Saturday, May 30, 2015
Of Accents (Particularly Boston), Playing With Words and Other
Oh... first, here's the post that "inspired" all this "deep thought" about accents (etc.). It's by Sprite1950 (and I'm going there to comment now, by the way).
The Boston accent can be different in some ways yet the same in other ways. I think people whose family roots were Italian have one Boston accent, while those whose families have roots in Ireland or Scotland have different ones. A couple of generations in, and with my mother's family's roots in either Scotland or else going back to Pilgrims (English, of course); and my father's mostly Ireland; I have a Boston accent (no doubt about that), but I don't think anyone has any trouble understanding me at all. Some customer-service guy in CA a few months ago said he couldn't figure out where the accent was from. To further complicate my own accent, though, when my kids were little I made sure to speak very distinctly in order to make sure they heard words pronounced correctly (rather than carelessly).
Then, on top of that, if I get nervous or else if I'm in a hurry I sometimes either think I'm going to say one thing, change the sentence, and end up having an occasional word with a strange inflection. It doesn't happen often, but it happens often enough that it's "a thing" every once in awhile.
So there's all that. Then, too, sometimes I'll just say something in some other accent to be funny or for some other effect. I don't do that often either (and it's a whole different thing from the rest of my real accent; because it's more a matter of playing games (or something like that) with words.
Then, too (also in the "games" category) I may just make up a word, or to be funny I'll say, for example, "peets" instead of "pizza" or "Dunks" instead of "Dunkin Donuts". (Of course this kind of verbal fooling around is only something I do in my personal life - certainly not in any business settings.) Oh, and (speaking of Dunkin Donuts), there are words that one of the toddlers/little kids in the family said when they were little; and either it, or a bunch of us in the family just started using the toddler-version of the word (mostly just to be kind of funny - or something). My Dunkin Donuts reference refers to when my nephew was about fifteen months old or so, and when I drove by the Dunkin Donuts sign my little nephew announced in a very monotonous tone, "dones" (instead of doughnuts). My four-year-old daughter couldn't spell "Easter", so when she drew a picture of the Easter Bunny she wrote underneath it, "E. Bunny". So, of course, a few of us in the family have said "E. Bunny" ever since.
My girlfriends little boy used to say, "Beert and Eeernie" (instead of "Bert and Ernie"), while my son (around the same age as my friend's little boy) used to say, "Boort and Oornie". So, sometimes these days I'll say either "Beert and Eeernie" OR "Boort and Oornie". Then again, I may just say, "Bert and Ernie".
(Actually, now that my children have been grown for some time, and I don't yet have any grandchildren, I don't mention Bert or Ernie much these days anyway.)
One of my sons used to refer to a single item of clothing/clothes as "a cloe". (I guess I wasn't always speaking quite as distinctly as I thought I was - at least not when I said, "clothes" in front of my two-year-old son.)
My daughter called ants, "dampts"; milk, "nypt", and her blanket "nah-mee". I don't use any of those other than "dampts" very often these days, but "dampts" is still just a little more fun to say than "ants" - especially during the three weeks in June when a few too many "dampts" seem to make their way under my kitchen door.
Finally (and getting away from the thing about playing games with words just to be funny - or whatever....), being a "very verbal" person (and I mean REALLY "verbal"); I pretty much see words in my head as I think of them; which means that even though some more popular or relaxed pronunciations kind of go with "regular speech" or "common speech" or even just the way I originally learned to pronounce a word; what I'm "seeing" and thinking tends to be the very formal version of the word. That leads me to sometimes almost feel a little (just the slightest, slightest, bit) confused about which way to go when it comes to actually using the word I'm thinking of.
Maybe the real reason for that is that I attended very old fashioned schools with very traditional, old fashioned (and generally old) teachers; so sometimes if I sense that the very distinct pronunciation of a word that I'm "seeing" in my head is going to seem more formal than would be appropriate (as in a casual or otherwise informal exchange), I'll "casual up" my pronunciation of a word that I'd otherwise have pronounced distinctly and "formally". Why do that? Believe it or not, it's my attempt to not-sound like I'm faking an accent other than the one most people around me use. What happens, though, is either some slightly odd pronunciation of just a syllable or word; or else, occasionally, if it seems like it's all going to be too weird that may be when I, say, throw in some "funny" accent just to slither out of all the awkwardness.
This isn't to say that someone I talk with is going to think I'm someone with some kind of speech problem; because between being as verbally-/word- inclined as I am, and the fact that I was born and raised in the Boston area (three generations and more in) I'm pretty skilled at conversation (whether that's in personal exchanges or, say, more formal ones). I don't know.... I suppose the person who isn't at all verbally-inclined, or verbally-inclined enough to make a habit of playing with words (etc.) might not know what to make of it; but since I don't play with words (or say things like "dones" in a business setting) it's easy enough to just err on the side of the more formal (and, I suppose, allow the other person to assume I'm just more verbal or more formal than some people may be).
As far as my inner, personal, circles go... By now most people in that small group either say "dones" or "dampts" too, or at least know where the words come from when I use them. They probably also know that I'm being funny if I say the occasional few words, or make some wisecrack, in some other (but notable) US, regional, accent. As for any other little (but again, not all that frequent) peculiarities that may show up in my speech... God knows who thinks what.
All I know is that (at least for the verbally-inclined, 60's-elementary-school; mothers/aunts/friends-of-mothers; and/or folks who are so comfortable - although sometimes just plain bored - with the English language) sometimes "talkin' just ain't as easy as lot of folks'ld think".
Y'ahl come back now! (Oh....wait a minute. That's from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and has nothing to do with anything. Oops. I don't really know what it came from. Well.... I do. I just thought it might be a good thing with which to end this post on accents, speaking, etc. I guess when I opened some of those "mental-verbal files" it just fell out.)
By the way, you should see what this particular post did to the spell-checker in MSWord.
Posted by ME Whelan at 12:16 AM