Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just Sayin'

I was out shopping last night and was waited on by the cutest little college-age girl -- who spoke just like Snow White --  in a very, very high, very feminine, sweet little voice.  She was adorable.  We talked about how it's a pain to take the hangars off of some of the clothes and how the young man who was supposed to be helping someone at the jewelry counter couldn't have moved much slower to get over there.  It wasn't until she handed me my bags, and I said good-bye and "have a good evening," that I realized I was talking in a high-pitched voice that matched hers.  Um, oops.  I hope she thought that's how I always talk.

My Mom does this when she's around her southern relatives -- and I may actually be guilty of it, too.  We don't even know we're doing it, but we pick up the accent -- and sometimes even the mannerisms -- of the person we're with.  That sweet drawl just sorta rubs off, ya know?  It's contagious!

I never thought I had an accent. My whole life I figured I spoke in "news broadcaster" standard midwestern -- like my Dad (who was meticulous about speech and pronunciation and eschewed my mother's occasional southern twang). But then I got to know the guy who used to spray our house for bugs. I needed an excuse to keep an eye on this bug-guy while he poked around all the corners of my house, so I engaged him in conversation while I trailed after him. One day, in the middle of some comment I was making, he stopped me mid-sentence, exclaiming, "Where the heck do you come from? You have the craziest accent!"

Well! I beg your pardon!? Me? I don't have an accent!  Hmph!

I mean, seriously.  At the time I didn't have Google to look this stuff up and prove him wrong.  But, now I do.  And, let me tell you, it's fascinating research! I've spent more time than I should this morning trying to classify everyone I know, myself included. Scrolling through the dialects at this site, I think I have pinpointed my patterns as mostly Tidewater Mid-Atlantic dialect, crossed with a smidge of Baltimorean, and a dash of Dixie.  But flattened out by Military Basic. This is because my Dad's family is from Maryland, my Mom's family is from the woods of North Carolina,  but I spent my formative years in the Tidewater region of Virginia.  And I was a Navy brat.
So I prounounce orange like ahr-ange, and Florida like Flahr-ida.  My long i's occasional soften out to ah's, but I don't throw r's around indiscriminately like some Tidewater Mid Atlanticans and I don't add extra syllables into words like there;  I never say they-ah, in other words. (No pun intended.)  And my o's don't sound like the back-rounded inflection, eou (pronounced as one syllable), of my Baltimore relatives, nor do I say "youse all" and flatten out my oi's to sound like aw's. If I spoke real Baltimorese I would say, "Youse all deount spawl yer dinner; I'm bawlin crabs fer crab cakes.  Hon."  But I do say fahr'ed for forehead and I pronounce Norfolk as Nah-fk and Baltimore as Bal-di-mr.  So you can tell I'm not a native, but I'm hip to the lingo of my ancestral climes.

Isn't it int'restin'?   And proves exactly what I'm saying.  I don't have an accent.  Everyone else does.

Just sayin'.


Delena said...

When I was six, we moved from California to Kansas. Everyone asked me if I was from the EAST coast, and I could never tell why. But I would (and still do) say words like, "call" and "water" with this weird Bostonian accent...almost like, "cuall". I don't know. When we lived in Michigan, I couldn't get over their "northern" accent and how they would call water fountains "drinking fountains", and they would either use "bag" or "sack" when referring to groceries, and it just blew me away. I've also always said "soda", and that's almost blasphemous in the state of Kansas where "pop" is the term used to describe it. I like your description of "orange" and "Florida." :-)

Delena said...

Sorry--I need to clarify: They would say "bag" or "sack" when referring to groceries--but I can't remember which one it was. Whatever it was, it sounded so weird at the time. :-)

Lisa said...

We experienced the "bag-sack" and "soda-pop" thing when we moved from the east coast to Colorado,
Delena. We grew up saying grocery "bag" and "soda" or just "Coke" (which was generic for all bubbly drinks to us). But the westerners seem to lean toward "pop" and "sack." Crazy, huh? I wonder why this difference evolved?

Sarah Oldham said...

I get the accent question all the bloody time as well. I wonder why? I also start to talk like the folks I'm around . . . it's funny. I call it subliminal flattery (I am not always aware I'm doing it, but it is always funny when I do!)

MightyMom said...

Lived all my life around Dallas and folks are ALWAYS asking me where I'm from!!!! ugh. Maybe it was all those trips to S Louisana??

haha, word verification is "deworde"