Will My Kid Have A Southern Accent?

July 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm , by 

19 months.

Today my son Jack asked me to turn on the TV so he could watch Elmo on Netlflix.

By “watch” I mean “point to Elmo when he appears on the screen then let Sesame Street serve as background noise as Jack plays with his toys.”

And by “asked me” I mean he simply pointed at the TV and said “On?”

But his version of “on” was pronounced “own.” Whereas when I say the word to him to teach the difference between off and on, I pronounce it as “ahn.”

We live in Nashville, Tennessee. It assumed that people here speak with a thick Southern accent, if for no other reason, because this is where all the Country music stars live.

But the thing is, most of those Country artists moved here from Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, or some other state in the South. And if they are actually from Tennessee, they’re from a good hour outside of Nashville.

Visit Nashville and you will find that most people here don’t actually have a thick accent. Instead, you may here some Indiana or Maryland or Colorado in there instead.

Like my wife, for example, who is from Sacramento, California. And even though I was raised in the South, I don’t have the accent to prove it because my mom was raised in Buffalo, New York.

So Jack is being raised in a major Southern city consisting of a very high concentration of transplants and internationals, by two parents who don’t sound like they are part of the cast of The Dukes of Hazzard or The Beverly Hillbillies.

I predict that though he may have some Southern tendencies regarding his accent right now, when it’s all said and done he will talk the way I do. Like he’s from Louisville, Kentucky or Cincinnati, Ohio.

In other words, a virtually untraceable American accent.

On top of all this, have you ever noticed how Southern accents are extremely rare and underrepresented on TV?

When a character on a TV show or movie is from the South, they often embody a negative or theatrical stereotype, like Sawyer onLost.

Or even if the actual actor is from the South, they neutralize their accent to be taken more seriously in the world of entertainment.

NBC’s The Office is a prime example of this. The actors who play Andy, Kevin, and Angela are real-life Southerners who don’t show it in the way they speak.

Based on my own unprofessional (!) Wikipedia research, about 35% of Americans are Southerners speaking with a Southern accent. Population-wise, if my assumptions are correct, more Americans speak in Southern dialect than do Midwestern, Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Western, or any other American accent that exists.

So when we watch TV and movies, we are more likely to hear neutralized accents than we are to hear the same accent that the actual slight majority of America actually speaks.

I believe my son’s “own” will eventually become “ahn” when he tries to say “on.” But I guarantee you that, like his parents, he will still use the word “ya’ll.”

He may pronounce it “yahl” as opposed to the true Southern way, which is “yawh,” in which no actual “L” sound is heard, but at least there will be a little proof he is a Southerner based on how he speaks.

Not to mention the whole “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” thing; which, as his dad, I will make sure he says, ensuring his status as a true Southern gentleman.

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The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons

Where exactly is Anytown, USA?

Location, location, location. The setting of any movie or TV show is always important to me, as the culture of a place definitely shapes the people who live there. Some shows have made a point to specifically avoid stating the setting, classifying it as “Anytown, USA”.  That’s not good enough for me. Today I am directly targeting three shows I am a fan of, in order to properly “out” where they take place based on unique tips.

First is a flawless sitcom/drama, except for that weird last season and final episode. The original ‘70’s show: The Wonder Years.

Accent: flat/neutral. Therefore, this show does not take place in South East, Midwest, or New England.

Ethnicity: Dan Lauria, who plays Kevin Arnold’s dad, Jack, is full Italian. Though this is never addressed in the show, there is no denying that Kevin and his sister Karen (who actually was Italian, but British) could pass as Italians as well.

Therefore, The Wonder Years had to take place in a state that has a decent amount of Italians living it. Italians don’t just live anywhere.

Also, the state has to have a decent amount of Jews as well. Paul Pfeiffer, Michael (Karen’s boyfriend/husband played by Friends star David Schwimmer), and Mr. Cantwell (Kevin’s science teacher played by the legendary Ben Stein) are Jewish.

There is no ocean in sight. The climate is not especially cold or hot.

The result: Pennsylvania. Thirteen percent of its population is Italian, and Jews represent 4% of the religion there, which are both actually high percentages compared to most states. The Wonder Years takes place in Pennsylvania.

Next up is a show that for its four years on the air has received great reviews and ratings but suddenly was cancelled in May 2009: My Name is Earl.

Accent: Southern. When the show comes on, with title card displayed, there are palm trees visibly displayed in the background. It has been stated they are on Central Time.

The only state that fits this mold is the panhandle of Florida. Since the city isn’t specified as a “beach town”, I rule out Panama City.

The result: Pensacola, FL. Not far from the Alabama border, this would explain the small town feel and heavy accent. My Name is Earl takes place in Florida.

Lastly, everybody’s favorite show to try to figure out. A show that for 20 years specifically makes sure the location is vague. Yes, Springfield is the city. But Missouri is never listed as the state: The Simpsons.

Accent: flat/neutral.

I can rule out the states of Utah, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska because on at least one occurrence a Simpson character has made a reference to these states regarding them as a different state from their own.

Geographical traits: Tall mountains, farmland, and a coastline.

The creator of the show, Matt Groening, is from Oregon. There is a Flanders, OR (which most likely Ned Flanders gets his name from).

The result: Oregon. The Simpsons takes place in Oregon.

With just a few clues, I can always crack the case of “The Missing Setting”. It’s easy, with a little help from Wikipedia and a 4th grade geography class.

And a little help from my friends…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CZRudxD-NQ

People Watching 101: Wedding Rings, Shoes, and Accessories

It’s not something a person really learns to do- it’s more of an instinct.  Whether it’s the majority or minority of people in this world who are “people watchers”, all I know is that I am one of them.  And I’m proud to be.

Why?  Because like a housecat, I find creative ways to entertain myself with the most ordinary things in life.  I can’t stand to be bored.  So when I’m in a situation where there’s nothing to do, I think.  And if I’m in a room full of strangers, I “people watch”.

That means as I pretend not to directly look at them, I try to figure out their story.  Because I’ve got clues and hints to go on:

1)     Wedding ring.  Is this guy sitting 8 feet across me a married man?  Does he go home everyday to a wife, just like I do?  If not, why not?  Is he too young, not ready?  Wants to be but just hasn’t met the right girl yet?  If  he is old enough to be a grandfather but doesn’t wear a wedding ring, is he widowed?  That’s sad.

2)     Shoes.  Leather loafers with tassels means the guy is a banker or investor.  Polished black leather shoes means he’s a lawyer.  Cowboy boots means he’s a songwriter.  Chuck Taylors means he’s artistic in some way.

3)     Accessories.  Book?  What is it?  Cell phone?  What is he doing with it?  Is he talking on it?  Am I having to listen to his conversation?  Is his phone attached to his belt?  Is it on the table?  Is he writing in a journal?  Listening to an i-pod?  What music he listening to?  Journey?  Chicago? Is that a Rubik’s Cube I see there?

I could go through the entire endless list: hairstyle, voice, attitude, clothing, accent, etc.  But really those first three paint enough of the picture to imagine a good story to entertain myself for a few minutes.  Then it’s time to move on to the next character.

And of course, I carry around my camera with me.  Because I never when I have stumbled into my next website post: People Watching in Nashville Traffic