Do You Have An Accent

Yes, it is another recycled post.

So here is the question of the moment, Do You Have An Accent? Not clear on what the meaning is, take a look at this link.

The latter part of the definition is really what we are talking about.
The word accent in English is also understood to mean the pronunciation and speech patterns that are typical of a speech community;
As a child I never realized that all people have accents, or should I say that it never occurred to me that people would think that my own speech has an accent. I grew up on the West Coast, Los Angeles born and bred. We didn't sound like people from Long Island, Brooklyn, Nashville or Alpharetta.

And we certainly didn't sound like we had rolled out of Tel Aviv, JoBurg, Sydney or Mexico City. To be clear, I have always enjoyed accents. It tickled me pink to hear people speak English yet sound so different. In fact, there was a point in time in which I was disappointed that I couldn't speak with an English accent, but that was short lived.

It was during that famous summer of 1985 trip to Israel that I learned that people thought that I had an accent. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I do remember some Israeli boy telling me that I speak Hebrew with a thick American accent.

Whoa. What do you mean that I have an accent.

One of the other people with me confirmed it. He was a Jewish kid from Buenos Aires. He said that I sounded like an American.

I was truly dumbfounded by this because until that point, I had never thought of myself as having an accent, that was something that other people had. But I had to admit that it made sense, it hadn't ever come up before.

In the years that have passed I have been told by others that I have an accent and I am sure that many of my international readers would agree with this. Upon occasion people tell me that they can hear some East Coast influence, or that pronounce some things like a Chicagoan.

I laugh when people think that I am from New York. IMO, my voice doesn't sound like that at all. If I am around people with a thick Southern accent it is not unusual for me to start to affect a drawl. I have been asked if I am from Texas.

As for Chicago, well half my family is from there, including my mother so there is probably some truth to that.

One of the funnier occasions came during a wedding I once attended. The bride was Irish and quite a large number of the guests had come to the states to help her celebrate her nupitals. During the reception I walked over to the bar and placed an order for a drink.

The bartender smiled and began preparing it. While he was doing so he looked at me and said:

"I have Irish relatives. What part of Ireland are you from?"

I laughed and said "Hollywood."

The bartender scratched his head and said "Wow, you know that we have a city called Hollywood too."

Now I'd like to say that it was an easy mistake to make. I'd like to say that he was competing with the band and that some trombonist was especially loud, but that wouldn't be true. The band was on a break. It was relatively quiet so I said,

"Begorra, this ale do taste mighty fine."

It probably sounded more like pirate than Irish, but it fit my mood and was lot kinder than asking him if I looked like Lucky the Leprechaun from the Lucky Charms cereal box.

And while we are on the topic of accents let me share something else. Someone once told me that Australian women loved to hear American men speak. The legend said that if you found a nice Australian girl your voice would give you an edge. As a scientist I have always been disappointed that I couldn't test that theory. In the interest of discovery and human development I would have enjoyed running a lab on that.


Let's go back to the topic of the post. Do You Have an Accent?

Well, do you? And if so, how would you describe it?


Miss Worldwide said...

I used to have an Irish boyfriend, and after a while, I ended up speaking like him, with an Irish accent, although I had never been there. Irish people would ask me what part of Ireland I was from!

When I speak french, I have a unidentified foreign accent, when I speak English in the UK I have an American accent, when I speak English in the US I have a British accent, and when I speak Hebrew, I have a French accent.

Michael said...

I recently had my Hebrew pronunciation corrected at the grocery store, and when I asked the cashier if my accent was that bad, she just said, "Yes."

Gotta love that Israeli brusqueness.

I don't have any accent in Baltimore, though...

Anonymous said...

No accent here y'all! heh Seriously, I live in Tennessee, but I do not have a Southern accent. I lived the first 10 years of my life in Cleveland Ohio. I don't have a Yankee accent either. I'm sort of generic.

RaggedyMom said...

It takes people about 8 seconds to determine that I grew up in New York. Although I am able to vary the extent of it sometimes.

RaggedyDad knows a few languages and gets told that he has an accent in each of them, leaving him feeling like he has no true mother tongue.

Some of the thoughts you brought up were the same ones I had back in the beginning of my linguistics major.

Anonymous said...

I was brought up in New Jersey but have lived in Canada for the last 35 years. Usually, people here do not pick up any accent except for a few words that I just can not escape like Coffee (Kawfee), orange (Oarange) and dollar (dalla).

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

Apparently, I do:

Jack Steiner said...


Irish? That is interesting. I don't think that I would have pegged you with that.


That is kind of funny.


Poor lady- I hope that the burning river didn't hurt your lungs.


I find it all pretty interesting.


Some things never go away.


A Southern Belle. I wouldn't have guessed.

Deadman said...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

I don't think so.

Not even close.

I think the deciding factor for this result is the way I pronounce "horrible" which is the way my father pronounces it. He's from New York.

Another meshugannah mommy said...

I have a pretty think Chicago accent, myself. My Hebrew is pretty awful, so imagine there's a heavy American accent there, too! I wonder if there are regional variations to american-acented Hebrew?

Miss Worldwide said...

today I met an english guy who lives in the US, but when he speaks hebrew, he has a french accent! Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Texas, and though in normal speech, I do not have a Texas accent (I spent almost a decade in Ohio, and a couple of years abroad, and have been living here in New York for 8 years), I have been known to pick it back up if I go home to visit my mom in Texas, or after speaking to her on the phone, and when I get mad.

torontopearl said...

Born and bred in Toronto, but I've always been asked: "Are you from Montreal?...Are you from New York?...Are you from Boston?...What accent do you have?"

And PsychoToddler, upon meeting me, asked, "Are you sure you're not from the Bronx?"

I just pick up accents from other people, I guess -- moreso, if I'm visiting Nu Yawk!

Jack Steiner said...


Set up an audio post and I'll let you know what I hear. ;)

I wonder if there are regional variations to american-acented Hebrew?

I bet there are.


I suppose that sometimes Mr. Benchley gets to hear the real deal. ;)


I can see that, or should I say that it makes sense to me.

carl r said...

Interesting post, and interesting comments.
I grew up in Michigan, but came from Maryland. People in the Midwest still say I talk funny (and I'll admit, I sometimes think that they do, too), but Marylanders always sound so ... right ... to me.

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