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"Nuh-uh, I talk *normal.*"
March 8, 2014 6:41 PM   Subscribe

In Defense of Talking Funny: an examination of dialects and how people deal with them.
posted by flatluigi (60 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent piece. It drives me batty when people say "I don't have an accent" because of course everyone has an accent; "I don't have an accent" just means "I was raised within the dominant culture." It's a kind of statement of unexamined privilege; usually not loaded with bad intention, but irksome nonetheless.
posted by erlking at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I like accents and dialects. I have personally known two women, one from Tulsa and one from the Bronx, who's mothers regularly scolded thm out of speaking with an accent which is a damned shame.. My mother was born in Italy but came to the US (a rural quarry town in Vermont with a large Italian community) at age seven and can switch from English to Italian on a dime, but her voice is utterly unaccented. My nonna, on the other hand has an accent so thick that it can be hard for non-Italians to understand, but I love listening to her. My Dad's family is of Irish Catholic decent from NYC and my dad's sisters married Italian Americans from the city, and all of them have Noo Yawk accents of varying degrees. And I like it.

The anti-accent movent is probably spearheaded by people who think everyone should sound like anchormen. Or something.
posted by jonmc at 7:23 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I had a similar experience to the author, going to school in Wisconsin after growing up outside DC. One day one of the kindly old women at the Cafe I worked at noticed I talked funny. "Yoo have a real accent there fella." She said with her huge Wisconsin accent. Blew my mind, but also made me realize she was right.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:30 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The anti-accent movent is probably spearheaded by people who think everyone should sound like anchormen.

At least some of it, I think, is by people who've realised that the accent that they grew up with is a class or racial marker, and that it does them no favors when looking for employment, etc, outside of the area in which they grew up.

My native accent is decidedly working-class, with aks and liberry littered throughout. My parents nudged me out of that sort of pronunciation, but when I was about sixteen, I realised that even a more standard pronunciation, my accent was still a tell re: class, etc. So I started training myself out of it, and now don't often sound much like where I grew up at all. I know several other people from similar backgrounds who've done the same thing--I suspect that it's at least moderately common. I like the idea of lots of accents and dialects, but let's be real--sounding poor (or black, or any number of other things that people can sometimes tell from accent) doesn't help you get a job, and people gotta eat.
posted by MeghanC at 7:36 PM on March 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


In 1979, my parents moved along with my brother and I from Florida to way way backwoods Arkansas. It was a couple miles walk through the 5am darkness from our shack (later, log cabin) in the woods to the school bus, then a 30 mile drive on the bus to town to school. The first day of school, we were the new kids on the bus -- and the first kids on the bus, being the most remote. The other kids on the bus ask my brother and I, "where are yuns from?" We respond, "What?"'

"Where are yuns from?"

"What?"

"WHERE ARE YUNS FROM?"

*think a bit* WTF is a yun? Is this some kind of riddle? "Oh!!! Where are we from!!!" (it finally dawns on us that "yuns" means "you" (plural) similar to "y'all".) We tell them where we're from.

Then comes the capper: "Yuns talk funny."
posted by smcameron at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


A lot of the negative opinion dialect arises from class. The Philadelphia accent was like fingernails on the board to those who spoke Main Line Lockjaw, and my mother was horrified when some years of living in Center City made me sound more like my father's side of the family.

As an English teacher, the thing I hate most is when people "hypercorrect" in order to make their accent sound more highfalutin'. Or worse, adopt a stuffy thesaurism. No, the thing I hate most is when people try to fix their grammar by using "myself" when they mean "I."
posted by Peach at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, raised by a father who was a Dutch immigrant and a mother from East Tennessee. Somehow my older sister has ended up with a textbook Eastern Ontario accent. I, on the other hand, for reasons I'm not really sure about, decided I really didn't like the Eastern Ontario accent and did my best to get rid of it. I had ambitions to be an actor and I wanted something kind of in between everything, sort of like a newscaster accent I guess. Anyway, it was a proud moment for me when I was taking a speech class in college and the prof went around the room accurately placing every student's accent, but I stumped him. Now, many years later I'm back in Ottawa, and everybody thinks I sound like I'm from the US.

I also find the hypercorrect accent some people adopt incredibly annoying. My sister's mother-in-law does it. On the very rare occasions where family obligations require me to be in the same room with her it makes me want climb the walls... all these weirdly diphthonged long o sounds and overpronounced fricatives and for fuck's sake, she's from fucking IDAHO!!!
posted by wabbittwax at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2014


My stomach hit my shoes.

