Say something!

Sometimes I love my accent like I love having a hole in my head. I've noticed that on trips yankeeward, at least one person will say the dreaded phrase:

"You have a southern accent! How cute!"

"Why…thank you." (Of course, in the way I speak, that comes out more like "Whaaaah, thaink yew." This is the point where I start to cringe.)

"Say something!"



Groan. Ok, time to don my best educated-Arkansas accent. "I hate being asked to do this?"

"How CUTE!"

…and you realize that you could have called their mother a three-eyed spawn of Satan and they wouldn't have heard a word you said. They just want to hear a 'Southern drawl.'

They never ask the good questions, such as, "Is there such a thing as a Southern accent?" If you've lived here for more than fifteen minutes, you know that the answer is actually "No." There are regional Southern accents just as there are regional Northern accents. Ask someone north of the Mason-Dixon if a Boston accent sounds like a Maine accent, they'll look at you like you're crazy.

(It's because you are, but that's another story.)

Southern accents are just as different. Listen closely, and you'll begin to pick up the midwestern twang that identifies Texas—and, to successively lesser degrees, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The stereotypical Southern accent that you're accustomed to hearing in movies is an overblown bastardization of the already-thick South Carolina and Georgia accents.

Think of the accent as a continuum: you have the South Carolina/Georgia drawl on one side of the South and the Texas twang on the other. The states in the middle are going to be somewhere in between, with an Alabama accent being close to a Georgia one but less pronounced. The further west you go, the less Georgia and more Texas you hear.

There are always exceptions, of course. Two come to mind.

Geographically, east Tennessee and southern Louisiana generally have to be thrown out of this equation. East Tennessee, buried in the crags of the Smokies, has such an unusual accent that it's attracted a lot of attention from linguists. It's its own little world.

Southern Louisiana—whether you want to call it Creole or Cajun, it's totally different, but we forgive them, because their food is fantastic.

The second exception: education. The general rule is that the more education someone receives, the less accented their speech becomes. I learned this firsthand when I went to college; I didn't want to be perceived as an idiotic redneck, so I made a conscious effort to sound educated—i.e., Midwestern.

Jeff did the same when he went to school, though it was less of a concerted effort on his part. When we auctioned the Sundance last week, Jeff spoke to one of the auctioneers beforehand, and the sudden strength of the accent that came out of his mouth nearly caused me to burst into laughter on the spot. I kid you not—that accent could peel paint!

Then I remembered what I sounded like after spending a week in Arkansas, and I couldn't laugh quite so much.

Even down here, there's the unspoken assumption that someone with a thick accent is neither too educated for their own good nor…how best to say it…'uppity'? While it's a good idea to sound as proper as possible at the bank or the store, an auctioneer is going to treat you a little more kindly if you sound 'local.'

People say that the South has its own rules, completely different from the rest of the world.

Sometimes I think they might just be right.


Y'know, they used to say that Great Britain and the US were two countries separated by a common language. It's actually more accurate to say that the United States is actually two countries with variants of something that sounds like English.

Or as one Swiss rock star noted on his first tour of the U.S.... "It's a strange country. They speak seven different languages, but they call them all English."

The Swiss have rock stars???

I've lived in Georgia for about eight or nine years now and I still can't tell one Southern accent from another. I mean, I can tell they're different, but I couldn't tell you what region the accent was from. Northern accents are much easier from me. New York, Boston, Maine, Maryland, Chicago, etc - they're all unique. But Mississippi from South Carolina from Texas? I couldn't tell you which was which. Strange.

Heh. Try moving around in the South, as Amy has, and it confuses your accent even further. It depends on what I'm saying as to how I'll say it. It's just like my varying Canadian affected [though not always consciously] accents--depends on which is the last hockey player I talked to.

Oh, duh, forgot to add this. When I went to Space Camp before 11th grade, there were two Southerners in my team: myself and my friend Vanessa, who oddly now goes to UAH and is originally from Muscle Shoals [hi, Heather]. By the end of the week, we'd made sure that all the Yankees and Californians had tried grits and said "y'all". My Mississippi accent contrasted very sharply with Vanessa's thick Muscle Shoals accent ... and it confused all them folks. Heh.

It's kinda funny you should post on this, becasue for the past couple of weeks I've been vaguely contemplating what all of my online buddies accents are like. I tend to--as I'm sure we all do--envision all of the people I correspond and chat with as being very much like myself. (skinny, youngish progressivly minded white guy with a slightly odd mimimul accent.) Since in a lot of cases this coinsides with the geek stereotype this works, in others it dosen't. For some reason I realized that a big chunk of the webloging comunity that I read (Domesticat, Noah, PhotoDude) all are from the south and thus likely have southern accents, but I haven't been able to really envision it yet. Give me time ;) I'm from the midwest, but my accent isn't really. My mother is from Pittsburgh PA, and its from her I get most of my speech patterns. Especially when I'm visiting those relatives, it gets thicker, but most of the time it's rather unnoticeable I think. My father is also midwestern, but my grandfather was from New York (grandmother from Oklahoma) and since my father picked that up, so did I. Its funny to hear you equate midwestern accents as being more intelectually intelligent sounding than the south, becasue most of the features that make a midwestern accent what it is are decisively southern in origin (at least to my ears). I'll admit that I don't have any experience looking at it from the other side of the equation.... Very Interesting... Cheers,

Hmm...just so happens I can mimic a Pittsburgh accent almost exactly. I try not to....

