Thursday, December 01, 2011

Praying with an accent.

I can't remember where I saw it but someone from the US wrote that he acquired a British accent while living in the UK.  So, I asked in a post, "Is that pretentious or affected?  Is it phony?"  I was being silly however, repeating what I read just for fun and then asking the question - just because it doesn't matter at all, does it.  Like I always say, Madonna and Gwyneth and Wallace Simpson adopted a British-type accent as well...  So, everyone is supposed to laugh now, instead of insisting that Mrs. Simpson really did speak that way.

Anyway - I lived in Europe for a very short time and when I returned, I adopted a sort of accent - a sing-song manner of speaking - sort of like the Missionaries of Charity sound - as if English wasn't their first language.  I used it whenever I spoke about something serious - especially with strangers, or whenever I did the readings at Mass.  It was a way to show everyone how 'continental' and far traveled I had become - and if they were religious, just how contemplative I was.  I met people in Italy like that - and I also knew a rather contemplative priest, and a few nuns who did exactly the same thing.  In my case, it was pretentious and affected, but it wasn't phony.  I only became phony when I started trying to be real.

Anyway - and this is true too - I sometimes pray the rosary with a British accent - only when I'm driving and while praying along with a tape, after many, many decades of course.  I think I sound quite a bit like those who've adopted a British accent.

No, I think it's fine to do that.  After all, we usually speak a bit differently, or use a different tone in our responses at Mass.  Although sometimes I will use a Southern - rather a Hillbilly accent then.  I try not to though - I just usually catch myself doing it.  I think it has to do with my newly discovered ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) - or is it Gilles de la Tourette syndrome?  (I can speak a little French too.)

I'm not sure what this is about.


  1. I wish I had picked up my parent's accent - New Orleans Y'at (my mom has a serious case of it, dawlin'). I only have it in some words.

    When my brother drinks he starts to talk like, as my other brother so aptly put it, "a St. Bernard queer" - St. Bernard is the y'attiest suburb of New Orleans, where we grew up. He starts lisping and dropping his r's and saying "tawking" and all that. I can always tell when he's a had a beer or two too many (which for him is like 2 beers).

  2. Oh, and both my grandfathers had Cajun accents - they both grew up speaking French and had to learn English in school. How cool is that?

  3. I know what you mean. I did that too, after I had been to Europe. I gave it up pretty quickly. I definitely speak differently when I pray or read scripture aloud, but it's not really a different accent--I just sound more like someone who had old-fashioned elocution lessons (and being a singer, I'm very conscious of diction when reading aloud).

    A man of my acquaintance has an affected accent. He says it's because his father was in the army and he lived all over the world as a kid, but I know other army brats who sound perfectly normal and American. He's been doing it at least fifteen years and probably can't revert to whatever his original accent was anymore. It's sad, and a little bit creepy.

  4. And Mercury, the Cajun accents are awesome. I watch "Swamp People" mainly to hear Troy Landry speak (and sing). Absolutely delightful.

    One of my college professors deliberately dropped his South Carolina accent, which is really too bad. He sometimes puts on the accent to recite a South Carolina saying, and I think it's lovely, but he clearly prefers to disown his Southern roots. Probably a result of too much time spent in New York City at an impressionable age.

  5. Jane, I don't want anyone to think my grandfather said "Choot 'em!" :) No, it was a bit more subtle, as they came from closer to New Orleans (which had nothing to do with Cajuns til the tourist industry decided it did in the 1970s and 80s), and they almost never spoke French after they left home. The younger children in their families didn't even learn it - after the War, most of those areas opened up, and Cajun French was relegated to really, really deep pockets in the southwest and south-central parts of the state.

    I wonder if William F. Buckley was for real? What about Mark Steyn, where did he get his accent from? Isn't he Canadian?

    Has anyone ever heard Fr. Longnecker talk? Does he sound like a Brit? He lived there for decades and his wife is British.

  6. A good part of Utah was subject to 100+ mph winds today...I stayed home from work to battle the insanity..power was off for most of the day but came back on about 6 would have been fun to spend the night in the house with no heat...expected to get into the 20's tonight. I DO have a sub-zero sleeping bag...

    If anyone find the shingles off my roof and the cover off my grill (they should be halfway to Kansas about now) give me a call..


  7. Sara, was it a specific storm or just some winds brewing up in the flat lands?

    That's like hurricane winds!

  8. Sara - hope all is well - what's with those winds?

    Merc - I was in the novitiate w/a New orleans brother - in Carmel. he kept a bottle of altar wine under his straw bed. LOL!

  9. I've worked in call centers at several companies, and sometimes noticed that my accent or inflection or even vocabulary (slang) would change, depending on who I was speaking with. I don't think of it as affectation so much as a sort of natural empathy that people fall into--the vocal equivalent of the "mirroring" that happens when (usually unconsciously) people connecting up in a conversation start making the same kinds of gestures.

