Monday, November 22, 2010

Oh, sweet, sweet justice

I read this article in the New York Times over the weekend: Unlearning to Tawk Like a New Yorker. To begin:

"Andrew Ramos always believed it made him more charming, an endearing characteristic integral to his identity. But, finally, after too many people mocked him, he began seeing a therapist. ...'I was diagnosed with a New York accent,' Mr. Ramos said."

That's right. A segment of the Yankee population are undergoing therapy to cleanse themselves of their dialect.

Had I not been in public when I read this article, a happy dance would have shot out from my toes and fingers in an entirely un-coordinated and frenetic way. (Note: My happy dance is actually no different from any other "dance" I do. There is not an ounce of rhythm in these bones.)

"Those who seek professional help to conquer their accents make similar complaints, like,  ‘People don’t understand what I’m saying,’  said Sam Chwat, who is considered the dean of speech therapists. ‘I’m stigmatized by the way I speak.’ ‘I’m tired of people imitating or ridiculing the way I speak, or saying I sound cute.’ ‘My accent seems to imply negative characteristics.’ ”

Years and years of the Southern accent being ridiculed, mocked, and judged. Years and years of that sing-songy twang called ignorant or un-educated.

"A New York accent makes you sound ignorant,” said Lynn Singer, a speech therapist who works with Miss LoGiudice. “People listen to the accent, but not to what you’re saying.”

I read an article years ago in the Raleigh paper on Southerners being urged to take classes to erase their accents for similar reasons. Oh, sweet justice, thou art seriously sweet.

Though I rarely hear my supposed accent, I still feel a kinship with my Southern-kind and recoil at the derision they receive for their "ya'lls", "aint's," and "fixin's." I've always found a New York or Boston accent to be far more harsh and significantly more worthy of mocking. So I'm kind of happy they are learning how to "tawk" correctly.

However, we are a huge country full of a plethora of ethnicities, personalities, and yes, accents. Can't we all just get along? Or at the very least just to agree to adopt the Southern accent? I'll take a drawl dripping in biscuit butter over an ear-piercing squawk any day of the week.

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