Like any other place, Indiana’s accents are varied. Ideally, one adopts the accent of Iowa, which is said to be the clearest, least regional-sounding accent. Plenty of people here sound like broadcasters, and plenty of people sound like they just fell off the turnip truck. Most of us are in the middle, yakkin about with lazy tongues.
While in The Deep South, I do not sound southern to the natives. I asked a lady in the grocery about her evaporated milk preferences, and she asked me, “Sugar, where do your people hail from?”
Up North, people ask me if I’m from Kentucky. People who don’t know anything about accents have asked me if I’m from Texas or Louisiana, for cryin out loud.
I’m from Indiana. Born and raised. But my mama is a Tallahassee lassie and her daddy’s people came from Bonnie Blue, Virginia and I do think we’ve got some Melungeon in us, even if I’ve got the Dutch skin and the Italian proclivities from the other side…I’m a human mutt bitch.
Sassy recently announced to us, “They think I’m country!”
I asked, “Because of your accent?”
“Yes! They think I’m country, with my white skin, my pretty blonde hair, and my accent!”
How it came out was, “They think I’m country, with mah white skin, mah pree blonde hair and mah accent!” She opened her eyes wide and flounced her curls with disdain while she said it.
We laughed and laughed. She was so animated, so clearly offended.
Growing up, I was taught to enunciate, and rules about grammar were enforced. I do believe, and not even my mother could convince me otherwise, that this was an attempt to hide any indication of an accent, because people with northern accents think people with southern accents are dumb.
(And therein lies a lie or two, depending.)
There were two languages my mother used: The language of power, and the language of vernacular. I managed to learn which to use in specific circumstances, via my role model.
I took foreign language classes.
I took linguistics classes.
I took speech classes.
My elocution is exceptional.
When I wanna.
I used to worry about it. I used to pronounce things ever so carefully. I don’t now. I went to Georgia, and I let go. I came back from Georgia, and I don’t care anymore. It’s not baggage I want to carry.
I’m not tryin to hide anything about where I come from or who I am.
If the language I use perturbs someone, I assume they’re not the caliber of person whose opinion matters.
I reckon if people think I’m dumb because I say I reckon, or fixin to, or usta could, then they ain’t my kinda people.
(Did that hurt your ears? We’ll never be friends.)
Language is easy to me. Wherever I travel, my accent slides accordingly.
I still turn on the language of power, as when I’m calling the children’s school. I don’t be axin them thangs. In fact, I beg people not to ax anyone anything. Especially not they mothers.
I never say ax for ask. I never say they for their — but I hope you get my point.
Don’t be fooled, neither language nor its evolution are indicative of intelligence. But your assumptions about the speaker certainly indicate your levels of knowledge, intelligence, and understanding.
Why, just last night, I hadda use a smaller word so The Mister could understand me.