Sunday, March 20, 2005

Brains and Accents

Most people from the Northeast and Pacific Coast regions of the US discount a person's IQ about 10% when they hear a southern accent.

You know who you are dear friends. There may even be a few of you from outside of those parts of the country who share in our blame.

That was especially true for me--at least in my dark and unenlightened past--when that accent had Oklahoman and Texan overtones.

But I want to testify that I've been delivered from that kind of harmful stereotype.

Yes, I've been saved from the egregious errors of my obstinant linguistic path!

But I have to admit that I'm struggling with another obstacle.

In my work I talk with lots of folks in their 20's and 30's, and at least half of 'em are young women.

But I have a hard time, I must confess, with the by-now-mainstream Val Speak that I hear from so many of them.

I've always associated Val Talk with 80's San Fernando Valley teens and Moon Unit Zappa, and I have to admit that I've always dropped 20% off the top of any Val speaker's brains at the first hint of an "Oh my God!" or a "fer sure!"

A more toned down version has become pretty common now among young women from the West Coast. The silliest expressions are gone, but the tone and rhythm and cadences of the original Mall Speak are alive and well and have morphed into a new regional accent and idiom.

Even with this more sophisticated version they still sound like they're 13 or 14 years old, especially when they have higher pitched voices, though many are obviously gifted and accomplished people.

This puts me in the strange position of talking about the most serious life and career decisions with young women I'd expect to see working at Hot Dog On A Stick.

Yes, I'm a cultural troglodite. I admit it freely.

Pray for my linguistic and cultural enlightenment....


Blogger Jason said...

Well, I haven't got past the southern accent thing. Whenever donna slips back into her southern drawl, I immediately call her out. As for val talk, I'm uncomfortable with how much my friends and I say "like". And then she was like, and then he was like, and then, like, the whole thing like fell apart.

11:10 PM  
Blogger TPB said...

Oh my God! That is soooo, like, wrong! I TOTALLY am praying for you. Like, for sure! Gag me with a spoon!

Whoa, I spent my first eight years with a strong West Virginian accent, moved to So Cal and spent the next ten talking like a Valley girl, and now I'm learning to speak more like I'm from the hood (fo' rizzle, ya know what I'm sayin'?).

I don't think I have any IQ points left.

9:21 AM  

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