January 31st, 2012
bēi. That’s what my mother in law just asked for. My quizzical look reminded her to speak either Putonghua or Yanqinghua, and she asked for a 笔/bǐ. I had a quick flip through a dictionary, and found no alternative pronunciations, so asked her, and she said, “就是咱们的河北口音” – that’s our [inclusive] Hebei accent. Hence the title labelling it Huailaihua – modern Hebei, after all, is made up of most of the late Qing and/or RoC Zhili, Chahar and Rehe, with Chahar (modern northwest Hebei, parts of Inner Mongolia and Beijing’s Yanqing County) being historically Mongolian (Chahar being the name of the Mongolian tribe that dominated the area) and Rehe (modern northeast Hebei and neighbouring regions of Beijing, Inner Mongolia and Liaoning) Manchu and before that Khitan (Jehol). As Mr Ji suggests in this comment, it would certainly seem that both geography (in Hebei, as in Beijing, the west and north are mountainous, the south and east plains) and ethnic mixing certainly seem to have had quite an impact on local accents and dialects. Given that, I think it fair to interpret my mother in law’s “Hebei accent” as meaning “Huailai accent”.
Update: My wife says Yanqingren also pronounce 笔 as bēi. I’m surprised, but then again, the Yanqingren I know don’t often use pens or pencils, at least, not when I’m around or not when they’re speaking Yanqinghua.