Celebrating Accents

I live in a very interesting area. Many people will tell you that Myrtle Beach is a melting pot. Because of the beautiful living conditions and the ocean in our backyards you have people from all over the country converging on this slice of Heaven in South Carolina. A very large number of people migrate here from the northeast. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are a few of the states that are represented very well in Myrtle Beach. With the many different backgrounds in the area you naturally have many different cultures, ideologies, and ways of life.

You also have many different types of accents. In my two months in Myrtle Beach I have enjoyed hearing the wide range of accents that you will hear just from talking to a random sample of ten people you pull off the street. Of course the accent that predominates is your classic Southern accent. But don’t think they are all equal. Depending on what part of the South someone is from will determine the Southern dialect with which they speak. Aside from the multiple Southern accents I am exposed on a daily basis to New York accents, Boston accents, and Midwest accents. You also occasionally run into the boring people like me who are accent neutral and don’t have a distinguishing twang or a special way of saying certain words.

I work each day with people who talk differently than me. I deal with grocery store clerks, maintenance people, and service workers who talk differently than me. I date a girl who talks differently than me. But by this time it has become second nature and accents don’t register with me nearly as much as they once did. Not that in the beginning it ever bothered me it was just different and took a little getting used to.

But back to the girl I mentioned who talks like a true local. My girlfriend Sidney has the sweetest Southern accent you will ever hear. However, she told me that some people wouldn’t always find it as sweet as me. Sidney explained that back when she was in college people from other regions (not mentioning which ones) would call her out on how she talked. These people would mockingly “coach” her to pronounce words like they did, thinking somehow that the way they decided to sound out words constituted the “right” way to talk and thus meant the way Sidney talked was sideways or something. Whenever she would pronounce a word that these people pronounced differently they would interject midsentence and echo the word she just said with their preferred pronunciation.

Nevermind that guests in a state should never try to critique the language of their hosts. Let me take it a big step further and say that no one should ever try to tell someone else that their geographical or personal preference way of speaking is wrong or sounds funny. What an ignorant, egotistical, and insensitive thing to do. I can handle it if you are prideful of where you came from and how you talk but what grounds do you have to believe that your way of speaking is superior to someone else’s? And if for some reason you actually think that, how can you think it is okay to actually vocalize that and tell someone that they are speaking wrongly?

When I was in high school I had a friend who would always call me out on how I pronounced the words such as bag, tag, nag, etc. He thought the only way to speak such words was to use the long “a” sound. He pretty much discredited the way I talked and it drove me nuts. I can only imagine how demeaning it must feel to have your whole accent and pretty much every word you say dismissed as incorrect.

Just like with other differences between humans, we need to celebrate the unique ways Americans speak rather than mock and discredit the ones that differ from us. We were all raised in different areas under different circumstances and the way we sound shouldn’t be held against us. I feel so fortunate that I now live in a place where I get to hear diversity come out of the mouths of the people I interact with on a daily basis. From a place where I used to live where everyone sounded the same I would never want to mute what I now have. Don’t Blink.