Surely he meant his stomach fell TOE-WARDS....
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was about twelve years old when I first made it a point to not sound southern. I dropped the "y'all" and watched my consonants. I overcorrected on the long "I"-sound so it wouldn't come out like "ah." I was very careful to pronounce the "ing." By the time I was in high school, I'd landed on something slightly Mid-Atlantic, quite definitively north of the Mason-Dixon line and veering slightly westward into newscaster territory. And I remember being a little flattered whenever someone assumed I was from Somewhere Else Other Than North Carolina. "I would have never known you were from the South. You don't have much of an accent at all."

Of course, I did have an accent. I had the fake one I gave myself. Also, I was pretty great at subtly mimicking other people's accents. Nothing all that noticeable. Just slight inflections, etc. I hardly even realized I was doing it until I started hosting a lot of parties and realized I was saying the same words in several different ways depending on who I was talking to.

Long story, short version: I don't have the accent I had as a kid. I can fake my way through a bunch of different dialects (with variable success), but I can't summon a credible version of the one I would have had (had I not been so ashamed of maybe sounding like a yokel or a redneck). Recently, I watched a videotape of myself at ten and was shocked that I sounded like a totally different person (and not just because of age). And my accent was kind of interesting, maybe even charming. Sometimes I'm a little bummed that I lost it.
posted by thivaia at 8:07 PM on March 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Rambling further on... In college I was in the theatre company doing a play and at some point said the word "iron." I was mocked mercilessly by my classmates because I said it more or less like "I run." Their contention was that it must always be pronounced "I earn". And no one in their right mind would ever pronounce it the way I did, and I felt very much like the author of this piece. Man, that pissed me off. People from Western Michigan talking through their noses telling me I talk funny.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:07 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Datapoint: In several families I know in Boston there are siblings where the sisters talk with slight archaic Brahminish accents while the brothers talk like "Wat thFAHK dood the SAAAX laaahhast, it's widiculous!"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


This evening, before I read this thread, I looked up our weather-caster's birthplace because of the way she pronounces "snow" (it sounds like "snoo" to me) and it had been bugging me. It's funny how other people's accents stand out. I myself, of course, do not have an accent.
posted by Peach at 8:18 PM on March 8, 2014


At least some of it, I think, is by people who've realised that the accent that they grew up with is a class or racial marker, and that it does them no favors when looking for employment, etc, outside of the area in which they grew up.

I agree, I think it's largely about practicality. The writer's worry spiral about her daughter dooming herself for life through thoughtless use of the non-standard construction "I'm done [task]": pretty typical, I think. I know that my mom went through a similar crisis when I came home saying "dang" -- she was lethal about driving that one out of me.

My family is a kind of mishmash of accents, but we spoke English at home because it's the only language all of us speak (at least, the only language that all (four) of us in the US speak). So, as a little kid, I had some funky from-nowhere-recognizable accent, and when I started school they kept trying to funnel me into ESL. "What language do you speak?" "English." "No, but what OTHER language do you speak?" "Just English." "No, but what do you speak at HOME?" "English."

Anyway, like any good American child, I mostly learned standard English from watching TV. Now that everything's filmed in Vancouver, though, there are so many latchkey children fixing to grow up sounding like BC natives. *Single tear* for the lost US dialects.

By the way, remember Nelly's song Hot in Herre? I read in an interview some time back that he made a point to pronounce "here" like that out of St. Louis dialect pride.
posted by rue72 at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know the line "You like va-nil-la, and I like va-nel-la" from "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"? I have a tendency to ell when I should ill with words where it's not really defensible, and I wish I knew the name of a dialect I could blame it on.

I think the deal with "I-run" is that it sounds like hypercorrection, like when someone painstakingly pronounces Wed-nes-day because they think Wenz-day is akin to lie-berry. Which, if everyone around you is saying Wenz-day, might make them assume you think you know better than them*. And if they speak in a way that's considered nonstandard and are aware of it, they might be especially prone to noticing hypercorrection even when it's not really happening. Ooooorrr they might just be jerks who think you talk funny.

