Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ask Eddie Anything: The Accent Thing

Tammy said:  "It seems like once we hit the Ohio/Kentucky border, y'all have a southern accent.  I can just hear a southern drawl coming out of that cute face!!!!"

Well, first off, you just seriously made me blush!  Thanks!

And secondly, most of what comes out of this face are belches and burps.

There's a couple of interesting thoughts buried in that statement, which lead to several trains of thought in my head, which in turn lead to some stories and such.  In other words, I'm gonna ramble.  And it's not even Monday.

I have always considered myself to be a Southerner.  To me, Kentucky is the South, but there are a lot of folks, particularly from deeper South, that would disagree.  I'm not sure what the criteria is that one uses to make such decisions, or even if there is an official designation or determination anywhere.  It just seems to be one of those things that folks have different opinions on.

I also consider myself to be a country boy at heart.  I was raised in a small town in a rural county.  When I was a kid, you could still shop on the town square in family-owned stores that had been there for generations.  We lived in town, but lots of my family members had farms and raised horses, grew tobacco and corn, etc.  Those are my roots and part of who I am.

It seems to me that Kentucky accents are a good deal more diverse than people realize.  This is probably true for most states/regions.  In the eastern part of the state, where all the mountains and coal mines are, the accent is more (for lack of a better term) "hillbilly."  The twang is a little different there, even though a lot of the linguistic usage is the same as the rest of the state.

I should probably note here that I am not any kind of a linguist or accentologist or anything like that.  There are no academic or scholarly credentials that back any of what I am saying up.  I'm just a guy who thinks too much about things, loves to watch the world as it passes by and has a blog full of his rambles about stuff.

Speaking of academics, I went to college in the foothills of the Appalachians, so I spent five years listening to those wonderful accents.

When you move towards the south-central part of the state, where I am from, the accent gets more "country" or "hick."  It's hard to explain in writing, but the sound is slightly different.  Some words become a little more extended, but not quite like a Southern drawl.

The further west you go, the sound gets more what people think of when they think "Southern accent."  It's a little more genteel, a little more drawn out, a definite drawl.  I went to high school in this part of the state for a year, after my parents divorced.

Of course, none of this is hard and fast. The distinctions can be very slight and you can find people in all areas that speak with all kinds of accents.  I'm laying this out as a kind of general guide.

In Louisville, there's a great mixture of speech mannerisms and accents.  People move here from all over the state and all over the world.  The biggest linguistic indicator of someone's origins is the way they pronounce the city's name.  If you have lived here any length of time, you pronounce it almost like it's a one syllable word: "Luavull", sliding over that "ua" dipthong as smoothly and quickly as you can.  If you say "Lewis-ville" or "Louie-ville" then we all know you ain't from around these parts.

As for the non-belch sounds that come out of my mouth, well, I'm a country boy.  It's not really that thick or heavy, but there's a hick twang that sneaks out around the edges when I talk.  When I go back home or spend time with my family, it comes out a lot more.

It wasn't always that way.  We moved to Germany when I was in second grade and stayed there until I was in fourth grade.  Then we moved to El Paso and stayed until I was in sixth grade.  When we moved back to Kentucky, I didn't sound like anyone else.  At all.  It was so distinct that other kids would try to get me volunteer to read out loud in class, so they could listen to me talk.  Not in a "make fun of it" kind of way, but in a "this is kind of interesting" kind of way.  I was a little embarrassed nonetheless.  My mother used to say that she couldn't wait for me to get home, so she could hear me again, instead of all the little kids in the neighborhood.  Funny thing, I do not recall anyone making a big deal out of the way my brother sounded.

Gradually, of course, I lost that "different" sound and blended in a little more, but I never fully adapted the local sound.  It's always been a little bit lighter with me, a little more subtle.  It's enough that, when I'm in other parts of the country, people notice it, but not enough to "mark" me in anyway.  At least, I don't think so.  Sometimes, if I push this point too much, Keith will tell me to give it up and say that I sound like some hick kid from the sticks.  The moral of that story is "don't get above your raising."

Not all of the sounds that come out of my mouth are in English by the way.  My degree is in Spanish.  I'm really shy about speaking it, because I've lost so much of my vocabulary and grammar to disuse.  I really have to think hard about what I'm saying, which can make it hard to carry on a conversation.  Sadly, I used to be damn near bilingual at one time.  I get so frustrated with myself that I feel like if I can't say it perfectly, then I won't say it at all.  Which really doesn't help me, I know.  One thing I have not lost is my accent.  On those rare occasions when I do speak in Spanish, people inevitably tell me that I sound authentic.  It's something.  I guess.

Anyway, if you want to hear a brief snippet of me talking and judge for yourself:

The full story behind that whole video is here.  Behind the scenes pics are here.

That's a much younger, much less shaggy me, pre-cancer me.  In fact, that mole that you see on my neck is the one that started all the trouble.

I can't believe it's been nine years since that happened.  A whole lifetime ago.


Linda @ A La Carte said...

First of all, what a cool video and a fun thing to happen to you! I'll have to read the back story later (after babysitting...sigh). I love your accent but hey I live in Georgia. I'm not born and raised here so I think my southern accent is mild compared to so many. I have lived here long enough that I do have one though I don't usually say ya'll. Gotta go but I will be back later.

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Read, listened, checked out the links. Wow. Good to hear your voice for a few seconds. said...

Oh Eddie, up close and personal !! I was serious about my question . My friend's from California think I have an Ohio accent ...?? Your voice is so deep and has that southern twang I LOVE !!! How awesome that UPS delivered the CD and the band ?? That has to be an all time fav memorie :-) Thank you for taking my question seriously!!! Mucho gracious senior', TT

We are: Clamco said...

Oh I just loved that video. What a fun thing to have happen out of the blue like that.

svelteSTUFF said...


Shara said...

Well, now that video and having that happened was just crazy! I will read the backstory when I am not on my phone. My eyes are not reading this teeny thing very good lately. But that's what happens when you hit your late 20's. HAHAHAHAAHA

My friend Sue up there in the comment above me - her husband saw an Arkansas State Trooper being interviewed on TV and he looked at her with horror in his eyes and said, "Is that what your friend in Arkansas sounds like???" I'm like you - when I am comfortable or with my family, I sound a bit twangy, but I have always TRIED to keep up my Kansas non hillbilly accent. Lara says I have a sweet Southern sound. I never say YA'LL or Fixing to or any of those Southern sayings. I don't think........

Donna Wilkes said...

You sound just like a Southern preacher. I am as Southern as they come - our accent in SC is different from one part of the state to another. The word to listen for is "water". From wahder to warter - it tells the truth. Love the video and how exciting.

I think there is South, Southern, Deep South, and then there's Florida which is none of the above.