You talk funny

At FriendFeed, Derrick asked: Do you have an accent? The responses are interesting, in particular from those people I have spoken to or have heard recorded who said that they don’t have an accent when they really do. Funny thing about accents is that everyone has one, but no one thinks they do.

I’m from Kansas City, MO and we moved to Los Angeles when I was 8. I know I had a Midwestern one when I first moved to CA. I moved to a suburb where most of my peers were Latino or Asian. I was mocked mercilessly, not only on how I said words, but what words I used. The old soda  versus pop divide, for example.  I went on to get a degree in Broadcasting. Naturally that meant taking voice and diction classes and learning how to speak flat American English to remove all traces of regional dialect from my voice. This was to supposed to enable us to get jobs anywhere in the country. I must have done it wrong because since then, most people think I’m originally either from New York or Jamaica (this is before the dreadlocks, even).

My husband is half-Hungarian/half-Romanian. He came to this country (from Romania) when he was 10. When he got here, he didn’t speak a lick of English. To hear him today, you wouldn’t know he wasn’t born in the US, but then sometimes he says a word…weird. This is most likely an effect of him hearing his Hungarian mom or Romanian dad saying Spanish words with their accents. Or the words he only knows from reading, so he hasn’t ever heard them said out loud.  He can not, or will not, say words that start with ‘T’ or ‘Th’ correctly. That is, he’ll say ‘tongs’ as ‘thongs’ or pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘Thompson’.

Randomly people will ask me where he’s from because *they* hear an accent. It’s fun asking them where do they think he’s from. Around here, I’ve learned a lot of people assume he’s from South America. People do assume he speaks Spanish and he does try even though he puts his Hungarian accent on some words. In our old neighborhood many people assumed he was from the East coast, I heard a lot of Pennsylvania or Connecticut. This wasn’t based on reality, just what they assumed people from those states would sound like.

Needless to say, all these various ways of inflection have our kids sounding weird at times. My daughter has caught the “ruca-speak” from the kids in her school. She can’t just say, ‘no’. It’s ‘NOOOoooOOO’. It’s funny to think that at one point I sounded like that too.  Meanwhile, my son is sounding more like an Asian person learning English. I have NO idea how that happened, but I can’t wait to see what they sound like once they grow into their voices.

Tags: , , , ,

  • We perceive that we don't have accents, but we do. During his 1976 campaign for President, Jimmy Carter was appearing at a southern campaign stop, and told the crowd that it would be nice to have a President without an accent...
  • LOL Really? That's too funny.

    One thing I like best about living in SoCal are the unexpected accents; the Indian guy with a Texas drawl, the Koreans and Israelis who speak Spanish fluently with a Mexican accent, the black person with a Cuba makes you kind of stop making assumptions about people based on the color of their skin. If I have a question, depending on where I am in LA, I will ask white people if they speak English, because too often, they don't!
blog comments powered by Disqus