Way-ell (that’s well to you non-Southerners)… I didn’t really think I had an accent until I went overseas. And, in fact, I didn’t hear for the first time until I heard Kimi talk to her momma on the phone, just before Thanksgiving of my second year in the Dominican Republic. No one who knows us would argue that Kimi and I have particularly neutral accents- no, they’re definitely present in those elongated words and the abundance of y’alls that I sprinkle into every conversation. My Arabic students think it’s funny… meaning they make fun of me every time a ‘y’all’ pops out. But I never realized just HOW present those accents were until that fateful Thanksgiving-preparation phone call (insert dramatic music).
|This is me and Kimi. See- I told you I knew her!|
Kimi, who was hosting a traditional Southern Thanksgiving for all of our friends, called her mom to ask how to cook something and I’m sitting there, half-listening when I suddenly realize she has gone all Steel Magnolias meets Gone With the Wind on me! I swear, in the midst of confirming how long one should cook a turkey, she threw in at least two, “Well, I do declare’s,” and three, “Bless her heart’s,” and maybe, for good measure, just one, “As God as my witness, I will never be hungry again!”
But that might have just been Kimi being dramatic.
The point of my
rambling story is that I never really realized I had an accent until I went overseas and everyone didn’t have the same accent as me. And, truthfully, the thing kind of fades away the longer I’m away from home. But boy howdy, when I talk to mah fam-uh-lee back home, you can bet yawr sweet ass my ak-sent comes out clear and strong! After I hang up, it’s several hours at least before the Southern fades and I stop hearing myself sounding like I just stepped out of the trailer park (not that we live in the trailer park… nor is it wrong TO live in a trailer park… but I’m assuming that’s what a lot of people picture when they hear a Southern accent, so I just went with it).
Over the years, I’ve had a few ELL students tell me that they can’t understand me when I give instructions. The other night, at my creative writers group, I got told to slow down when sharing my landscape description because the room, made up of Brits, Indians, and Arabs, could not understand what I was saying. I was baffled. I’m Southern- we’re not known for doing anything particularly quickly, especially talking. And really, who were they to talk? I couldn’t really understand them either. It made for an interesting night, to say the least.
I love my accent. I love talking to my friends and family in Georgia and hearing the soft Southern cadence. The ups and downs, the long vowels and longer words remind me of home. I can travel back, ever so quickly, when I hear that first ‘hay-eeeeee!’ from a friend or relative. Suddenly, I’m at Aunt Beverly’s lake house in the summer, surrounded by my mom’s family, drinking sweet tea, sneaking deviled eggs, and hoping Aunt Cyndi brought her pineapple casserole. Life slows down with that accent. It becomes more simple. It becomes sweeter.
One of my best friends here in Bahrain is from Texas and I particularly love that when she drinks, her accent gets thicker. Consequently, when she drinks, MY accent gets thicker because I sort of naturally follow her speech patterns. When we get together to fuss about a hard day or an unruly student (or significant other *ahem*) both of our Southern accents are strong and clear. It feels homey. It feels safe.
This might be why I like country music.
If you’re wondering, the Ladybug sounds like a hot Southern mess most of the time. But, just to be hysterical and keep us on our toes, she says to-MAH-to, not to-MAY-to. I blame it on Charlie and Lola. And I love it. The Sprout is still just ‘diggling’ along but I’m certain both of their accents will be fairly neutral. I wish they could sound like proper little English girls like their big sis and say things like, “Pardon me?” and “might I have a spot of tea?” (I’m just kidding. Z has never said that… but I wish she would.)
And, if you’re curious, the RS had an accent when I met him. It’s practically gone. Most people, even fellow English-persons don’t know he’s from England until he tells them! What is the point of marrying an Englishman if he doesn’t sound like Colin Firth, I ask you? I mean, really now!