You know something I really miss? Regional accents. What a funny thing to notice eh?
There are a couple of reasons that I even notice this. First is that almost everyone who lives in this area, moved here from somewhere else. In fact, when people meet here, it's one of the first questions that they are asked, "Where are you from?" (the other questions is, "are you full time or part time" Here in Venice, it's a fair question) To date, I have met remarkably few people who are actually from Florida and only one who has always lived here in the Venice area.
The other reason I am aware of this phenomenon is from working at the museum. We get visitors every day from all over the world which is kind of exciting. As I engage our guests in conversation of course, we learn about each other. And since I find people endlessly fascinating that really works for me.
Naturally people from other countries bring with them their language, their charming accents and colloquialisms and I learn so much which is very fun. But when my guests are from this country, most of the time I could not begin to guess where they are visiting from by the way they speak. I am almost always surprised when they tell me that they are visiting from, Georgia or California or Texas or Vermont or Missouri. And I remember a time when there was a difference, in speech patterns, word choices, sentence structure and yes, accents. And I loved it.
This observation struck me at the museum the other day, when we had a lovely guest from North Carolina. She did have a loveliest accent. It was soft and gentle and absolutely delightful. I could have listened to her talk to me all day long. And I realized that it was the uniqueness of hearing an accent at all that was so especially endearing. And it made me stop and think how long it had been since I had heard a regional accent despite the fact that I talk to people from all over the US nearly every day.
When I was a kid, and we traveled all over the country back and forth , up and down, over and over, I heard all sorts of accents and curious expressions and ate regionally specific foods and well, it's just not like that anymore. Chicago looks a lot like Denver which looks a lot like Tampa which looks a lot like....well you get the idea. You can order Oysters at any nice restaurant. You can buy cellophane wrapped Whoppie Pies at the gas station grocery store in every corner of this huge country. There is some version of a Submarine sandwich from coast to coast (although it may go by a different name). McDonalds has a Stroop Waffel McFlurry for heaven's sakes. Things have certainly changed.
In just two generations we've gone from the uniqueness of eating Lobstah in Maine and the impossibility of a one syllable word in Texas (Sam became Say-yum) to nearly everyone speaking like television newscasters. That is to say, with no accents at all.
I know that there are still small pockets of regionalisms but by and large, nope. They are gone. I do remember when I first moved to Texas being teased for my lack of accent. i.e. They thought I talked funny. Which was fair, I thought they talked funny. And I remember having to tweak my hearing a bit whenever we went back to Maine so that I could understand what the folks around me were saying, "Ayuh". It always came back to me quickly but there were a few moments of shifting gears in my brain required. I vividly remember trying to create the same broad vowel sounds as my Michigan cousins because I loved how it sounded. And I did the same thing when I heard the flatter sounds and surfer-speak in California.
It wasn't about me trying to fit in. I never fit in. That was a hopeless task. But I loved the uniqueness of the sounds and the picturesque speech that came from regional phrases. A person who was a little depressed might be said to be, "Lower than a snakes belly in a wagon rut" , for example. I actually heard that one in Texas. People in Maine back when I was a kid didn't go to the beach. Nope, they went, "downshore". In the midwest people drank Pop, in rural Florida every single flavour of soda was called a "ca-cola".
Even the rather subtle but still definitive differences in the different southern accents stood apart from each other. And there were many! Texas, by the way isn't southern, it's southwestern. Louisiana and Mississippi, yeah, those were southern. But now, it is unusual to hear any difference at all.
Maybe it's because people move so much now. Almost nobody lives in the same town where they grew up. In fact, it's unusual for someone to live in the same original state! In fact, the average number of times a person moves in their life is now 11.7 times. Holy Cats! No wonder people don't have a down-home accent anymore. They don't spend that much time down home! It's not at all surprising that, over time, with all that moving around, regional accents and phrases have just kind of slowly disappeared.
I also blame television. Actually I suppose it began with radio. Suddenly instead of people spending their entire lives hearing only one accent, they began to hear the speech patterns of people who lived in, perhaps a larger nearby city of their state. And then other surrounding states. And then other parts of this country! And it snowballed from there.
Oh for the most part it wasn't intentional, it was very subliminal. But I do know that in the early days of movies, all of the young aspiring actors and actresses were forced to work with speech specialists to remove their home grown accents so that they would seem more worldly, more sophisticated and appeal to a larger audience. To have an accent began to be something to be embarrassed by, it was considered low-brow and uneducated. And that attitude raged across the country. What a shame.
The goal seemed to be to have everyone across the country be exactly the same. Cookie Cutter people. If one person did something "unique" - remember the Farrah Hairstyle and Rachel from the TV show Friends? - it was immediately adopted by all of the girls. Everyone wanted to be different in exactly the same way. When long hair was the style for boys, if you had short hair you were strange.. Being who you actually were was frowned upon. I saw it over and over when my kids were in school. The school system didn't allow for anyone to think differently or see the world uniquely. I went 'round and 'round with teachers on my kids behalf throughout their school years.
Sorry. I get off track. This all started with me talking about regional accents didn't it. And it kind of grew from there.
My original thought still stands. I still miss regional accents. I know it doesn't matter. I know it won't change back. And I think it's so funny that of all the things that have changed in my lifetime, the one thing that I really miss is hearing the delightful, colourful, unique different accents.
What can I tell you. I've always been a wierdo.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.