*I know, I know, "than they."
posted by knuckle tattoos at 8:56 PM on March 8, 2014


I think the deal with "I-run" is that it sounds like hypercorrection

Unless they're referring to I. Ron Butterfly, the composer of that lovely hymn "In the Garden of Eden".
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:26 PM on March 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


1) I grew up in a part of Rhode Island that doesn't have a particularly strong accent... we actually pronounce our "R"'s on this side of the state, and vowels tend to be shorter and less elaborate than other parts of the Northeast.

2) I mistook that early on in my life as to meaning I didn't have an accent. This went away after the first girl I kissed in college asked why I talked like a carnival barker all the time. I worked hard to get rid of it.

3) Once I hit mid-thirties, and really appreciated where I came from and the people I grew up with, and that my resume speaks clear and strong and unaccented "mid-career badass", I found myself dropping R's deliberately. Raoundin' auowt dem vowels. Eliding "th" and "ng", and adding in an extra "t" or three for hard consonants, altering grammar so it's more romance-language friendly... naut fa nutttin', buttt...

4) I don't care as much anymore, now that I'm living back in my hometown, and other Rhode Islanders peg me as East Bay, and uninterested out-of-townies assume I don't have much of an accent, except that weird, slight, carnival barker thing, or an affected dropped r.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:32 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, the nerd accent. I got it. It's very strong, but I only hear it if I'm listening to my voice played back. Also, I have far too high-pitched a voice for my body type. I should have a bass-profundo bassoon voice, instead I have this french horn thing. It's overlaid all of the regional stuff, and is very weird to hear it when I'm drawppin' dem "r"'s and when I'm doing Anchor Man Voice, or think I am.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:42 PM on March 8, 2014


I find it interesting how there can be an expectation to assimilate when it comes to dialect that would be pretty unthinkable if applied to other cultural or behavioural things. Like, joining the right church would probably help a person's career if her bosses were prejudicial jerks, but no one would advise an atheist or a Muslim to do that to maximize professional chances, right? The onus is (rightly) on the bosses to get with the program. I don't see how dialect is much different, yet clearly, for a lot of people, it is.

Personally, I feel cheated out of a portion of my dialect. From a young age I could easily perceive it was low-prestige. As a book-smart and ambitious child and teenager, I thought that only stupid alcoholic welfare bums spoke 'that way.' By the time I was old enough to realize this was basically internalized classism/racism, I was also old enough to feel weirdly self-conscious about adopting any dialectical features on purpose - it felt inauthentic (because it was!) plus I was worried I'd get things wrong, like anyone 'faking' an accent is liable to do.
posted by erlking at 9:53 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?
posted by mitten of doom at 10:09 PM on March 8, 2014


Much like the post the other day about the Philly accent/dialect disappearing, television access and the large numbers of retirees, particularly from California and Washington, have started destroying one of my most treasured guides to regional placement: the dialects/accents of Wyoming and Montana.

I'm from Wyoming -5th generation, even - and I used to be able to give a rough placement of where people were from in Wyoming and most parts of Montana by their accents & a light regional dialect. People like to laugh at the idea that Wyoming & Montana, with their sparse populations, could develop distinct regional variations, but most dialect maps show that no other western state have as many regional boundaries for accents. (On that last map, I would argue that the eastern edge of the pen=pin line is slightly more west as people I knew from Gillette would pronounce pen differently.)

Even my family, who had spread out a little bit in northern Wyoming, has slight variations in accent/dialect: for example, my cousins in Buffalo, only 30 miles south, would pronounce "tourist" "turist" while I throw an extra syllable in there; to them a couch is a davenport, and their dinner is my supper. A person from Casper was as obvious to me as a British accent is to Americans and vise versa - they have a particular, very slow, r-filled and twangy way of speaking that is unique to that part of the state, as well as a particular sentence construction that seems to go the long way 'round. (Dick Cheney, showing his midwestern roots, does not have that accent.)

One of the first things that I learned when I moved away to an out-of-state college was to hide my accent, which seemed to instantly gave a certain impression of, I thought, lower class/lower income, rural, etc. I'm ashamed of how ashamed I felt the first time I pronounced English "Ai-in-glish" in front of those "new," college educated, foreign accents....and was teased unmercifully for it; I'm also ashamed of the first time I consciously made the adjustment and pronounced it "Eng-lish," because that felt like a direct betrayal of my roots and identity. Other adjustments were not so conscious, but occurred as part of education, living in other parts of the world, and as what could have been a necessary adaptation to losing what still seems like a certain stigma.

