V is for Vernacular

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.


About joey

Neurotic Bitch, Mother, Wife, Writer, Word Whore, Foodie and General Go-To-Girl
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23 Responses to V is for Vernacular

  1. cardamone5 says:

    Ha, ha…I call myself a mutt too, to my 100% Italian in-laws!!!


  2. Deborah says:

    Interesting! I spent four years in Indiana, 2005-2009. And we never found each other until we both hit the blogging world. haha


  3. meANXIETYme says:

    I definitely change my accent (what there is of it) and my grammar and my vernacular based on the situation. I do the same thing with levels of cursing.
    I don’t care what people think of me when I speak… I’m unique and therefore I can do what I wanna. I’m a goddam snowflake. Ya’ll.


  4. When I was growing up–way back in the day–I loved regional accents. Some I found more harmonious than others. When someone in Boston when I was in grad school there made fun of LBJ’s accent, for sounding stupid on TV, I wheeled on her and said, “I love his accent. He sounds like my grandfather.” The person shut up.

    Now accents are fading, no doubt due to television. They are still there though. And I love to hear them.

    Another anecdote from back in the day. Just as my Kansas-born self began to travel the world, a lot, someone said to me, “I hate it when anyone puts an R in Washington.” I said, “No one does that.” Then I began to listen. Everyone in Kansas added in that R, saying Wurshington. I made myself get rid of that danged R….but I had never heard it before.


  5. Sherry says:

    I am occasionally asked here in NM where I am from, since I don’t sound right apparently…I took one of those super regional language tests, and placed right smack dab in Michigan where I came from. So weird to think I have an accent…other people surely do…me? no way…lol


  6. LindaGHill says:

    In the most eastern part of Canada they have a different accent to here, and of course Quebec has a whole ‘nuther language, but for the rest of Canada (the Quebec boarder and west – and that’s a good mass of geography) we all sound pretty much the same. Strange the way it works that all over America folks sound different. Or maybe we’re the strange ones.


  7. suzjones says:

    Ha ha. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I do declare I found myself reading Miss Sassy’s words just like Scarlett O’Hara! 😉


  8. Like you, I pick up accents everywhere I go. I used to think it was a gift until I heard the grief Madonna got when she lived in England…


  9. Kat's Den says:

    I think we’ve already established that you and I could talk for hours on this subject. Husband was telling me other day about how somebody at work got defensive over something stupid. My response was immediate. “A feller ort’nt complain if he’s been done right by.”


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