Monday, January 17, 2005

Let the Words of My Mouth...

I've a colleague who is from an interesting part of the East Coast. Her speech accent is quite pronounced and unusual. I love to hear her speak as I am familiar with her region and it pleases me that her accent remains after many years down here.

Several years ago, I heard a parishioner comment on the accent and say, "I can't listen to her. I don't know what she's saying." This comment was delivered in such down South accent that I could understand her only by how many years I've been down heah.

I love regional speech. I love Southern vernacular. I love the range and force, inflection and left out letters and all the gumbo of how we talk down heah. Or up there, or anywhere.

I love British accents but wish I could tell the difference as Brits do between the uppahs and the lowahs. The only regional accents which irritate me are the high-pitched Southern male tones. We have several public radio commentators whose voices drive me nutzoid. Other than those poor men whose voices make them sound as if they've been raised by crazed soprano singing women, I like regional speech. I know of no Southern women who speak as these men do.

As a preacher, my speech habits matter. I must speak clearly and be understood. I must use language which my hearers understand. When I began preaching I was careful to explain any technical terms such as "pericope, exegesis, "J" source, theonomy, etc. Now, I don't use those words but explain my terms. I'm not giving a technical lecture, I'm preaching.

The difficulty for me is that I am mimic. I can hear and mimic most anything. I love playing with words and have been fascinated with mis-pronunciations since I first heard a kid in fourth grade say "sword" by pronouncing each letter. Then, our father was a reader but not a pronouncer. He peppered his speech with words our mother corrected quickly for pronunciation. In his later years, he began to do malaprops which I still remember with great fondness. But! I must never mimic him! I must never mimic the grammar of my area which at it's worst is almost a new language. I must never use the slang speech of my children! I must not! (I read that kids hate it when an adult uses "their" speech, but it's a temptation for me because it's so amazing how malleable language is.) I must speak carefully and clearly.

I caint. Yep. I say "caint" for "can't." I didn't realize this until my LLS pointed it out to me several years ago.
I caint catch myself always. I'm working on it.

What's going on with you?

1 comment:

the reverend mommy said...

I was thinking about accents just yesterday -- esp. when I was reading in Matthew the scene where Peter denies Jesus. What stuck out (or I noticed for the first time) is that Peter's accent gave him away. How can we deny the Christ when even our patterns of speech give us away?