Thinking about Accents

After I got home from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I was on the phone with one of my clients, who observed, “I can tell you went south for your vacation. You’re dropping “g’s” all over the place!”

Yes, I am.

It doesn’t take long for me to pick up a Southern accent!

Blame it on the fact that I was reared by two Southerners and was saying “y’all” before I even went off to kindergarten. I also went to college in the south and lived and worked in Mississippi and Texas for a number of years.

The whole thing’s even more prominent when I have a cold.

I make no apologies for my accent, and I’m pretty sure my client wasn’t poking fun at it. We all have to be from some place, and the majority of us pick up the accents we’re around the most.

Accents help us “categorize” each other. If you’ve got a halfway decent ear and a bit of experience, you can pinpoint at least the region a person hails from by his accent.

Most of the time.

Early in my career, I worked for a woman from Mississippi who admitted she’d taken elocution lessons and spent countless dollars to rid herself of a southern accent. It sounded rednecky, she told me.

How sad.

Just because a person’s from Hicksville doesn’t mean he’s a hick. By the same token, simply having a British accent does not confer the monarchy on you!

For years, a “flat, Midwestern accent” was considered the ideal when it came to TV anchors and other readers of the news (think Walter Cronkite). Everybody, it seemed, wanted to hear vowels and consonants pronounced the same way.

But even across the Midwest, there are many varieties of accent. A person from southern Illinois certainly speaks differently than a resident of Minnesota, for example, and “city folk” use different expressions than rural residents.

Because our society is so mobile today, I suspect even more shifting of accents will occur over time.

Still, isn’t it fascinating to talk to strangers and really listen to not only what they say but how they say it?