Tuesday, October 10, 2006 Histrionics

Histrionics

I remember the first time I became aware that I had an accent. I was 10 years old and my parents videotaped my commentary on my brother's little league baseball game. We arrived home and popped the tape in the VCR so we could re-live the excrutiatingly boring two hours we had just spent broiling in the sun. Listening to myself I realized I sounded less like Martha Quinn and more like Ellie May Clampett. I was horrified and begged my parents to erase the tape to eradicate my shame at what I considered a most unfortunate accent. They laughed off my concerns and patted me on the head.

For the next year I would hide under the covers at night with my beige Fischer Price tape recorder and practice speaking like a Midwesterner. Record-rewind-play...over and over again until the voice coming out of the plastic box was without regionality, without ethnicity, was sterile. I used this voice for 12 years, until I moved to Atlanta. In Atlanta, surrounded by the sugar-coated melodies of Southern patios I rediscovered my true voice, the voice I tried to kill in my youth.

I still use my carefully cultivated accentless voice in most settings, but in my personal life I let the syllables multiply and the vowels linger.

5 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

All the midwesterners I grew up around swore we were the ones with no accent. I remember when my family moved to California and my first new friend's father said he liked my midwestern accent. I'd rather he'd copped a feel.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Luis said...

this remonds me of the time i told you that i wanted to move to e'town, and i could hear your teeth popping in your mouth, but you said with a tight clenched smile "NEVER!" i dont why im wrting this.

11:01 AM  
Blogger kludge said...

here in California we have the least infection in the country. When your state can be summed up with a simple 'dude' you know you've hit the bottom. It's very dull.

When I was in Atlanta, I listen more than I talked. I loved the accents.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Mad Ethel said...

But isn't it rewarding when your obsession pays off? I remember the first time someone from my hometown of Purvis, Mississippi said to me, "You ain't from 'round here, are you? Are you from the north or somethin'?" Mwuahahahah. Success.
What's bad is when your hometown redneck accent is the voice of your conscience and you can't kill it.

2:54 PM  
Blogger One Wink at a Time said...

A Southern accent to me is as melodious and intriguing as hearing the French language spoken. Music to my ears. It just REEKS character. I love to read Southern novels and I often read them aloud to myself in a south'n accent for effect. Accents are cool.

6:56 PM  

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