Oh, how could I pass this up? First thing that came to mind was my friend Chrissy. She grew up in Calumet, where everyone has a REAL thick yooper accent. Real thick. So it's funny because when she gets angry or tired it slips out and everyone gets really surprised. Here's the categories I put southerners into: Missouri, Ohio (don't care what you say, people from Ohio sound southern to me!), West Texas, and Everything Else. By Everything Else, I mean, "I can tell you sound different, I've just never lived in the south long enough to know where you're from." I find that my accent changes to reflect the people I'm around. Over a matter of days other people's accents, speech patterns and habitual vocabulary seep into my "normal voice". Oh, and if you know Amy well enough, you don't have to *ask* her to start talking. :)

Yeah, if you know me well, it's more about making me shut up... *ba-dum-ching!*

of COURSE I'm going to chime in. If this sounds disjointed, I apologize. Stream of consciousness. I've lived in various parts of Arkansas all my life and have quickly discovered that I have no discernable accent. Sometimes people even ask where I'm from because I don't sound like I'm from Arkansas, whereas on other occasions I can whip out the "ahs" instead of "I"s and the "nauwe"s instead of "no"s. basically, I think it all depends on who I'm around. but, amy, I will agree wholeheartedly that not all southern accents are the same. People in the more colonial states (Virginia) will have a belle-like accent. I'm thinking Dr. Crowder (Amy :D) or Blanche from The Golden Girls. Louisianans have a cajun/french/southern/creole thing going on. N'awlins. Gah-rohn-tee. South Carolinians will say "fiyall" instead of "fall." (Whereas redneckky arkansans will say "faowl.") maybe I should study phonetics, 'Enry.

Ellie! Actually, Dr. Crowder was someone I had in mind when I was writing this. He was one of the people I started thinking about when, after college, I began to realize that it was possible to sound both Southern and educated. Still working on it, but at least I know it's possible.

Listen to Shelby Foote talk, he sounds both southern and educated. Also, Virginians have very distinct accents, different depending on the region. The phrase to test where someone is from (for me - I studied some stage dialects in college) is: There's a mouse in the house and I can't get him out. If you are from Coastal, VA (and sometimes NC) called Tidewaaata you will say: There's a moose in the hoose and I cain't get him ooot. Western VA will say: Thaya's a mowse in the howse and I cain't git heem ayuwt. This is very hard to convey in text! Oh... and in Northern VA there are no dialects - them's all yankees.

I grew up in Texas and had a thick Texas accent, but didn't know it. When I went to college, I lived in places like Hawaii, Australia and Germany and had many international friends who loved to hear me talk. But I noticed that after a few years of hanging out with so many different accents and languages, my accent disappeared. I now have a Midwestern accent (which people say is the least accented of all American accents, whatever that means). I had stopped saying "Y'all" and drawling out my words. I still have an American accent to many of my friends, but new people I meet no longer can guess I'm from the South. One year, when I came home for Christmas, I heard both of my sisters talking in a THICK Arkansas accent, and I thought they were joking. So I started laughing, but they didn't know what was so funny. When I realized that they really did have that accent, I realized just how much my accent had changed. But... I have sinced lived in Arkansas for over a year now and have noticed that I am slowly gaining some of that accent back.

Accents are a curse. I spent a summer in Ocean City MD a few years back. Before I went thought to myself "hell, I'm in for a summer of it now, red hair, green eyes, Irish accent" and prepared myself for plenty of "an Irish accent! Soooo cuuuute!" comments. But no. I spent the whole summer fending off "your accent is soooo cuuute! What part of England are you from?" comments. Hell. I don't sound *remotely* English (nor would I want to) :)

It was a big joke when I was growing up (in Connecticut) that all the national newscasters came to CT to learn how to speak accent-less. When I moved to Ohio I was painfully aware of how Southern they sound and how dreadful it was compared to my beloved Boston/Maine/Down East drawl.Oddly enough, I've been told that I sound like I'm from New York (Lawn Guyland, to be specific) even though my entire father's side was from Maine. Just my 2 cents...

The only time that I *know* what accent will come out of my mouth is when I'm tired or toasted. When that happens, I sound like I live in East Central Mississippi. God knows I wish I could change that default setting. :)

I personally love my accent! It's my accent that make me different. I have a deeply feminine voice, with a touch of a raspy, Southern Alabama accent. Southern Alabama sounds much different from northern Alabama. There is less rasp to it. I'm sure your confused on the rasp. I have a developed accent. My mother is originally from Illinoise and picked up and accent all her own, my Dad was Born here. Those two accents mixed together with my husky voice has a certain rasp to it, making me sound a bit like Rogue from the X-men cartoon, only deeper. accents really depend on the house you grew up in. I have an accent unique to the south. I hear other accents, especially the twangy ones, and yes the accents I hear as I walk through the halls of my school have twang to them. They live in or near the woods. Those with a slow drawl also live near the woods and those with a faster drawl live in the city. So, there! I also hate hearing, "I love you accent, where are you from?" "Alabama." "Really? Do you all really sleep with your brothers? Are you married to your cousin?" This make me very angry and people can't understand why I blow up at them. Thank you and I'm done.

So, is there a possiblity to be accent-less? I've read somewhere that most national anchorman also come form Ohio, because they are accent-less. I too, are from Ohio. Am I accent-less?

Ohio isn't accent-less. I lived there, and I know. Kansas and Iowa ... yeah.