My mother is a speech pathologist, which is why I don’t have the sexy Lawn Gisland accent that was my birthright. If you’ve ever seen me on T.V., you know that I have a fairly vanilla Northeastern United States accent. I don’t think of my accent as particularly regionalized. I don’t sound like I’m from “Brooklyn” or “Jersey,” and I certainly don’t sound like one of those unintelligible souls who was tragically bitten by the letter “R” while growing up in Greater Boston.
You don’t really think of your accent as regionalized until you get out of your region (which I try never to do because, Jesus, I’m not the freaking Curiosity rover). Or until you look at the linguistic maps that are sweeping the nation. The maps showing how people talk differently. Different places have some words I didn’t even know existed, and I use words professionally for a living.
They also have funny pronunciations of words. Apparently, all of us say “lawyer” the same way, except for you weird Southerners who don’t…
Honestly, if you haven’t seen the Business Insider slideshow based on Joshua Katz’s visualizations of Professor Bert Vaux and Scott Golder’s linguistic survey, you must. Your friends have been sharing it on their Facebook walls for a week. We’re talking about it on Above the Law. It’s a Friday afternoon in the summer. Put down your derivatives agreement and just click on it.
The most fascinating thing to me is that apparently most of this country thinks that “merry,” “Mary,” and “marry” all sound the same. What the hell is wrong with you? Merry is a Hobbit. Mary is a virgin. Marry is what happens when you stop being a virgin who knows the names of all the Hobbits.
I was less surprised by the lawyer map. I already knew that most people think a lawyer looks and sounds like Sam Waterston but some people think a lawyer looks and sounds like Matthew McConaughey:
What’s weird is that the “law-yer” people intensifies not just as you get more South, it intensifies as you get into the South and then further away from the water. What’s up with that? Sure, I get South Florida… South Florida is Brooklyn 25 years ago. But why is North Carolina split in half, east-west?
In any event, I’m staying in New York City. Apparently, it’s the only place where people will understand me.