    It can happen situationally, too. When my niece is ticked off, she speaks with a very clipped, fast-paced "Chicana" patter. Her normal accent is the standard Minnesotan you hear around the Twin Cities. It happens automatically and completely mystifies her.

    I wonder if people who pick up accents easily might also learn foreign languages easily. For myself at least, I know that the tendency makes it easier for me to learn--and pronounce--names from other cultures.

  10. Here is news report of our windstorm, with lots of photos and videos...

    Thanks to everyone for their prayers....even with all the damage there seems to be no casualities and a few minor injuries...thanks be to God.

    One of the videos shows the wind at Weber State University....I live only a few miles from there...

    Went out to feed my horse tonight and the big damage was fallen trees and vinyl fences ripped apart. There were two semis tipped over just down the street from me.

    The wind ws a wierd easterly wind that plowed over the mountains and slammed into the valley..

    Now I get to go to work tomorrow and see what the mess is like there...

    And we are supposed to get more rain/snow this weekiend...highs in30's lows in teens..

    Thanks again everyone for their prayers..


  11. Also, Terry: A British accent while driving alone with the rosary recording . . . do the voices on the tape have a British accent? No matter. I think it's lovely, and it's just you, Our Lady, and God, right? It sounds like a charism to me, every bit as much as speaking in tongues, so long as it helps you pray. Someday there will be no Babel, praise God!

  12. When I spent some time in Mississippi while in the Air Force I started picking up the Southern accent..although for the most part it is gone if I'm around Southerners for any amount of time it comes right back, especially the mannerisms..

    You guys know that us wimmenfolks just MELT at Southern and Aussie accents...don't know why but we just do... :)


  13. Sara: LOL :D
    Glad you and yours (including your horse) is okay. Do you know if the truckers are okay? My brother used to drive long haul. And the thing with semi accidents? These guys aren't generally anywhere close to home. I'll be praying for you and everyone in the area.

  14. Which “British” accent? There are so many. :)

  15. I pray the rosary in Latin and sometimes I find myself trying to imitate Fr. Z's enunciation and voice. Weird, I know lol

  16. Good point, pilgrim. So Terry, do you pray the rosary like a Cockney, like a Midlands redneck, or like one of the Beatles?

  17. It's not an affectation. Most humans after two weeks simply fall in line with the dominant speech pattern.

  18. ...or with an Irish accent, Welsh accent, Scottish accent or with an accent of any other citizen of the British Commonwealth.

    I’ve never come across the term …“Midlands redneck” before.

  19. I should have mentioned that Archbishop Vincent Nichols speaks with a Liverpool accent (Merseyside).
    A good friend of his (a priest who grew up with him as a youngster) told me that Vincent will make Pope one day.

    And he’s younger than any of the Beatles.

    Did you know that John Lennon dies on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, eleven years ago this month?

    Paul McCartney’s “Let it Be” song is not about the Blessed Virgin, but his own mother, also named Mary. I hear that he is soon to embrace the Jewish faith.

  20. Hyacinth Bucket's accent - but don't tell anyone.

  21. Ronnie said: "I don't think of it as affectation so much as a sort of natural empathy that people fall into--the vocal equivalent of the "mirroring" that happens when (usually unconsciously) people connecting up in a conversation start making the same kinds of gestures."

    Yes. That's it, I think.

    And what Dymphna said.

  22. Anonymous10:48 AM

    William F. Buckley grew up speaking Spanish as his first language. It was a perfect, Castillian Spanish with the best pronunciation; I heard him in an airport once, speaking with his wife. His older brothers and sisters spoke only French; must've been interesting dinner table convos. (The older of the ten kids had a French nanny and the younger, Spanish.)

    He also was raised in New England (north CT) at a time when there was a strange New England accent that you can hear in some actresses in the '30s and 40's; think of Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden. Not a trace of Brooklynese in her voice (and no surprise; growing up, she was a neighbor of the Buckley family).

    The Buckleys also wintered in South Carolina, and with a house full of southern help, something must have rubbed off. Add to that his being sent to a Jesuit boarding school in England while he was still young and there you have it.

    And he prayed the rosary in Latin.

  23. Hyacinth’s accent... posh scouse.

  24. Wow Anon, that's pretty cool.

    I never detected anything weird in Alice Kramden's (Audrey Meadows) accent, though maybe it's because I've never heard her speak out of character.

    Which, by the way, that character is still one of the greatest in TV history.

  25. pilgrim - "Midlands redneck" is a term I made up. Maybe it was inspired by Ray Davies "Muswell Hillbilly"?

    Seriously, isn't that traditionally a really rural area? I know I can detect a big difference in the accent of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin to other British singers.

