American Observation: The Life of American Accents

How can one language have dozens of variations? Consider this, the way you say your vowels can tell a stranger where you grew up. Great for stalkers and mind-blowing when you stop and think about it. So, the question remains, why do accents exist? Are they derivatives of regional slang or simply widespread speech impediments? I’m guessing a little of both. And which accent is the best one? Obviously, it’s mine (is what everyone says).

Coming from someone who claims to talk “normal,” accents across different regions of the country are fascinating. I’m sure you can pinpoint the exact moment an accent began and draw lines on a map to separate the population, but as someone from the Valley would say, “but, like, that is like….totally boring.” Instead, I want to focus on how they make us feel and continue to exist even with an ever-moving population.

The sound of accents alone can conjure emotions and surface stereotypes without much context. With her long vowel sounds, how tough can Marge from Fargo actually be? Yet that elementary school teacher from Long Island makes you think twice that his name is really “Tony the Sledgehammer.” So why does this happen? Movies? TV? Sure, but it is also the lifestyle of an area that gives an accent its immortality. I spent time in South Carolina and their Southern drawl practically drips from their mouths with a slow cadence and story-telling intonation. That is also how they live life. Everything is a little slower and a little richer. Go to the local BBQ joint if you don’t believe me. While I was in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most no-nonsense people around. This of course was furthered by their impassioned sound when confirming the most mundane of orders… “Whadda ya need, pastrami, rye?” “YO, JOHNNY, PASTRAMI, RYE!” (Well, that’s one way to let Johnny know).

Accents are an identity. They are part of those they embody, if they weren’t, they wouldn’t last. Even as people move around the country, their accent stays with them… like that mole on your left cheek. Sure, you can have it removed, but there will always be a shadow of its existence. I like that I can meet someone and within a few moments of conversation gather a little bit of intel on how they approach life. Their sound tells me more than words could in that short period of time. Now, I should put in a disclaimer that not all people live the stereotype of their accents… yeah, yeah, I know, but no one can convince me that they didn’t at one time. Therefore, it adds to their rich personal history and I can continue to embrace those stereotypes.

I grew up in Ohio, so I have the “general American accent.” When I was young, it was nice to hear the same accent when watching the news or listening to that British guy do an “American accent” on TV. But as I have grown and moved around the country, I have realized my accent doesn’t add much to my rich personal history. I might do well in grammar school, but sometimes I would rather have the story telling drawl of the South or the easy going sound of the West Coast instead. But I've also learned, no matter where you are from or what you sound like, embrace it and love it! It is a part of you whether you like it or not. And if you are still trying to decide which accent is best… it’s mine, I already told you that. #americanobservations #americanaccents #commoninterestclothing

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