(Reading aloud the paragraph from the George Mason accent archive will produce a regional accent that I haven't heard from my lips in years, almost appalling in its thickness, and instantly recognizable as the dialect of my birthplace. Sometimes, when I'm homesick, I read it aloud just to hear those sounds again.)

I still dread reading aloud if I don't have time to practice, because then my accent becomes very clear, and I still get teased for it; and while I have adjusted my pronunciation of most words, until the day I die pen=pin, shale=shell, a tour is a "tur" and train will always be be "tray-en." The side ditch by the side of the road will always be the "bear-oh pit" and a delineator post is a "dee-lay-nea-a-toahr" post. (The idea that those are common knowledge terms in my neck of the woods, and yet not elsewhere is surely a part of dialect, too.) When I see someone, I will exclaim, "There he (she) is!" because that's what everyone I grew up with said, and it will always be a pick-up truck. But I've mostly lost my accent/dialect to the point where my parents sometimes startle me. (That's a weird sentence construction or phrase, I'll think.)

And the accent has been lost in most people from Wyoming younger than myself. Only now in older, long-time residents can I detect those regional variations, and I find myself mourning that loss: for what was surely a fleeting linguistic moment of time that probably peaked in my childhood yet left a mark on those it touched, and for the erosion of my own dialect, which is part of the payment I made when I transitioned, like so many do, from rural, lower income areas to first-generation college students and everything that means. Losing parts of an accent is just one more thing you leave behind, but few things so strongly represent the people seemingly left behind as well.

Then I ponder the current high schooler who will take the path I took, and I think that they won't have those moments where they feel like hiding their mouths behind their hands....and I really have no idea how to feel.
posted by barchan at 10:32 PM on March 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?

Maybe it's because I'm from Baltimore but nothing could sound more normal to me. What else do people say? "I'm finished my homework??" Well la-de-da your majesty!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:34 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Mother, I've finished all of my schoolwork! Might I please have half a gold crown to join my chums at the Odeon?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:36 PM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?

Most of the US is "I've done my homework" or "I'm done with my homework". Interestingly, from what I can tell, the "I'm done my homework" part of the country has almost no overlap with the "the dog needs washed" part of the country. I would've assumed there'd be some correlation on those, but apparently not.
posted by MeghanC at 10:38 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I had ambitions to be an actor and I wanted something kind of in between everything, sort of like a newscaster accent I guess.

Funny, I once heard that SW Ontario used to export newscasters to The States.

It drives me batty when people say "I don't have an accent" because of course everyone has an accent;


Does this apply to SW Ontario? It seems pretty flat sounding. In Anthony Burgess' book about English Linguistics and Phonetics around the world, A Mouthful of Air, he actually doesn't really have anything to say about Canadian English, except that he mentions that he liked the sound of Robertson Davies' voice.
posted by ovvl at 10:54 PM on March 8, 2014


Most of the US is "I've done my homework" or "I'm done with my homework".

Or, if the kid is *so* over that HW: "I been done my homework!"

But yeah, I agree with MeghanC. "I'm done my homework" sounds a little odd to me.
posted by rue72 at 11:00 PM on March 8, 2014


Yeah, for me "I'm done my homework" is completely natural spoken English but "the car needs washed" is utterly foreign and breaks my internal parser.
posted by mitten of doom at 11:20 PM on March 8, 2014


Does this apply to SW Ontario? It seems pretty flat sounding. In Anthony Burgess' book about English Linguistics and Phonetics around the world, A Mouthful of Air, he actually doesn't really have anything to say about Canadian English, except that he mentions that he liked the sound of Robertson Davies' voice.

My recollection of Robertson Davies' voice is that he had a kind of old-fashioned lilting mid-atlantic sounding accent, not really representative of what most Canadians sound like today at all. It's a pleasant accent to listen to though.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:24 PM on March 8, 2014


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?

Pacific Northwest US here. I've never heard "I'm done my homework" instead of something like "I'm done with my homework" or "I did my homework." For some reason, "I'm done [noun]" sounds completely unnatural, unless it's "I'm done [gerund]," like "I'm done washing the car." Whether said car needed washed, needed washing, or needed to be washed, I'm not really sure. They all sound sort of OK.

