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The Tiny Virginia Island With Where Residents Have British Accents

Twelve miles off Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Tangier Island is a remote sliver of marsh grasses, tidal creeks and bird-filled wetlands that’s home to 460 people adrift in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. For the past few hundred years, the only way on and off the island has been by infrequent boat service. A combination of geographic isolation and traditions harking back to its early British settlers make Tangier feel like it’s in a different era than the country that surrounds it. There, people bury loved ones in their back gardens, families attend church on Sundays, and you won’t find alcohol for sale in the island’s one grocery store and two restaurants. There are almost no cars on the 1.2-sq-mile island, and residents ride bikes and golf carts on Tangier’s one circular road. There is no mobile phone service, police presence or reason to lock your door. While Tangier may feel like stepping back into the 1950s, it sounds like stepping back into the 1750s. That’s because the inhabitants have retained a unique form of speech that’s been passed down from the island’s earliest English settlers. According to David Shores, linguist and author of Tangier Island: Place, People and Talk, the island’s unique speech patterns likely migrated with its first settlers from Cornwall and then evolved inward. Today, Tangier is one of the last places in the US where people still speak with traces of their colonial past.