  26. Mercury... Plant was born some 10 minutes from where I live, but even over that short distance his accent would be different to mine.

    Muswell, that’s in North London.

    Ossie Osbourne – a “brummie” has a “midlands” accent, much broader than Steve Winwood, another “brummie”.

    The original members of Duran Duran are all “brummies”

    So were the Moody Blues (Knights in White Satin).

    Roy Wood, Bev Bevan and Jeff Lynne are others (ELO). Lynne later with Travelling Wilbury’s.

    Joan Armatrading is an adopted “brummie”.

    Reggae band UB40 are all “brummies”

    Paul SImon is an adopted brummie having attended one of the local universities in his time! :)

    The list is long...

    The West Midlands was probably the most industrialised region in Britain at one time. The main city, Birmingham, was known as the city of 1,000 trades.

    Most of the heavy industry has disappeared.

  27. Anonymous7:30 PM

    Thanks for the funny post Terry--it gave me a big giggle! When we were in India, my daughter and I learned how to put on an affected Indian accent just so people could understand us!

    Mercury--where y'at dawlin'!! I am also from New Orleans--born and raised on the 'best bank'. My N.O. accent comes out when I'm talking about New Orleans, or if I'm on the phone to my family who are still down there. Otherwise, people tell me I have a "neutral" accent. BTW, both my parents were Cajuns--French being their first language! My eldest brother still lives in the country (Thibodaux area), and is also married to a cajun lady who speaks French and she and he and all their children and grand children have VERY distinct Cajun accents. Our parents did not teach us kids French, though I wish they had.

    I once used my New Olreans accent to talk to my daughter in a shop in India, and the shop keeper kept asking what language I was speaking! After being unable to convince him it was English, I finally said, "French". He then said, "I thought so."

    Jane--I love Troy on Swamp People, too. He and his people are the only true Cajuns out of the whole bunch on the show. As far as Troy's "choot him, choot him"--I can pretty much guarantee you that he was born with a hearing defect, as a couple of my nephews were. They speak in the same distorted way that ol' Troy speaks. It's deafness + Cajun accent = Troy Landry's accent :)

  28. Georgette - I grew up in da Parish, in Arabi. That's where my mom is from, but my dad is from a few different places on the West Bank. My grandmother lives in Harvey now.

    We moved out when I was in 8th grade, to the Northshore. I graduated from St. Paul's High School in Covington (2000), though I started at Jesuit in New Orleans. I live in Baton Rouge now - I teach at LSU.

    My best friend growing up married a girl from Vacherie - a town that makes Donaldsonville look like the "big city". I met her family when their baby was baptized - real Cajuns with that accent too. Her dad was talking about drinking a beer on the way home from work every day.

    I love trying to explain to people the difference between New Orleans and Cajun - very distinct, nothing like the movies.

    pilgrim - that's so cool. I think it's awesome how England has so much more variety than all of North America in terms of dialects, and it's usually more than just an accent. I guess that's what happens when you've got a bunch of little medieval towns and rural villages left on their own for centuries. I hear some of it is even due to different varieties of Old English way back when (modern standard English, both UK and US, ultimately derives from Middle English as spoken in London, more or less).

    Germany is very much like that as well. I lived in Karlsruhe, but travelled to the Swabian part of the Black Forest a lot. Totally different speech. I still speak German with a Swabian accent. I also went to the famous Oberammergau Passion Play in Upper Bavaria - it was really funny watching the Gospel unfold in that dialect. "Petrrrus, du wirrrst mich drrreimal betrrrügen."

  29. Anonymous12:22 AM

    Mercury--small world, cher! My Mama n 'em were from Vacherie --not far from Oak Alley-- and I got my Bachelor's of Architecture from LSU--back when you were in diapers (class of '84). One of my brothers and his wife moved to Covington after the hurricane, where their daughter and her hubby and babies are, too.

    And yeah, movies and TV get the Cajun and New Orleans accents SOooooooooooooo wrong. I always cringe.

  30. My favorite was the X-Men comic book character Gambit, and obnoxious Cajun who was raised by a "thieves' guild" and "grew up on the cold dark streets of New Orleans" ... needless to say, the creator was a Brit who had never been to the area.

    Stereotypes, I don't mind, but the WRONG stereotypes drive me crazy.

  31. Anonymous9:18 AM

    Cold streets of New Orleans!? Obviously that dude's never been to N.O. during the hot, humid, balmy season--which is pretty much 98% of the year! Tooooo funny.

  32. "Missionaries of Charity sound..." Is that like Raj on "The Big Bang Theory"? My supervisor at work is from India and sounds like that. It's like Ronnie said, we sort of unconsciously mirror what we hear; so I have to watch myself not to do that when I am around him; because it would be SO not believable from me, since I've never set foot out of the USA.


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