Somebody told me, to my horror, that there was a class you could take to lose your Southern accent. I was curious so I Googled it, which I don’t think the Queen put in her original English verb list, but anyway I got 198,000 results in .22 seconds. I clicked on the first link and read the headline, “Is your Southern accent holding you back?” Immediately following the title was a testimony from a woman who endorsed the program of study as a “God-send.” She said she now sounds like the highly-educated woman that she really is, which is quite questionable in my opinion, but we’ll let her slide. Do we Southerners speak with an accent? Heck yeah we do. It‘s our birthright. Is an accent and an education inextricably linked – heck no! To the Southerner his accent is authentic. It’s bona fide. Folks from Boston don’t use Rs, but they aren’t signing up for courses to teach them how to stick an R in at the right spot.
When I was a lieutenant in the 3D Armored Cavalry Regiment I served, for a period of time, in the S3 (Operations) shop. Our field artillery officer was a lieutenant from Boston named Grover. His noncommissioned officer (NCO) was a black man from Louisiana. One day about 10 of us were sitting in the office talking and this NCO said, with a thick Cajun accent, “LT Grover, he ain’t got an arra (R) in his whole vocabulary. He just leaves ‘um floatin’ in the air and LT Blackmon, he snatches ‘um up and puts ‘um in words that ain’t even got no arra (R) in ‘um.” It’s a wonder that, with a Cajun, Georgian, and Bostonian, we could even communicate, but we were fortunate to have a fellow from Texas who could translate. He was right though. I grew up laying my head on a pillar at night, and looking out the winder of my car. Our washing machine even had a rench cycle right after it finished worshing the clothes. LT Grover went home from work every day and pa’ked his Ka in the yad.
Sometimes we Southerners even confuse each other when we talk. There are certainly regional accents, but in the South the thickness of the accent also varies between the county and city. When I first transferred from the county to the city high school I met and began dating a girl who lived in town. I stopped by her house one day after school to ask her if she wanted to go to the fair with me. She looked at me with the strangest expression and asked why I wanted to go see a fire. I repeated fair several times before she figured out that I was talking about a carnival vs. a bonfire of some sort.
Yep, our language sounds different in the South, but so do New Englanders, Brits and Aussies, yet they aren’t taking courses to change who they are so why should you and I? Mark Twain, who wrote in our tongue, once said that his books, “are like water; those of great geniuses are wine. Fortunately, everybody drinks water.” You might pronounce words a bit differently. You might even misuse a verb here and there, but you help define a distinct thread in the American fabric. Be proud of who you are and where you came from.