Friday, August 15, 2008

Home To The Ear

We have the same biological parents. We were both raised by those parents. We shared the same room in the same house for seventeen years. So how is it that my sister sounds as if she's been drinking out of a Dixie cup all her life and I have no accent?

I lay this anomaly directly at the good intentions of our Mother. Mother was a New Yawker, with a mirra (mirror), arange (orange), Linder (Linda) sort of accent. She always believed a southern accent somehow made you sound less intelligent. Her daughter, the intelligent one - as opposed to the beautiful one, would have no southern accent.

I, on the other hand, loved the genteel old money Mint Julep southern accent. The drama queen found it very Tennessee Williams. Some of my friends had that accent and they seemed so elegant, so lady-like, so filled with southern charm.

But Mother had other plans. Years of work, and a speech teacher who shared my Mother's goal, left me with no recognizable accent. It was a difficult task getting a good southern girl to give up her accent. A difficult task and a lot of time. So much time that my sister and brothers went unchecked into the dark abyss of the dreaded southern accent.

It's best they did, because they never needed an interpreter at family gatherings. They spoke the "git, teched, stove up, leave me be" language of the clan. I always roamed the outskirts asking, "What did they say?" Until I was much older most of the family thought I was deaf. Once they found I wasn't they determined the problem was not my ears but my nose; it was a little too high in the air.

I never found my place with the New Yawkers either. One summer vacation to visit put me in my place with them. I was continually forced to repeat mirror (mirra), orange (arange), Linda (Linder) and it was never to their satisfaction. They laughed and taunted me. I was their summer amusement. They sent me home self-conscious of every word I spoke. I didn't belong on either the Northern or Southern side of that famous line.

As an adult I found a home for my accent among the out of work actors of Southern California. No accent to be heard until the director yells "Action." Then they can sound like anyone they please. Yes, I have more in common with them then my own family.

I miss the sound of the South. Hearing it in a crowd always causes me to turn and search. Even now the accent comes to me in my dreams, not to mention five minutes talking with my sister has us sharing the same Dixie Cup. The South, home to the ear, how I miss it.



Blogger wendy said...

fM - Really enjoyed this post! My husband has a cousin who was raised right down the road from him (Missouri) but sounds like he's from Mississippi now. The first time he saw them in years he looked at me and said, he never sounded that way growing up!

August 16, 2008 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger Donna said...


The line "Until I was much older most of the family thought I was deaf" made me Laugh Out Loud! Don't feel bad, those of us with prominent accents wish we could have the "no accent" that you do. It's easier to add one than to remove one from your speech...that is, if you can understand what folks are saying. Being from the North, I had difficulty understanding Southerners when I first met them for my job at the age of 25. Now, it's easy, but then I needed an interpreter. You should have seen my face the first time a Southerner asked me if I wanted "bald" peanuts!


August 16, 2008 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Nikki - Notes of Life said...

As a kid, I always thought I didn't have an accent, but as I grew I realised I could here hints of Welsh coming through! Still, some people around here have quite strong accents compared to mine.

August 16, 2008 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...


You are a Southerner inside where it counts! I enjoyed this post --- and think it the best of all your work I've read. You made me laugh, you made me think, and, most of all, you touched my heart with this very personal look into who you are. Thanks.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

August 17, 2008 at 6:21 AM  
Blogger familytwigs said...

Ya'll need to be bi-lingual. One trip south will fix that!!
I think I need to visit the mountains, fM. Since my Dad died I miss it so. He kept sweet Alabama close.

August 18, 2008 at 6:45 AM  

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