How we say it, and what we sound like while we’re saying it.
We’re not so much talking about diction or erudition here; we’re talking about the regional accent of the speaker.
According to a survey by one of those online dating websites, it’s the Southern accent that is considered most attractive in North America.
“Attractive,” as in useful for someone trying to get a date or start a relationship.
The heading on the item refers to “Kentucky’s Southern accent” and the item concludes with the statement, “The Southern accent, as spoken by the good people of The Bluegrass State, was voted in first place as the most attractive of all!”
Excuse us for being just a bit skeptical. Anyone who has been in any kind of contact with people from more than one part of the South knows, or should know, that there is no singular “Southern” accent, not even within the individual Southern states, including Kentucky.
There are the exaggerated drawls of the Deep South states (see Clower, Jerry), the distinctive pronunciations of natives of Charleston, S.C., and the Virginia Tidewater region (Hollings, Fritz), the Gulf Southern (Presley, Elvis) and many other variations, and then there is Texas, which is linguistically and in many other ways a unique subject.
What we speak here in far western Kentucky is generally classified as the South Midland accent, but in many cases it is blended with the Gulf Southern – as well as with less-Southern-sounding Midwestern accents from across the rivers in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
And of course, in the urban centers of Kentucky and in some other states as well, there seems to have been a conscious, purposeful movement to eliminate traces of regional accent from speech, as if it were a blemish to be gotten rid of.
Indeed, the dating website’s survey notwithstanding, it’s no wonder many people may see the Southern accent as a blemish. A good many speakers who are not “afflicted” take quite the condescending attitude.
“I used to say that whenever people heard my Southern accent, they always wanted to deduct 100 IQ points,” said comedian Jeff Foxworthy of Georgia, who has used humorous self-deprecation to turn all things classified as “Southern” and “redneck” into widespread stardom and considerable wealth, in effect getting quite the last laugh on the pompous who may have declared him dumb just because of the sound of his voice.
There is, of course, the correlation between Southern hospitality and good manners in general that gives the generic accent a positive spin, and there is also the “pilot speak” that became common as commercial air travel grew in the 1950s. The calm, low-key information or reassurance jetliner pilots are known for is often delivered with a hint of a Southern accent, this owing to the famous test pilot Chuck Yeager of West Virginia.
We suspect the website’s “survey” was nothing more than a ploy to generate traffic and business, and that’s OK.
We hope that Marshall County’s natives and transplants alike are not so self-conscious about how they sound that they lose sight of the importance of what we have to say to each other.
We’re fixin’ to wind this up, now, and we sincerely hope y’all enjoyed readin’ it. And if it may have flung a cravin’ on you for some courtin’, why, give us a call at BR-549, honey! n