LINGUIST List 5.437

Mon 18 Apr 1994

Disc: Accents

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Raymond Lang, misinterpreted southern accents
  2. Michael Picone, Re: 5.422 Accents
  3. Dorine, Re: 5.422 Accents
  4. Shana Walton, Cokie Roberts and accents
  5. Angus Grieve-Smith, Re: 5.422 Accents

Message 1: misinterpreted southern accents

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 94 08:55:03 CDmisinterpreted southern accents
From: Raymond Lang <>
Subject: misinterpreted southern accents

>You're right to note that the national media often misrepresent and/or
>misinterpret southern speech.
>Second, unless I am misinformed, Cokie Roberts is the daughter of the
>former congresspersons Hale Boggs and (Cindy?) Boggs of Louisiana.
Lindy Boggs was first elected in the 60s to fill the vacancy created
when her husband Hale died in a plane crash. She was repeatedly
re-elected to the House until she retired almost 4 years ago. I
believe Lindy was the only white congressperson ever elected (or
re-elected) by a black majority district.

With respect to misinterpreted accents, I have yet to see a movie
which takes place in New Orleans where the filmmakers even come close
to getting the accent right. As a native, it's terribly distracting
to be watching, say, JFK, and hear Jim Garrison speaking with a
southern drawl. French accents are still heard in rural areas to the
south and west of the city, and southern accents are common to the
north and east (as a rule of thumb); but the city proper has its own
accent which is neither French nor southern. An authentic New Orleans
accent is closer to Brooklynese than to any variety of southern

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 5.422 Accents

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 94 09:41:51 CDRe: 5.422 Accents
From: Michael Picone <MPICONEUA1VM.UA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.422 Accents

Leo Connolly wrote:

> ... Memphis is grateful
>for Mississippi and Arkansas because these states give us something to
>look down at.

> ... unless I am misinformed, Cokie Roberts is the daughter of the
>former congresspersons Hale Boggs and (Cindy?) Boggs of Louisiana. If
>she says someone's Mississippi drawl is unintelligible, I guess she
>ought to know -- and she's certainly entitled to say so.

Sounds a lot like Cokie Roberts is doing just what they do in Memphis,
looking down on other Southerners as a way of overcompensating. It
doesn't change the fact that the media generally portrays the South
unfavorably and often put language habits in a bad light to do so.

Mike Picone
University of Alabama
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Re: 5.422 Accents

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 94 11:27:38 EDRe: 5.422 Accents
From: Dorine <V2188GVM.TEMPLE.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.422 Accents

As a speaker of Fluffyan (Philadelphia RP), I've always understood "bubba" to
mean "Jewish Grandmother, most likely immigrated from E. Eur. rather than born
here, and always the greatest of cooks" so spent the whole election year with a
 completely different take on the "bubba vote,"--one that made national news
commentary seem a bit odd. But hey, you just never know about those media
types ;-)! So Fran Karttunen now indicates that a "bubba" is male, southern,
and probably poorly educated. How many other ways is the word "bubba" used in
the US? Cheers, Dorine Houston v2188gtemplevm
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Cokie Roberts and accents

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 1994 10:48:22 Cokie Roberts and accents
From: Shana Walton <>
Subject: Cokie Roberts and accents

I just have to jump in here and say that Cokie Roberts is the daughter of
Congresswoman Lindy Boggs and the late Hale Boggs. My understanding is
that she was raised in New Orleans and in DC, but her grandparents are
old-line Louisiana wealth and had a plantation in one of the river
parishes. All this to say, people in New Orleans DO NOT have what most
linguists think of as traditional Southern accents. In fact, many
Southerners do not consider New Orleans a "Southern" town, whatever that
means (as compared to, say, Jackson, Miss., Baton Rouge, La.) So, I would
not consider her necessarily any more competent to as a lay judge of
accents because of being from New Orleans. However, I don't know how much
time she spent at her grandparents. And while Ms. Roberts has almost no
trace of the South in her speech (a bit of New Orleans, sometimes), you
can still hear the river in Ms. Boggs' accent.

I agree that it seems that in this PC world "rednecks" are about the last
group educated people feel comfortable making fun of. I find the "bubba
vote" particularly offensive. And I'm tired of people saying, "Thank god
for Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, they make us look good."
There's a lot of prejuidice out there against Southerners, and it's real.
(Although I understand from a friend who works in DC that you're more
likely to get hired as a secretary/receptionist on the Hill if you're a woman
who speaks with a certain type of Southern accent, the gentile variety.
Apparently some people find it pleasing and nonthreatening.)

As for Southerners disliking movie and tv accents, I think there's
actually a love-hate relationship going on. Judie Maxwell and I ran a
pilot study to examine Southerners "putting on" Southern accents and then
talking about what their accents mean to them. We found people --
especially those who interacted with people from a variety of
backgrounds--often learned to use their accents, to exaggerate them, to
deliver all kinds of subtle messages, to assert their "quasi-ethnic"
identity, to "put one over" on outsiders. I'm not suggesting that this is
unique to Southerners. It's probably true of anyone with a stigmatized
speech dialect. We just happened to study Southerners. If anybody wants
more information about the results or what we did, email me.

Shana Walton
Mississippi Oral History Program
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 5: Re: 5.422 Accents

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 1994 13:08:35 Re: 5.422 Accents
From: Angus Grieve-Smith <>
Subject: Re: 5.422 Accents

 Bill King asks whether native New Yorkers can fairly make fun
of people from Brooklyn. That depends on what part of New York. As a
middle-class white native of Manhattan, I speak with hardly any trace
of distinctive New York pronunciation (except [ar^ndZ] and [far^st]
for "orange" and "forest"). Although I've heard people in my
situation make comments about people from Brooklyn and western Long
Island, I'd hardly consider it fair (with the same intent as
previously discussed).

 As for speakers of different, but similarly stigmatized,
varieties like those currently spoken in Queens, William Labov, in his
dissertation, describes situations where speakers with heavy New York
accents would make fun of TV personalities for the same features that
they themselves had in abundance. He also relates with regret how
shocked and unhappy they were when he pointed this out to them.

 -Angus B. Grieve-Smith
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue