In the latest edition of our American Accents series, we’re heading to Florida to bask in the speech and slang of the Sunshine State. But first, a disclaimer: there is no single Florida accent. The state can roughly be split across the middle, with different accents in the north and the south. And then there’s Miami, which has its own distinctive accent and slang owing to its large Latino population. So, what do Floridians sound like?
The North Florida accent
In the northern part of Florida, the accent is similar to that in the Southern states of the US, like Alabama and Georgia (both of which happen to border Florida).
You can hear this accent anywhere north of Gainesville, particularly around Tallahassee and the Florida Panhandle. It becomes more prominent as you move into more rural areas. You’re likely to hear words like “y’all” and other sounds characteristics of the Southern accent, like the pronunciation of the /e/ sound in “ten” as /ɪ/, like in “tin.” Hear the accent in this video.
The South Florida accent
The further south you go in Florida, the less of a Southern accent you’ll hear. How does that work? One word: immigration. From the 1930s onward, people living in the northeastern states of the US and in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit began moving to South Florida in search of sunshine. And they brought their accents with them. Nowadays, many people who live in the northern parts of the US and in Canada retire to Florida or fly south to spend the winters there (hence their migratory nickname: “snowbirds”).
In Miami, the population doubled between 1930 and 1950 thanks to immigration from these northern states. Then, after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Miami became home to increasing numbers of people from Cuba and other Latin American countries. Fast-forward to today, and the city is 70% Latino. It’s no surprise, then, that the city has a unique accent and dialect heavily influenced by both English and Cuban Spanish. Watch this video to listen to some Miami Cubans speaking.
General Florida slang words
Here is some Florida slang you can use all over the state:
|no-see-ums||small blood-sucking flies that are difficult to see||“I hate these no-see-ums!”|
|park in Goofy||to park far away, inspired by the Goofy parking lot at Walt Disney World, which is furthest away from the entrance||“Mom! Why did you park in Goofy?”|
|jit||a child or anyone younger than you||“That jit is so annoying!”|
|hundid||a hundred||“Do you have a hundid?”|
|Florida bath||to clean oneself in a pool, rather than in the bath or shower||“I’m just going to have a Florida bath.”|
These slang words are mainly heard around Miami, and either come from or are heavily influenced by Spanish:
|bih||a person, place or thing||“What’s that bih over there?”|
|oye||hi or hello||“Oye, how you doing?”|
|dale||hurry up or bye; also used to express support||“Dale, let’s go!”|
|que bolá||what’s up?||“Ana, que bolá?”|
|liga||hair tie||“It’s so windy. Do you have a liga?”|
|getty||get-together||“I’m having a getty this weekend.”|
In Miami, you’ll also hear some phrases and idioms that have been directly translated from Spanish. For example, instead of “take a pill,” you’ll hear “drink a pill,” coming from the Spanish tomar una pastilla (tomar meaning “drink” or “take,” depending on the context). And, rather than “puncture” or “tear a hole,” you’ll hear “open a hole,” which comes from the Spanish abrir un hueco. For example: “That nail opened a hole in my tire.”
Dale! Come to Florida
The beauty of visiting Florida is that you will come across many different accents as you travel across the state, from the Southern drawl of the Panhandle to the Spanish-inspired Miami accent. You’ll also get to learn some words in the Florida accent, such as jit and bih. And if you go anywhere near a pool to have a “Florida bath,” you’ll almost certainly start talking about “no-see-ums.”