Languagehat has, of course, already wondered about "I'm done work." One of the comments raises the question, if it's OK to say "I'm done work" to mean "I'm done working," would it sound OK to say "I'm finished work" to mean "I'm finished working"? Some commenters there seemed to think so. Are there any similar phrases you can shorten like that?

A great somewhat similar turn of phrase I remember from a local Chinese restaurant is "You ready box?" to ask whether you're ready for a box as well as the implied question of whether you want a box. Sort of a tangent, I know, but look: it encapsulates the entire meaning of "Are you done with your meal, and if so, do you want a box for your leftovers?" in three words.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 1:40 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I say both "I'm done work" and "I'm finished work" on a regular basis but the former doesn't mean "I'm finished working" generically to me-- it means I'm off my job. If I had to rake my lawn, and had done so, I wouldn't say "I'm done work" but I might say "I'm done that" if asked.
posted by mitten of doom at 3:23 AM on March 9, 2014


I shouldn't have said 'the former'. In both cases 'work' is understood to mean a job and they are basically the same. It's late.
posted by mitten of doom at 3:44 AM on March 9, 2014


I have a fairly standard anglo-Montreal accent, which has a few quirks but is essentially considered generic everywhere.

I had a roommate from Texas, who could code-switch the accent on or off, except with a few words, which invariably came out with a Texas accent. (Numbers are the ones I remember best.)

"I'm done my homework" sounds fine to me. I agree it has a slightly different meaning than "I'm done work", because work is something you go to for a set amount of time every day while homework is generally a series of individual tasks.
posted by jeather at 6:12 AM on March 9, 2014


Does this apply to SW Ontario?

If you consider newscaster English to be the baseline, the Southern Ontario English is hardly accented at all. But part of the point of the article is that there is no reason to consider newscaster English the baseline. If you consider South London English to be the standard, then Southern Ontario English is mangled as fuck.
posted by 256 at 6:24 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I did my homework" sounds the most natural to me. Or even more common: "I ain't doing my homework".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:25 AM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


People wonder how to pronounce "MeFi" but how many say "AksMe?"
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:30 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've talked before about the speech classes in the acting conservatory I went to in college, where they were teaching us all the "Standard American accent". I had a natural advantage, the teacher said, because I was from Connecticut, where she said the Standard American Accent came from; so everyone else was struggling to work on shedding their Boston and Virginia and Texas accents, but I was just working on diction and volume and breezing through it.

Everyone else in class was jealous of me, but I was equally jealous of them - I took the professor's claim as further evidence that Connecticut was a place devoid of any real identity. Sure, everyone else thinks they "talk normal" because everyone around them grew up speaking the same way, but my "talking normal" was officially sanctioned, and for me "normal" was "boring" and "bland" and I wanted no part of it.

But then I had a curve ball thrown at me when we tried working on other accents in class, and we were asked to try doing a Southern accent. I thought I would just style myself after my aunt Mary, who grew up in Texas - but she'd lived in Cape Cod for 20 years by the time I was born, and her accent is a synthesis of both. Every time I tried doing "Southern" I ended up doing "Aunt Mary", and got some really weird looks from everyone in the class.

On word/slang/phrase construction: I saw this clip from the CBC's George Strombopolous talk show about Newfoundland slang, and how "incomprehensible" it is. And I was baffled, because I totally understood it and didn't understand how you couldn't understand it - "what? 'What's after happening' makes perfect sense, why doesn't he get that?"

And then it hit me that maybe it made sense to me because I've heard that exact sentence construction for years from my Irish friend. And Newfoundland is heavily Irish in cultural heritage, so....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish Ontario had a more distinctive accent, I envy Newfoundland English very much. There is apparently a dialect spoken in the upper part of the Ottawa Valley that is described almost as being a brogue. It is well documented in research, but I have never actually been able to find a recording of it to the point that it almost seems apocryphal to me.
posted by jamincan at 6:34 AM on March 9, 2014


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?

Except for "I'm done tuckered out," that sounds very wrong to me; I've never lived in a place where that was a standard construction.

I'm pretty sure I have a fairly standard pacific northwest accent, overlaid with vocabulary and phrasing from other places I've lived. (That NYTimes accent map that was linked here the other week supported that, at least.) I can't hear it myself but people will point it out when I say something odd.

