Last Sunday two women I have known all my life–a family member and a family friend–stood in front of the church and read the Advent message for the day. As they were reading, I was struck by the beauty of their accents. And saddened to realize that their unique way with words is disappearing.
There are as many types of Southern accents as there are snowflakes. Unfortunately, the one that most people outside the region know best is from the Beverly Hillbillies and similiar drivel. Jed Clampitt’s “wheeee doggies” accent conjures up images of toothless, backwoods, moonshine-making hicks. But there’s another accent all together. Part Scarlett O’Hara…part Steel Magnolias. Part something that’s indescribable–a sense of place.
Close you eyes and listen. These voices are cultured. They are educated. These are women who have lived in the same place for going on 80 years. Their words come out slowly and rounded and deliberately. There’s resonance and one syllable words become two.
It takes a little longer to get the blessing read, but it’s worth it. I could listen to them all day long.
Accents like these are becoming scarce. I don’t talk that way–I’ve lived in other places and watched way too much tv. It’s easy enough for outsiders to mimic a Southern accent for a while, but sooner or later, they falter. To speak like a native in Middle Tennessee, you have to know a few essentials:
- Any carbonated soft drink is a coke. A sprite is a coke. A root beer is a coke. Never ever a soda or pop.
- You water your garden with a hose pipe.
- You build your college bookshelves with Breeko Blocks, not cinder blocks.
- Barbecue is pork.
- You can’t make a sandwich without mayonnaise.
It seems to me that the more we promote diversity, the more alike we actually become. Twenty years from now, these wonderful accents will be gone. All the children will sound alike–like a network news anchor. I’ll close my eye and listen to them speak and not have a clue if they’re from Franklin, Tennessee or Franklin, Nebraska.