I am currently writing a collection of letters to my daughter that I can hopefully put in a book about secular parenting at some point. I want to share a letter I recently wrote. It doesn’t really have anything to do with a secular childhood, but it’s still kind of fun, nonetheless.
When I first went to college, I was occasionally called “fresh off the farm” due to my country accent. I was embarrassed. I actually worked pretty hard at trying to sound like I was from the city or suburbs. One word where my accent was particularly noticeable was “again”. I would pronounce it “ah-gee-an”. I didn’t even realize I was putting a whole extra syllable in it until it was pointed out to me. I practiced saying “again” over and over and my accent became less noticeable. I now think it’s pretty sad that I was self-conscious of how I spoke and I regret ever trying to change it.
Meanwhile, I had a professor from Mississippi who had lived here in Ohio for decades and still had a thick Southern accent. He didn’t care. It was a part of him and even kind of charming. I should have followed his example.
Today, I am proud of where I’m from and I know I can’t help how I speak. Now I consider it an endearing part of who I am — just like my professor from Mississippi.
I know as a teen and young adult you will probably want to get the hell out of Ohio — I know I did. And that’s okay. You are free to explore and I encourage you to go.
Our ancestors were some of the first settlers to the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio and our family has lived here for generations. This is my home and I hope you feel that way, too — whether you settle down here or not. I hope you will have many good memories to carry with you as you find your place in this world.
Wherever you end up, please always be proud of who you are and where you’re from. You will always be welcome here.
Who else here has a fun accent? Are you proud of where you’re from?
Wow, that’s fascinating that your ancestors have lived in the area for so long. Where are your husband’s people from? How about where you live now–do you fit in linguistically?
I’m second-generation American and also a miltiary brat who lived in various places overseas from the time I was a toddler, so I didn’t have to speak English until we came back to the USA when I was a teenager I read it and understood spoken English, but we didn’t always speak it at home and I went to public school in whatever country we were in, using whatever language that was native to the area.
I got here my senior year of high school and made a real effort to speak English the way the news anchors I saw on tv did, and most people say I don’t have an accent.
I will tell you that wherever you happen to be (not just Ohio), there are accents that are considered preferable and some that are not. Often it ties in with the status of the community–if Town X is richer than Town Y, often it’s the Town X accent that’s seen as better.
Wow! That’s really impressive that you would go to public school in different countries and speak the native language! It must be amazing all of the places and things you saw.
My family’s farm was established in 1852. None of us farm anymore and the homestead was sold several years back, but my aunts still own all of the farmland. I actually only live about 40 minutes from where my family originally settled.
My husband’s family has been here quite a while as well – I think it’s four generations. We are both from German American families, but his family first settled in Canada before immigrating to the US.
Even though my husband and I grew up in the same general area, we sound different. He was in the suburbs and I was far out in the country. We really don’t stick out in Toledo though. There are a lot of people who sound like both of us here.
Apropos of nothing, a relative born in the area our host ashes lives. In addition, they (supposedly) are also from German / Prussian families (who, supposedly, originally settled further South). I do not know how long that relative lived there, or if they were educated there, but they do not have any particularly noticeable accent.
I’m a little torn on this one. My dad is from the deep south, and my mom is from the midwest. They both grew up in households with very pronounced accents, and shed them out of shame. My dad in the military, and my mom in college in the “liberal haven” of South Bend, Indiana! I can’t say I really like the accents of either of their extended families, and I’m happy that I was raised with what is generally considered “newscaster-speak”. On the other hand, all of my beloved extended family members have pronounced accents, and I would never judge them negatively for that. And I’d be pissed if anyone else were to judge them for that.
While my parents were raised in different places, I was mostly raised in Wisconsin. I left because it is a regressive, racist, fundie wasteland. Many people were surprised when it voted for Trump. I was not. I don’t want my accent to link me to that place, and I’m happy it doesn’t link me to the south on my father’s side either. So I’m deeply conflicted, and it’s really hard to resolve the conflict while these regional accents are so closely tied to regressive political ideologies.