In the abstract I'm all in favor of the preservation of every regional accent (with the possible exception of a few that grate on my ears), but given the negative stereotypes about many of them I can absolutely understand why people often try to minimize or even lose them in favor of a more neutral newscaster accent.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2014


I have a pretty thick Great Lakes accent - we flatten our a's - and when I read aloud it is really noticeable. I also routinely get made fun of for the accent in social settings - I'm in the South now. People think it's really adorable. It's just the way I tawk. Cean't help it.
posted by sockermom at 7:57 AM on March 9, 2014


Everyone here who is saying "I don't have an accent" needs to read the article again. You do have an accent, you just have the socially accepted one for where you live.

In my dialect, we would say "I'm done with my homework" or "I did my homework". "I'm done my homework" sounds completely incorrect. Yes, you do talk funny.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:34 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I moved from Tennessee to Montana when I was 9. Nothing makes you adapt your accent faster than being teased mercilessly by the kids at school.

I recall my southern mom griping at me for saying "I" like a northerner. To her, it was betraying my southern-ness. I was just trying to avoid abuse. Also, people often associate a southern drawl with being a dumb redneck.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:50 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Regional differences in dialect are based on old technology. We will all be flattened out by Microsoft and others.
posted by temporicide at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2014


Does TV play into this at all? I think I speak "normal" English because I sound like 90% (made up stat) of the people on TV, and in the movies. It's a general west coast Seattle, San Francisco sound. Or, as I think of it, the only true and correct English.
posted by cccorlew at 9:00 AM on March 9, 2014


I'm from New Jersey
No I don't talk that way
I watched too much TV
When I was young
posted by octothorpe at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Accent" is a political/class tool.
posted by temporicide at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2014


> Everyone here who is saying "I don't have an accent" needs to read the article again. You do have an accent, you just have the socially accepted one for where you live.

I'm pretty sure everyone here who is saying "I don't have an accent" is joking.

> Surely he meant his stomach fell TOE-WARDS

Kory Stamper is a she.
posted by languagehat at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2014


Us chileans have what, to other Spanish speaking countries, is a super weird, non-standard accent, dropping tons of final consonants, and saying funny things like 'cachaí' instead of 'sabes' in a very strong singsong, making it so that when I'm out of Chile I can pick out a chilean by ear from just 2 or 3 words. In spite of this, most of my compatriots who've never been out of the country insist that we don't have any accent, that other people do.
At the same time, most chileans will say that we speak 'wrong' and that peruvians and bolivians, even though they 'have an accent', speak a more 'correct' or 'pure' Spanish, whatever that means.
posted by signal at 9:50 AM on March 9, 2014


signal, what do Chileans think about people with Spanish/Castilian accents? My mother spoke Castilian Spanish, having learned it in Madrid. Some people in Mexico have told me that accent sounds "snooty" to them.
posted by gudrun at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2014


I find it interesting how there can be an expectation to assimilate when it comes to dialect that would be pretty unthinkable if applied to other cultural or behavioural things. Like, joining the right church would probably help a person's career if her bosses were prejudicial jerks, but no one would advise an atheist or a Muslim to do that to maximize professional chances, right?

If I was somehow forced to live in say, the South or Utah, I'd definitely attend Protestant or Mormon services.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2014


signal, what do Chileans think about people with Spanish/Castilian accents?

I don't think it sounds snooty from our point of view, just sort of old world and very different from all (latin)american accents. We have a lot of Spanish immigrants (since their economy is tanked) and there's a lot of Spanish pop music and movies, so it's not so unusual to us. It sounds funny, sort of over pronounced, plus they have strong and distinct 'z' and 'c' sounds, which we collapse into a single 's' sound. And they say 'tío' a lot.
I lived in the US and Guatemala as a child, and when we moved back to Chile people asked if I was Spanish because I pronounced final 's' sounds and made a distinction between 'z' and 's'.
posted by signal at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2014


If I was somehow forced to live in say, the South or Utah, I'd definitely attend Protestant or Mormon services.

Really? Wow. You know that the kind of people who would pressure you into joining their church wouldn't be satisfied with just attending for two hours on Sunday, right?

/atheist from Mississippi
posted by zeptoweasel at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kory Stamper is a she.

Yeah, I didn't realize my mistake until after I'd missed the edit window. I was too busy making my dumbass joke to notice, I guess.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:33 AM on March 9, 2014


Does "I'm done my homework", or that construction generally, really sound strange to people not from the greater Philadlephia area?

