Monday, May 31, 2010

You're not from around here, are you?

I don't talk like you.  I guarantee it.  It's the first thing people notice about me.  In fact, if I meet someone new and they DON'T mention the way I talk, I want to hug them and bless them and shower them with gifts.  I'm shy, I don't like the attention my dialect/accent gets me.  Once people notice, they stand around together and listen to me talk and then have discussions about it.  It mortifies me.  It's like having people stand around and talk about how strange your outfit is.  Apparently, I don't sound like anyone else.  If there are others with similar accents, I'd like to meet them.  We could go start a colony somewhere new and the first law enacted would be a ban on asking people where they're from or what kind of accent they have. 

It would be better if I'd move to a different part of the country or another country entirely. Then when people ask where I'm from, I could respond honestly and we could move on. I respond honestly now. I tell the inquisitors that I'm from HERE. Same place you are. Then they set about picking apart why I don't talk like everyone else. "Did you grow up here?" Born and raised. "Did you move away at some point?" Only a few hours. I've lived in a few other the SAME state. "Do your parents have an accent too?" Nope, they talk like the rest of you "normal" people. New conversation topic, please?!

I talk like an American Midwesterner except for a tendency to sound incredibly English, mostly at the ends of sentences and phrases.  This excites people.  They start talking with British accents.  It makes me want to find something heavy to clobber them with.  The other oddity is my pronunciation of certain words with R's, basically, if I don't sound British, I sound like a native New Yorker.  This one gets me the most attention, and thus, I'm the most sensitive about it. I've had two cabbies in the last few months INSIST that I must be from the East Coast. One of them refused to believe that I wasn't. The other? Well, let's just say I was having the world's shittiest day and didn't care to explain, so I just played along. That went well until he began to ask me questions I didn't know the answers to.  Oopsies. 

To make matters worse, I've complicated it over the years.  There was the year I was 14 and got so sick of all the comments that I just completely adopted an Irish accent. I thought if people wanted an accent, I'd give them an accent.  This still cracks me up.  The best part?  My parents made no mention of it whatsoever.  To be completely honest, they may not have noticed at all.  They sort of live in their own world.  My vowels are generally a mess.  Spending too many summers up North has made many of my O's sound very Scandinavian.  Think Minnesota, but with that whole "Da Yoopers, eh?" thing.  Everything else is mildly English with a smattering of Midwestern diphthongs.  Night.Mare.  I have relatives in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New Orleans, so on occasion, I sound twangy or like I'm mumbling around a mouthful of chewing tobacco.  Awesome, I know, right? 

During the last Presidential elections, my then fiancee and I attended a dinner party with a number of well-known politicians.  I really don't know how we got on the guest list, we were by far the youngest people there and certainly the poorest, but my ex had connections. The day of the dinner, my ex was getting dressed while I did my make-up and moaned about how I hate these kinds of gatherings, because you have to make small talk with people you don't know, and I have to pretend that I'm not an introvert and that I actually like people, and then they talk about my accent and it's embarrassing, etc. and my ex looked at me quizzically for a moment and said, "Oh, that?  I don't even hear it anymore."  And that's why I loved her, y'all.  You know who else didn't mention my accent that night?  Barack Obama.  So politics aside, I love him too. 

So, how do you talk?  And do you wanna trade accents?

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