I grew up in rural Ohio, and for me the most “shameful” word when I went to college (OSU) was “wash.” As in “worsh-rag” instead of “wash-cloth.” I clearly remember actively suppressing that pronunciation. I also remember people commenting on my accent after coming back from long weekends home, where I fell right back into the old style.
I seem to be a sponge for accents though. In England during a day-long layover to elsewhere, I was on a bus and struck up a conversation with a local. Only near the end of the conversation did I happen to say something that revealed I wasn’t English (which surprised the woman I’d been talking with), and I hadn’t even been aware that I’d been doing it after only a few hours in London. I had the same “problem” in Australia when people would get exasperated with me for not knowing a local thing until they found out I wasn’t local. So rather than trying to blend in, I found myself deliberately working to maintain my normal accent. Oddly enough, I can’t do accents on purpose without practice (see first paragraph). It’s entirely unconscious when it happens.
On the other side of things, I remember when I was visiting Mississippi how startling (and charming) it was to hear little kids speaking with such a strong Southern accent, though for some reason hearing the same from adults didn’t faze me at all. I suspect it must be from rarely if ever hearing children speak with any genuine Southern accents in media, whereas you do hear both authentic and the Hollywood versions from adults.
My own accent is hard-to-place. To people in the Irish and British isles, it’s N.American, but not any States-accent, so they tend to guess “Canadian”. People in the States usually guess “British”. People in Canada are politely baffled; and I as I myself point, “Eh, no, it’s not Canadian, eh. Eh, for one thing, eh, I don’t use enough ‘ehs’, eh…”. People in non-English-speaking countries, such as France where I live, are also usually baffled — when they are not cringing or laughing at my attempts to speak their language, that is…
Another reason people are confused is (probably) because I’ll use phrases and idioms I’ve picked up from the various places I’ve lived, or what I’ve encountered and just liked. I’ve been known to use Irish and Californian slang / idioms alongside French words, and probably the Irish / British pronunciation of some words, in an English-language sentence. And when writing, my spelling is a ever-shifting mix of Irish / British and USAlien conventions, with the odd bit of Français thrown in (with English / German quirks, such as the capitalisation of Français).
I just find the whole thing amusing, and provided we can communicate, don’t care what they or I sound like. (Some writing quirks do get up my nose, however, as do a few verbal mannerisms, such as excessive use of “like”, like, do really, like, need to fecking, like, say, like, “like”, like so many fecking times, like?).
I am highly impressed by Andreas Avester’s command of English in addition to the German and any other languages he speaks. English is not a logical language and it sounds like he learned it in late teens or early adulthood, when it’s harder to learn a language well.
@Ridana, that’s hilarious that your ear just picked up the local (English and Australian) accents and you were able to unconsciously reproduce them so well!
@ashes: I absolutely loved travelling the world, but I’m not unusual in attending local schools. A lot of military kids did when I was growing up and maybe now, I don’t know. The funding for military dependent schools was so poor and sometimes non-existant, so if getting a good education was the goal, kids were better off in local schools. Communities around US military bases are accustomed to military kids in local schools.
TGAP Dad says
I was born and raised in Michigan, having lived at some point in nearly every corner of it. I’ve never lived anywhere else, not even through college. Regretfully, I’ve never been able to afford travel abroad. Still, I find linguistics a fascinating topic, and the more people I hear speaking it, the more different variations of I hear. My dad was born in the southwest corner (Benton Harbor/St. Joe), and got constant teasing from the rest of us for his pronunciations of chimney (“chimley”) tiger (“tagger”) milk (“melk”) and toilet (“tawlet”). Of course, being from Michigan means we all drink pop, since soda is for baking.
I’ve also noticed some generational shifting of the language, such as the short “o” (“dollar”) pronounced like “aw”, as in “daw-ler”, and words like “bus” sounding like “boss” (“baws”). I really get intrigued by the very distinct items that are limited to a specific region, such as Michigan’s “pop” becoming Boston’s “tonic”, and Alabama’s “the devil is beating his wife” referring to a sunny day with rain falling.
In case you’ve never seen it, The NY Times hosts a dialect quiz, first published several years ago, which you can find here: NYT Dialect Quiz
So, hell yeah, I’m proud of my dialect and my state. You won’t catch me drinking from a “bubbler”!