Saturday, October 15, 2011

Accent sleuthing

The other night, I was watching a re-run of the best thing that was ever on TV: Law and Order. I mean the original Law and Order. The one that was on for 20 years.

And I was listening to Lieutenant Van Buren, one of my favorite characters, delivering a rather annoyed volley of irritated criticism at her detectives.

She's tough, she's sharp, she's New Yorky. Well, New Yorky except for one thing. I suddenly recognized, beyond any reasonable doubt, that she and I share something: a Michigan accent.

I was convinced of it. That flat "a" was suddenly unmistakable to me. "What is the prablem, detective?" "He's a cap-killer!"
People from Michigan famously say, "We have no accent." I don't understand that statement at all. Everyone has an accent of some kind. How can we not? Each place and population is different, and the people of that place and population sound different from those elsewhere - it's as simple as that. And in Michigan, we have an accent that's flat and nasal. "Top" sounds like "tap." "Dawn" sounds like "Dan." Come on, fellow Michiganians - there's no shame in this! I'm always amazed at how annoyed and defensive people get about this stuff. We're nasal! So what? That's not an insult. It's just a regional vocal tendency, for heaven's sake. And I am a student of accents. They interest me. And I have one. A Michigan one!

So - I looked up my girl S. Epatha. It's true. She's from Saginaw.

Oh, my Gad!


I love being right.