I Love My Accent, Or… Gettin’ Heavy in the Hick Tone

I love our accents. I think eastern North Carolina has some of the best dialects in our nation. We’re not too syrupy, not too thick, not too aggressive, not too slow. We mix it all up, too – in just one county you can hear multiple ways of talking, and some people using two or three accents all at once.

Some people refer to our dialect as “hick.” I don’t think that’s a good way to describe it (I’ve lived in the western part of the state after all, and I know what hick sounds like…), but I’ll roll with that if it works for those who don’t know no better.

If ya won’t born to it, ya cain’t duplicate it.

Me, I tend to do a lot of what’s called code-switching” or “style-shifting. (See how much you can learn on wikipedia?) For instance, I can talk like I (normally) type – formally and with proper rules of English. I am, after all, an annoying grammar freak, the kind of person who will correct bad grammer with a black magic marker on the signs at Target. But at home and around friends or family members I relax, and the mix of dialects -older SAE, newer SAE, coastal southern, AAVE, and God knows what else – I’ve been surrounded by my whole life come out. After all, I grew up on a farm near an itty-bitty little hick town, and my way of talking was extremely different from that of people the same age living only 10 miles away from me.

Sometimes there’s just no better way to say something than to fall back on the expressions my grandparents taught me. For instance, I can say deadpan it and say – “Dude. You’re an idiot.” Or I can twist my mouth a bit, half-smile at you, and suddenly drop this drawl on you: “I knowed you for a fool soon as I seen you.”

Our accents are the best for humor, too, especially when using style-shifting to emphasize the punch-line. Which brings me to my whole point on writing this post – an exchange this morning on my new favorite radio morning show on Jammin 99.3 (Rocky Mount-Wilson).

Megan Hinkle gave a shout-out to Landon, who was on his way to school at Coopers Elementary. She was having trouble pronouning “Coopers” the way we do around my native part of Nash County. Here’s my attempt to mimic the sound and spirit of the discussion.

Megan: Coopers. I mean, “khuppers.” No….

DP: Here’s what I was told – say it like “hookers.” “Coopers” rhymes with “hookers.” That’s how they say it around Nashville, anyway. I’m not sure how they say it in Kinley, though.

Dale: [this is his intro, in a strong exagerrated accent, high exuberence] Oh, we say ho!

Gosh, you shoulda heard it! I like to died. The pure unexpectedness of it cracked me up. What a punchline, made great by the whole method of delivery.

Some people on the show don’t have strong accents at all, while others have very strong ones, which is what caught my attention when I was surfing through the stations last week. I thought to myself, because I am as prone to stereotyping as anyone else, despite my disgust of being stereotyped, “Oh Lord, what kind of ridiculous, silly, pig-headed ideas are these people dispersing?”

Aw, man, I was wrong! Here’s the great thing about the show – every dang host, co-host, and visitor is intelligent. And thoughtful. And thought-provoking. And silly, fun, and humorous, too – all of the characteristics of a really fun, really strong morning show.

When I was getting out of the car this morning, Megan and DP were debating whether you could find someone guilty of 1st degree murder if he or she was drunk at the time. Damn good debate, and I look forward to continuing it with my own friends later this weekend.

Every morning (as far as I can tell) they discuss the headlines of the local papers. The Wilson Times editor (I hope I have the right title there) shares news; I think I heard someone from The Nashville Graphic on this week, too. The hosts share info from The Rocky Mount Telegram as well, which led to the afore-mentioned debate this morning.

Last week, I heard a lecture on how forwarding emails with incomplete, inaccurate, or sensationalist information is exactly the same as gossiping. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to create fear? Cause drama? Cause a false separation among segments of society?

[THANK YOU 99.3 FOR SHARING THAT WISDOM! It’s so true, and so needs to be heard.]

In just a week, with only about 20 minutes of listen time a day, I’ve heard them discuss economic development (the 2030 plan), local issues as well as national politics, ACORN, twitter…all important to the communities they serve. And they sound like me while they’re doing it.

Hey Jammin – y’all’r doin’ a right good job over yonder.

Stay real.


~ by gypsyjonga on September 25, 2009.

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