Thursday, April 3, 2008

Say What?

You know when you're waiting in the school car rider line, and you are just staring blankly out the window with the heater blowing at full blast, reveling in the last few minutes of peace you'll have for about 14 hours? Today I was pondering the important questions of the universe, and I started wondering about accents. Like the accents from how we talk. Like Northern versus Southern accents.

I was born and raised in the south. And I spent most of the first half of my life trying not to sound like it. When I got married and my dear husband drug me to the "great white north" no matter how hard I tried, every single person in Cleveland, Ohio, would say, "Are you from the south?" (Which, upon confirmation, was followed by, "But, you are wearing shoes..." NO COMMENT.)

Then when we finally got back south of the Mason-Dixon border, everyone I spoke to would say, "Wow, you really picked up a northern accent up there." Despite the fact that in my early years the idea of sounding "northern" was exactly what I was striving for, I still kind of ruffled when friends and family from home thought I didn't sound like "me" anymore.

Today, I've relaxed my standards quite a bit. But I still cencor my children when they try to say "Meeeeendeeeee" instead of "Mindy" (as my father did to me). But "ya'll" is officially part of my vocabulary, and it is interchanged regularly with "you guys" (heard through the nose).

Now that I'm older and have more of an expanded world-view, I wonder if other languages experience the same kinds of distinctions in accent. I know in "My Fair Lady", the professor spent the entire play trying to get Eliza to sound like a "lady". But I can't really imagine the French being able to be internally snobby; they put so much effort into being rude to everyone else...

Does Russia have accent barriers? Do they consider some accents to be smart, and others to be backwards & uncultured? What about Iraq? Do they have slang words indicative to a particular region that sound stupid anywhere else? Are there assumptions made about the people who live in Northern Australia versus Southern Australia?

You know, I guess it's human nature to try and make ourselves feel better by pointing out others' differences in a derogatory way. But sometimes, we really show our own ignorance by buying into stereo types and assumptions. So I promise not to believe Northerners all drink too much beer and are rude, if you promise not to think Southerners stay barefoot and pregnant. But I can't promise "ya'll" I'll wear shoes this summer...

No comments: