The way I talk

How Southern are you? This 20-question quiz analyzes your word choices (for example, is it a bag, a sack, or a poke?) and determines how strongly your vocabulary is influenced by the culture of the southeastern U.S. My result was “50% (Yankee). Barely in the Yankee category.” That came as no surprise to me, because I’ve been baffling people for a long time with my un-Southern speech patterns and accent. Despite having lived my entire life in the South (Louisiana and the Carolinas, with a brief stopover in Texas when I was a toddler), I don’t sound like a Southerner.
I used to think that this was due to the influence of television, but that can’t be the whole answer. The kids I grew up with in South Carolina watched as much TV as I did, but most of them sound more Southern than I do. I think that parental influence has to be a factor as well. My father was born and raised in Texas, which has its own way of talking that doesn’t much resemble that of the Deep South. And while my mother was raised in New Orleans, she was born in Kansas City.
I sometimes challenge people who don’t know my background to guess what part of the country I come from, based on the way I talk. Almost no one gets it right. The most popular guess is that I’m from somewhere in the Midwest (my mother’s influence at work, no doubt). Folks are astonished when I tell them I’ve never even been there.
Recently, several Raleigh Little Theatre volunteers were chatting about our backgrounds, and one of them mentioned that she was from Missouri. This seemed like an interesting opportunity — would a person who grew up in the same area as my mother think that I came from there? I asked her if she could place me based on my accent, and she gave me an answer I’d never gotten before: New England! I told her I’ve never been there either, except for the 1989 Worldcon in Boston.
I can only conclude that the influences of my parents and television have left me with a bland, generic American accent that people find impossible to pin down. They know that I didn’t grow up where they did, but that’s about all they can be sure of.
UPDATE: According to this quiz, I’m part Australian! At least, I think that’s what my score means — I got 14 right answers out of 20. But my actual evaluation was this: “You’re a battler. Not much of a one, mind… but getting there. You will have no trouble getting around, and understanding most things that are said to you. However avoid RSL clubs and old peoples homes, the nuances are lost on you.” Huh? I guess I should admit at this point that a fair number of my right answers were just lucky guesses.
ANOTHER UPDATE: I understand now. “RSL clubs” refers to the Returned Services League, a military veterans’ organization that seems to be the Australian equivalent of the American Legion or the VFW.

1 thought on “The way I talk

  1. I guess my mother would be pleased. When we moved from the Midwest (Indianapolis, where we lived after Kansas City) back to where my mother’s relatives were in New Orleans, she spent years staying on my case about how I spoke. She lived in great fear that I might adopt the New Orleans accent, which she referred to as “Irish Channel,” presumably named after a portion of town where they spoke with quite a brogue. My cousin has that brogue, as do many of the people I’ve heard in recent days speaking on TV from New Orleans. Had you lived in Thibodaux longer, you might have a bit of Cajun in your speech. But as it is, it’s unidentifiable, and I don’t know whether that’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s probably good. I’ve had the same comments about my speech all my adult life. Dad has definite Texas influences in the way he pronounces certain words, but you have to listen carefully. And you and Marie have influenced the way Ruth and Ben speak, which isn’t very Southern.

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