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More Southern Than I Thought?

As you can tell by this blog, I'm rather proud of being from the South. However, I'm very thankful to the parentals from the South for constantly correcting my grammar and speech growing up. With one side of my gene pool from Baton Rouge and the other side from New Orleans, I developed a broad Southern accent that's typical for south Louisiana without any of the weird NOLA touches (papah instead of paper, Nawlin's instead of New Or-lens).

In fact growing up in Tennessee, I was questioned and teased about my accent* much more than anything I've encountered in DC.

Today, I had to call volunteers in Southern California about a project that we're working on out there. I expected to get a lot of voicemails and wrong numbers, but I never expected to have problems being understood.

The first few calls went like this:
Me: Hi, this is ______ calling from __________. You recently volunteered for _________.
SoCal Volunteer: What? I can't understand you.
Me: (slower and more enunciated) HI! THIS IS __________, calling from _______. You recently volunteered for ___________.
SoCal Volunteer: I still can't understand you. You're talking too fast.
Me: (supremely slow) HI. THIS. IS. __________, CALLING. FROM. _______. YOU. RECENTLY. VOLUNTEERED. FOR. __________.
SoCal Volunteer: Yeah. I just can't understand you.
Me: CAN. I. E. MAIL. YOU?
SoCal Volunteer: What? Email? Sure.
Me: THANKS. I'LL. E-MAIL. YOU. NOW.

After about five calls, this got old. Either people in California speak at extradordinarily slow speeds, or they're just not used to even a hint of a Southern accent. Frustrated, I went to find my boss and see if I could just e-mail the remainder of the list.

Me: People in California apparently can't understand my accent. Can I e-mail them instead?
Boss: They can't understand your accent? What?
Me: I tried calling about five people, and none of them understood me.
Boss: Really? I'm from California, and I understand you. (starts to laugh.)
Me: Well, none of the people I called today did.
Boss: You're accent's not that bad. (laughing)
Me: Yes, but you've been on the East Coast for several years now. You're used to us.
Boss: True. But that's really funny.

Now, I feel like I should be blasting some Skynerd and waving my Dixie flag around while I chug down some moonshine before hitching a ride home in the General Lee. And people in California are suppose to be more diverse and progressive. Sounds like they need some Southern diversity.

*Despite what Hollywood believes, there are numerous Southern dialects that differ from state to state or even region to region. However, most movies will have either a Mississippi drawl or a Texan slang. Hardly anyone actually speaks that way. I can't stand most movies about the South because of that. Steel Magnolias is like fingernails down a chalkboard. Must be what the Brits felt when Bridget Jones came out. And seriously folks, get over the Deliverance crap. We have shoes and we're educated.

Maybe it was a bad phone connection or a bad phone. Sometimes voices sound distorted.

This happened on five different conversations. As far as I know my phone works fine. I use it enough.

This was SoCal you called? You probably encountered folks who thought you were Asian or Hispanic and automatically dismissed you as incomprehensible and thought you were a telemarketer or something.

People from California generally are pretty enlightened, especially the further north you go. Anything below Santa Barbara, though, and they're in their own little world down there.

A former Northern Californian...

Hi Girl from the South. Thank you for illuminating the fact that there are regional differences in southern accent. Just as you can tell whether a person is from New York or Boston (and if you listen you can tell the borough and area of Beantown), every Southern spot developed it's own way of pronouncing ya'll. Steel Magnolia's also bothers me.

That said, I've never had a hard time understanding any of the southern-ness. I was, however, totally unable to understand people in Boston when I first arrived there.

That's really funny about the Boston accent because a true New Orleans accent is very similar to an upper East Coast/Bostonian one with Southern words thrown in. MacGuyver Dad was once mistaken for being a blue-blood Bostonian when he had never been out of the state of Louisiana.

Hey, you're from Chattanooga? So am I!!

Also, my friend from high school once went to violin camp in Cleveland, OH. Convinced like half of the people there that she had to buy a pair of shoes just for the camp. Which is weird, since it was a classical music camp. Did they really think classical music people in the south don't wear shoes?

Wow, someone else from Chattanooga in DC. Very cool. To ask the stereotypical Chattanooga question, what high school did you go to?

I actually live in Cleveland, so I went to Cleveland High. I was in the Chattanooga Girls Choir, though, so I knew lots of girls from GPS, and a few from Baylor.

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About me

  • girl from the south
  • Washington D.C./Chattanooga, United States
  • Twentysomething Southerner from Tennessee with Cajun roots. As a graduate student in communications, I'm learning to depend on God while navigating through life in our nation's capital.
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