Friday, September 16, 2016

Speaking of....

Portrait of the blogger as a young man

For no reason other than to opine on something besides Trump:

Texans can do Texas accents; non-Texans simply cannot.

Tommy Lee Jones can sound like a Texas sheriff; Sissy Spacek can sound like someone raised in East Texas (it's a distinct accent); Matthew McConaughey can sound like a Texan.

Non-Texans, even Brits with all their training; can't get it right.  It's subtle; but as a native Texan, I can tell the difference.  Tommy Lee Jones just lands it right.  To listen to him in "No Country for Old Men" is to listen to a native born Texan talking, even when Mr. Jones can talk like he's not from Texas at all.  McConaughey almost always sounds like he's from Texas; and Ms. Spacek can do the "southern girl" from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon just fine; but to my ear, she almost always betrays her East Texas roots (she grew up not far from where I did).

I've had people tell me I don't sound like I'm from Texas.  I think I spent too much time watching TeeVee as a child, acquiring that Midwest non-accent accent of TV news anchors in the '60's and '70's.  Then I talk to family members or old friends (my wife is still amazed how much my accent changes when I talk to my brother; she did the same thing talking to her sister, though; and like me, never noticed it).

The Texas accent is subtle and inimitable and very regional.  There's one from Dallas (my father had it; he could sound way too much like Ross Perot, although without Perot's nasal qualities).  There's one for Central Texas, and another in the German areas of Central Texas; and a variety for south Texas, and the Panhandle, and East Texas; and variants within those regions.  Southern accents are as variable as states and regions in the states, too; and nobody sounds like a proper Cajun except a proper Cajun.  I garonteee.  (and yes, you have to be of a certain age and region to even know what that means).

Brits can sound American, in the generic sense.  It's always surprising to hear David Tennant's native, and thick, Scottish brogue.  I can't place his English accent (apparently Christopher Eccleston sounds like someone from Northern England, or did as the Doctor), but it's very different from his native accent.  I suppose to some I sound the same way, unless I'm talking like a Texan.  An East Texan; there's more drawl in my twang than there is bobbed wahr, but I do talk about awl fur the car, and add syllables to almost every word, and ahm usually fixin' to git around to it.

Which is whut ah need ta be dooin' raht about nahw, think to come of it.


  1. I'm not sure I can "do" a Maine coastal accent and I only live about an hour inland, I certainly can't do a Northern Maine accent.

    Local accents are made of differences so subtle I don't think that phonologists could really describe them. I love difference. I loved the difference between the Arcadian and the Quebecois French accents, though that's dying out around here. I'm told there is an area in Maine where there's a bit of Finnish and another where it's more Swedish, though I don't know enough to know the difference. And, as you say, it's probably all being crushed out by TV. Alas.

  2. I don't know what kind of accent I have. People tell me I still sound as though I'm from New Orleans (or Brooklyn), and, after living for over 40 years in southeast bayou country in Louisiana, I must have picked up some sort of accent. When I hear my voice on a recording, I am horrified. Do I really sound like that?!! I speak with a definite, annoying (to me) drawl, which makes me want to stop talking altogether or take elocution lessons. Remember those?

    Non-native actors who try to speak in New Orleans or Cajun accents fail miserably.