by Mike McHugh
“What?” I tell them. “I don’t have an accent. You’re the one with the accent!”
No living person believes that he, himself, speaks with an accent. Rather, it’s those who don’t speak like him that have the accents. Driving a car is the sane way. It’s everybody else on the road who’s an idiot.
Deep down, I realize that I do indeed have an accent. I just don’t admit it publicly. It’s probably because mine is perhaps the strangest among English-speaking people. It’s a Baltimore accent, and it doesn’t have any rules.
Most English accents conform to certain conventions, making it easy to understand what someone is saying once you know the rules. For instance, here in the South, it’s commn to not pronounce the “g” at the end of a word, as in “fixin’ to.” Also, “ee’s” are often pronounced as “ay’s.” Knowing this, I realize that a “bay-gle” is a huntin’ dog and not a breakfast food.
When you try to listen to somebody from Baltimore, however, it’s almost impossible to understand what he is saying. That’s because you never know what letters we will leave silent and which we will mis-pronounce. It’s completely random. Sometimes we even leave out whole bunches of letters, as if we’re too lazy to say the entire word. Thus, we refer to our city and state as “Bawl’mer, Mur’lin.”
About the only thing that we say with any amount of consistency is to end every other sentence with “hon’,” as in, “G’me your wallet or I’ll slit your throat, hon.”
This is why no one from Baltimore has ever been elected president. Sure, other people with accents have become president, but their accents were easy to interpret. For example, when John F. Kennedy said, “we will beah any buhden,” we all understood him. But if the president were from Baltimore, the same thing might have come out sounding like “we will bare any bun,” and the world would have thought that America’s defense strategy was to moon our enemies into submission.
Having these different accents all over the country creates a problem for people like me who have moved around a bit. That’s because, when you live somewhere for a while, you tend to pick up a bit of the local accent and blend it with your original one. In my case, that means that I not only omit letters as per my Baltimore accent, but I also leave out the ones that Southerners do. Now, when I talk, I keep so many letters silent that I leave out entire words. I can give a fifteen minute speech in about thirty seconds. People tell me that I should be a preacher.
What this means, of course, is that I talk in a manner that is totally different than anyone else who uses the English language. And so, whether you are from New Orleans, New Jersey, or New Delhi, in my mind, it’s you that has an accent.
And if you don’t like that, don’t even ask my opinion about how you drive.© 2014 by Mike McHugh