Your Accent: What does it say about you?

Last Updated on June 27, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster

Do you have an accent?  Or do other people THINK you do?  What does your accent really say about you? I was born and raised in a nice middle class neighborhood in Connecticut but have lived for the last 20 years south of the Mason Dixon line. No matter what my friends say, I do not have an accent. 

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People here in the south tell me that I pronounce some words oddly. Heaven forbid I ask for shots on my ice cream!  Am I the only one who calls those colorful little bits you sprinkle on ice cream shots?  After 6 years of college in New Hampshire I still can’t call them Jimmies. And after 20 years in the south, I still refuse to tell ANYONE that I am fixin’ to do something. And, I admit, I am happy that my kids show no hint of a southern accent despite being born and raised down here.

Your Accent: What does it say about you?

Accents and dialects are learned very early on in life. They can have a profound effect on how a potential employer perceives a job applicant.  According to this study by the American Counseling Association, people with heavy accents or strong regional dialect are considered ‘less employable’ than those who have a more moderate way of speaking.  Why is this? 

Research into this question indicates that people with a strong accent are considered less intelligent those those without.  Obviously just a huge generalization that our brains make but this unconscious association can ruin an applicant’s hope at a job due to factors that are really beyond their control.

people communicating in front of a computer

 

What Memories Are Inspired By Local Accents?

When I was growing up, we went to our family reunion every year in the middle of East Nowhere New Hampshire.  I  loved listening to my extended family talk.  There was not an *R* pronounced the entire weekend!  You paaaaahhhhked the caaaaahh  and  played caaaahhhhds with your cousins.  Great stuff!  Until I caught myself dropping a few Rs myself! 

Accents are actually a tad bit contagious! Experts in speech analysis call this”linguistic accommodation”.   A subconscious need to speak like everyone else around you.  So, why don’t my kids speak like a southerner?  Because there aren’t too many strongly accented people in this area any more!  T

he southern accent isn’t really disappearing…it’s just moving much deeper into the swamp.  Seeing as I live in the burbs of Atlanta, most of the people around here have lost their southern way of speaking or never grew up around here to begin with.  But, I do say MOST…because I have a few friends who were born and raised in this area and I love every ‘Bless his heart’ and ‘ya’ll’ that comes out of their mouths!

wind rose

How to Speak Like a Southerner

Planning a trip into the backwoods of Alabama and want to be able to speak southern?  Check out the book How to Speak Southern by Steve Mitchell.  Maybe you are already an expert?  Ever hear anyone tell you they have a hankerin’ for some goobers?  Or maybe they’re fixin’ ta go giggin’ frogs?  I admit I have acquired a taste for grits and hushpuppies but these southerners can keep their okra and boiled peanuts!  I’ll take a pot roast and baked beans instead!  Here are a few more bits of southern slang that I actually hear on occasion:

  • Cattywampus  Function: Adjective:  Askew.  Example: The storm knocked the boat cattywampus and it started to take on water.
  • Nearabout  Function: Adverb:  Almost. Example: “I nearabout ran over that squirrel in the road.”
  • Scarce As Hen’s Teeth  Function: Colloquialism, Rare or scarce.
  • Sho ‘Nuff  Function: Contraction:  Sure enough.
  • True dat!  (My all time favorite one!): My boss’s favorite way of saying she agrees with something I have said.

My dad (who grew up in rural Vermont) used to say he was ‘workin’ harder than a cat trying to cover up shit on a tin roof’…I wonder what my boss at work would say if I told them that the next time I am asked to take on another project? So, do YOU have an accent?  Do you find certain expressions coming out of your mouth that make people tilt their head with a confused look on their face? 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Like your posts. Stopping by from Pitch it to me Minta
  2. I've always found this stuff to be interesting. I grew up in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR and I lived in Phoenix, AZ for about 10 years and there's just no difference in accents in any of those places. The standard accent usually on TV and in the movies is just like mine too. Seems like people in the entire western half of the USA pretty much sound the same. I've heard it called the 'General American' accent. Pretty boring I guess. :D
  3. That's weird because we grew up in the same house and those colorful little things you put on ice cream are called sprinkles :) Now that I'm in Vermont, that soft serve ice cream is called a creamy which always makes me giggle. I call it soft serve ice cream.
  4. I have an accent... especially when I'm talking to people here in the South - I have a Canadian accent... I'm a firm believer that everyone has an accent... no matter what... some are just more general than others..
  5. I have a southern accent, I know. I made a you tube video for Equal and all my bloggy buddies are still teasing me about my accent.
  6. This was cute!
  7. I immediately thought of the change I had to make when moving from the south to the midwest. Something as simple as soda and cola make a difference. Loved this post.
  8. I love hearing different dialects and mannerisms of speech. It does make a difference where you are from in how you pronounce things.
  9. I don't have an accent, everyone else does, LOL!
  10. I'm in Tennessee and have a Southern accent, or if you want to be hyper-accurate I speak Southern Mountain English more or less--and yes, there is a science to this stuff! It's sad to me that people try to ride themselves of their accents to get ahead in life. Accents are lovely and tie us to the place we are from. I would never want to lose mine--in fact, it's stronger now than it was before I went away to college and became more aware of it! By the way, "y'all" is NEVER singular. Occasionally you may hear it directed toward one person when that person is representing a group, as in "Do y'all have any fresh seafood?" to a grocery employee or "Are y'all going on vacation this year?" to one member of a family. "All y'all" is aimed at a group of people as in "Are all y'all going on vacation, or are some of you staying behind?" Some people say "y'all's" for possessively but here we say "your-all's."
    • I grew up an hour outside of NYC so the New York and Boston accents were very prevalent. Now I am living in the south and I can tell just by listening to someone if they are from up there. It's nice. Kindof a way to connect to people that have a similar history.

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