Yes. To my ears, it's missing a "with". As in, "I'm done with my homework." It doesn't parse properly, because "I'm" means "I am" and the full phrase without the contraction is "I am done my homework."

I'm from New York. Have lived in TX and NJ. My accent is New Yawk. But most people don't seem to pick up on it until I say things like "Long Island."
posted by zarq at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2014


I met this guy from Boston who was in KC for a business trip. He was hanging out at a bar alone and asked to bum a cigarette. I told him he sounded like Family Guy or something and he laughed and said he could have taken a nap before I finished my sentence. I was super self conscious about my looooong drawwwwwl Kansas accent after that but we ended up having a good time together.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2014


Also, the nerd accent. I got it. It's very strong, but I only hear it if I'm listening to my voice played back.

What features make up a 'nerd accent'?
posted by Gordafarin at 1:44 PM on March 9, 2014


Really? Wow. You know that the kind of people who would pressure you into joining their church wouldn't be satisfied with just attending for two hours on Sunday, right?

And that's why I chose to live in places where churchgoing isn't required. But I mean, I'd love to be a nudist in the warm weather, but clotheswearing is required most everywheres, and I go along to get along.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:56 PM on March 9, 2014


I don't think it sounds snooty from our point of view, just sort of old world and very different from all (latin)american accents.

There's a population of Castillian speakers in New Mexico - from what I understand, it's a sub-dialect that's weird to both New World and Old World speakers of Spanish, as it's full of archaic phrases, pronunciations and native american loanwords, a situation similar to the Tangier Island dialect in the English speaking world.

What features make up a 'nerd accent'?

A sing-song cadence is the most notable to myself, with a tonal shift that's most pronounced on words before and after stops or pauses. I've heard it only in other awkward middle-class people - it's found across gender and ethnic lines, but it's easiest to hear in men with relatively neutral regional accents. It's kind of halfway between long-island lockjaw and a vocal frizzle. Once you hear it, it's hard to unhear. Especially when reviewing your voicemail greeting, and man, it's terrible. Another reason I tried to develop a stronger local accent at one point. Jeff Goldblum captures it to an extent with Dr. Malcom in Jurassic Park.

(I don't mean the stereotypical Hollywood nerd, which is usually a New York City outer boroughs accent of some stripe, and not actually related to nerds at all.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:16 PM on March 9, 2014


I warsh my hands of this thread.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:50 PM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


And that's why I chose to live in places where churchgoing isn't required.

You seem to have created some version of the South in your head that doesn't actually exist.

I'm in the Metro Atlanta area, and the Church Police haven't stopped by my house to enforce my attendance.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:12 AM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


But I mean, I'd love to be a nudist in the warm weather, but clotheswearing is required most everywheres, and I go along to get along.

That's not really the same thing at all. Non-standard and non-prestige dialects have cultures (sometimes huge cultures, millions of people perhaps) that use them, and the use of dialect is very much tied up in cultural identity. Because a dialect prestige's (or lack thereof) is essentially arbitrary, the pressure to linguistically assimilate is purely an exercise of power by the strong over the weak. The clothing comparison would not be nudism. It would be wearing a culturally-specific article of clothing, like a veil or a kippa, in a context where that's not valued.
posted by erlking at 6:32 AM on March 10, 2014


I was about twelve years old when I first made it a point to not sound southern.
posted by thivaia at 11:07 PM on March


I was in the opposite boat. I grew up about two blocks from my local college, and my local K-12 school was about four blocks from that same college. Students at BC majoring in education would student-teach at the my school, and since many of them wouldn't have the local Appalachian accent--maybe they were training them out of it at the college?--I believe they passed that on to the K-12 students. The end result was that many graduates of my school had that "anchorman" accent, including me. It's my default accent, and unless I drop a "y'all" or a particularly Southern phrase, you'd never be able tell where I'm from by the way I speak.


I fight to keep the unique AAVE-meets-Appalachian accent (or what local poet/educator Frank X Walker would call "Affrilachian"), and fortunately I'm in a sales jobs that allows me to do that. Like it or not, most folks in the US associate the accents of the American South with a certain charm, even when those accents are sprinkled with a liberal dose of AAVE vocabulary. I call on customers in the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain States, and Northern California. When I do, I mention that I'm based in Louisville and bring out the Affrilachian when I'm particularly excited about some new product or service my company's offering. Works every time. :)
posted by magstheaxe at 8:11 AM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


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