Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Accent - Have You Got One?

Over a year ago, I wrote the article below. I was reminded of this post by the following commercial. A commercial I always stop and watch. Don't miss the young woman at the end of the post, she's killa. So, what is home to your ear? Can you find it in the video?

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 Thomas MacEntee said...

Oh my dearest fM, I too am an accent outcast. My mother was raised in Jersey City and I too grew up with strange words such as Cawfee, Buttah, and weird names for Italian food like rigaut, canoles, manigaut, shcarole and more.

I don't know why I didn't pick up the accent - perhaps because we lived 90 miles north of NYC. But my brother somehow picked up the Inland North American English Accent ( which technically starts up in Utica, NY. I blame is time in the Navy in Syracuse and Chicago for that.

October 24, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Oh Thomas, in my next life I will be a southern belle as well.


October 24, 2009 at 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in an accent vacuum -- Montgomery County, Maryland. It's where a lot of the government folks who work in DC work -- many are from areas all over the country and they come and go with each administration.

The result is that I'm kind of an accent sponge -- if I'm in an area with a definitive accent, I might develop a lilt of it while there. I'm living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland now, which has long Philly/watermen Os and a southern twang. I find myself lapsing into that accent nowadays, more often than not.


October 24, 2009 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

I love accents. That sound that gives a picture of some part of this country or a place in the world.

Thanks for stopping and commenting, Missy.


October 24, 2009 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I would kill to have your non-accent! Damn that Amy Walker is good. But yo, can she do Fillufya like me?


October 24, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

Or can she do Picksberg? Hah baht dem Stillers? I don't have an accent unless I happen to be talking to a person with the accent - a professional hazard for the linguist, I guess. My husband is also one of those accentless people - the only one in a family with very strong Brooklyn accents.

October 24, 2009 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Donner & Greta, you can even write with an accent. Wow!


October 24, 2009 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Michigan and went to college in Chicago. According to my dad, I acquired a twang there that he wishes I hadn't. It is embarrassing, but I too fall into whatever accent I hear. I have the feeling some may think I am mocking them or trying too hard to fit in, when I almost can't help myself but to do it.

October 24, 2009 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Moultrie Creek said...

Now sugah, ya'll just know this little Fla'da girl can turn on the Southern charm - and drawl - whenever it suits her purpose. And, although my part of the South (NE Florida) never had one of the "cultured" dialects, my Charleston and Savannah genes kept that beautiful low country drawl embedded in my soul.

October 25, 2009 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Joan said...

Here in the southern Oregon, my McPherson family's Scottish accent was smoothed out just as the wind takes the rough edges from the hillsides around here. I dinna realize what we must have sounded like 150 years ago, when that first McPherson of mine brought his Scottish brogue to NYC, and then Wisconsin. But a few months ago, I found and called a cousin of sorts, who is a generation closer to the old Scot. Introduced myself as coming from the McPherson family. Her skepticism of my lineage was clear when she replied, "Well, I dunno, we are McFearrrsons."

October 25, 2009 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Do you think Madonna just acquired that British accent because she was surrounded by it?

I have caught myself doing it and I do think they thought I was mocking them.


October 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


OMG! I love your sugah. This has been so much fun listening to your written dialect.


October 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


What a turn of phrase . . . "my McPherson family's Scottish accent was smoothed out just as the wind takes the rough edges from the hillsides around here."

Beautiful writing. It's one of those sentences that easily paints a picture similar to my favorite description - corduroy roads.

Girl, I'm on my way over to your blog for a good read.


October 25, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Janine Smith said...

I was born in Seattle, which is sort of accent-less, actually, if you ask me, but have spent the past 40 years in Texas... guess which accent has won?

October 25, 2009 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Hmmmm, Brooklyn?


October 25, 2009 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Sherry - Family Tree Writer said...

Great post! I loved reading it. I tend to think that we hear in Kansas, being in the middle of everything don't have much of an accent, but I do hear occasionally... "Oh, I love your accent?" To which I think, if not acutally reply, "Oh, me? What accent!"

Love your Tweets!

October 25, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Sherry -

Glad you liked it. Kansas has an accent. Depending on where you're from it can be a refined Midwestern.


October 25, 2009 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

I have no accent whatsoever. I'm accent deprived and all the poorer for it.

I must admit, I am drawn to the sounds of conversational Polish and when I hear it spoken in crowds I can't help but search for its source. Polish isn't the most melodic of languages. Its close cousin, Russian, is much more so. But it is the sound of the Polish language that reminds me of my youth, visits with Grandma (who never learned English), and boisterous family gatherings.

Interestingly, when I took Polish language classes several years ago, my teacher told me that I had an exceptional ear for the language. He also said my pronunciation was dead nuts on... the best he'd ever hear from a non-native Pole. I attribute that to the many years of my youth spent listening to a language I couldn't understand but was fascinated by.

October 26, 2009 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

My Jersey-born in-laws often eat aranges that are kept in the drawa in the refrigerator. I think they believe I'm the one with the accent even though I've lived in the (mostly) accent-free West all my life.

However, the funniest incident I've ever had was in a Manhattan restaurant with my Jersey-born husband and his sister, who married a Floridian with a true Southern accent that has softened over the years. A family sitting at the next table over was clearly from the South. The sister's huband turns to them and strikes up a conversation with, "Where bouts y'all from?" with the thickest accent I've ever heard out of him. Who would have thought in the middle of Manhattan over a cup of "caffee" he'd find a fellow Southerner?

October 26, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was born and raised in Alabama. I've got an accent. I don't know why some people equate a southern accent with being less intelligent. Just sterotyping, I guess. Anyway, I'm southern and proud of it. Y'all come visit.

October 27, 2009 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Sakasumi said...

I love that commercial, and the accents youtube video was funny! :)

October 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM  

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