Howdy, ya’ll

I am a person who likes other people to be comfortable. I dislike tension of any kind. I want everyone to be cheery and happy and glad to be around me. This means I often disguise my true feelings and take them out on my wonderful and long-suffering husband, but that’s a story for another day. 

Today’s story is about how my desperate need for others to feel “at home” around me leads me to do some pretty insane things sometimes. Perhaps the most insane thing I do on a fairly regular basis is adopt the speech mannerisms and accents of my fellow conversant. For example: if you and I are in a conversation and you have a
Georgia accent, I will soon begin softening my “r” sounds. If you are from
Boston, I might eliminate the “r” altogether and throw the word “wicked” around a lot more than I do in normal speech.

This all started when I began my slow migration southward from my hometown in suburban
Chicago. My speech was nasal-y and very, very fast. By the time I ended up in southern Indiana (right on the Ohio River, any further and it would have been Kentucky), people looked at me strangely and repeatedly asked me to slow down. I began to adopt the speech patterns of the people around me. I talked slower. I even said (and still say) ya’ll.

I found the technique to be very effective, especially in my job as a newspaper reporter. People like people who are like them, they talk more, they open up, they share to someone they see as “their own.” They don’t talk to 22-year-old Chicagoans who can’t even slow down enough to engage in small talk before asking the spelling of their last name. 

When I saw how this made people like me, I started doing it all the time – more often after a few drinks. It all culminated in an embarrassing episode on a bus in
St. Lucia in September 2002. After a long night of drinking, Hubby and I found ourselves seated next to a couple from
Britain. You can guess what came next. I can’t really remember much, except it did involve Hubby giving me the death eye.

Last week, I was talking with the president of

University, who has the most charming accent I’ve ever heard. I enjoyed our conversation very much, even though I was digging my fingernails into the fleshy part of my hand as a friendly reminder to not be an idiot, you are at work and adopting his accent in this situation WOULD BE STUPID. 

I know lots of people have little foibles like this. Help me feel like I’m not such a freak!

PS Angel Face is totally fine – she had a little bug, but by the time we got to the doctor she was running around like a crazy kid and happily pointed out the doctor’s eyes, nose, mouth, hair, ear, teeth and toes. And pointed at Mommy’s chest and said “don’t touch.”

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11 Responses to Howdy, ya’ll

  1. Sarah says:

    You might do this too, or I might just make your day by pointing out that there is someone out there who is far more retarded than yourself.. not only do I adopt the accent (I’m an actress; it’s a habit), but I will also adopt speech patterns. That includes lisps, stutters, and other speech impediments. And I don’t realize it. Because I’m an awful human beings.

  2. Sarah says:

    Beings?! Really, Sarah?!

    Apparently, I’m also plural.

  3. Swistle says:

    I saw a TV show a long, long time ago that said that behaviors like this are “highly adaptive”–that is, they’re a good thing. That was a relief to me.

  4. Erin says:

    I totally do the same thing. I have to be very careful about it when I go on home visits to meet my kids families. I don’t want to be rude!

  5. Christina says:

    Haha! I understand the Y’all- I dont use it in speach but I write it a bit after living in the south for a few years.
    This post reminds me of the episode of Friends where Ross starts a new job and out of nervousness adapts a truly terrilbe british accent. Hilarious.
    Glad your sweetie is well! LOL at “dont touch”

  6. rimarama says:

    Hey there,

    I found your blog through the Secret Awesome Group of Amazing Blogging Power, which I think I’ll just call SAGABP from here on out. And I like it a lot. Keep it iup!

  7. luvmogo says:

    I totally do this. If I hang out with folks who are southern I acquire their drawl and I grew up in California… no excuse for me. I have also been known to do the accents in my head when I am reading a book that takes place where a heavy accent is used. I was thinking in a British accent for a week after I read Harry Potter. I am just kind of weird like that. 🙂

  8. Sarah says:

    Don’t touch! Hahahaha!

  9. noodle says:

    I do pick up accents or speech mannerisms of people around me, but here’s something even more embarassing… You see, sometimes my friends and I slip into a really bad, really fake “German Girl” accent. I’m not even sure why we started it, but it’s just something we do now. And on occasion, I have been known to bust out my German Girl accent around, you know, normal people without even thinking about it. They must think I’ve lost my mind.

  10. Skiplovey says:

    Oh man I totally used to do that. My best friend was from the south and after years of hanging out with her, new people I’d meet would ask me where in the south I was from.
    Embarrasingly I’d have to tell them way down south in California.
    But yeah, people do warm up to you that way for sure.

  11. Haha, I totally do this too! I thought I was the only one. Also, normally, I never cuss but if I am around someone who does I start to swear like a sailor! lol Oh so classy, no? I once was a telephone bill collector (I know, you can totally hate me now) and it was depressing and boring so this guy and I would adopt different accents when we’d call people. It was fun until people started to call back and say they wanted to talk to the chick with the Irish accent, lol. Now I save it for ordering in the drive through. It drives my kids nuts but makes them laugh.

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