try. Someone is still likely to take you out for a beer or some barbecue and school you some more.

Humble is named after Pleasant Smith “Plez” Humble who ran a post office there in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, oil was discovered. The discovery led to Humble Oil & Refining Co.; that operation through later evolutions formed into a new oil company you may have heard of: ExxonMobil.

Although Exxon is now based in Irving, TX, Houston serves as the corporate headquarters for many energy companies.

TEXAS ROOTS

On the far eastern edge of the Greater Houston area is a town called Anahuac. It’s pronounced “ana-wack” and has a celebrated history. The Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto may be more known when it comes to the history of the Texas Revolution, but according to Anahuac’s local history the first uprisings took place there in 1832 and 1835.

On another note, Anahuac is also known as the “Alligator Capital of Texas” with the offering that there are more alligators here than there are people. The city hosts an alligator festival every September.

DANCE TO THE MUSIC

If you hear an accordion-based blend of polka, Latin pop and country with songs sung in Spanish, that may be Tejano music you’re listening to. Tejano is pronounced “tay-hah-no” with the letter ‘j’ operating as an h-sound. If you mispronounce it, like “teshz-an-oh or “tay-john-oh”,  everyone will know you are a transplant. The music’s roots emerged in the 19th century among the Mexican-American residents of Central and South Texas.

While on the other hand, if you hear blues or R&B-based accordion grooves with some of the lyrics in French, you’re listening to Zydeco. It’s pronounced “zy-dah-koh,” if you want to get it on the first try. Say “zy-deek-oh” or “zy-deck-oh” and you may turn a few heads.

The music was developed by the black Creoles in Southwest Louisiana. The word ‘Creole’ has many connotations. One of them, when referring to Zydeco, is a reference to the descendants of slaves, free people of color, and people of mixed-race origin.

FOOD FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Houston is the fourth-largest most populous city in the United States. Its metropolitan area contains more square miles than the state of New Jersey. With a city and region of such size, the number of dining options is impressive. More than 10,000 restaurants feed the locals and it’s been said that Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city.

If you go the Tex-Mex route, and you like it really hot, seek out dishes laden with the habanero pepper–pronounced “ah-bah-ner-o.”

If Cajun or Louisiana grub’s on your brain, then you may run into a spicy sausage called boudin. It’s pronounced “boo-dan.”

SO FAR WE’VE GONE, SO FAR TO GO

I’d love to wrap up everything Houston in a simple package to take home with you, but I can’t. You’ll have to come on up, down, or over to see for yourself what it takes to sound like a local. Don’t worry if you end up tongue-tied trying to sound like it. But if you get out and rub shoulders with the people, you’ll probably have fun with them trying to show you the way.

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