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Tuesday, October 12, 2004


It wasn't until I heard my 3 year old imitate her 4 year old cousin from NY that I realized what a thick accent my relatives have.

She said to me, "If you put the horsie in the tub, it will get roo-end." One week ago, she would have said, "rune'd," the Midwestern way (I just did an informal survey of my office staff, and they all say rune'd). But my mother, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews were over for the Bar Mitzvah and she's had very close exposure to them all.

Of course, my sister pointed out that we Midwesterners insist on calling a broooom a brum. And my mother has no idea what to do when my elder daughter asks for mayonnaise: "Mennaisse? What's mennaisse??"

And after 13 years in Milwaukee, I can't remember if my sister lives in Four-est Hills or Fahr-est Hills. But despite the fact that I went to shull and my brother-in-law went to shoe-ell, we luckily both ended up at the same place.

I myself have been told that I have no perceptible regional accent. I recently called a colleague in Boston who very obviously was from the Bronx. He, on the other hand, could not tell where I came from, even though we both graduated from the same Bronx medical school.

I suspect my lack of accent comes from the fact that I was raised not so much by a mother with a thick Polish accent (I had no idea that she even had one until I moved away from home) and a father with an equally coarse Brooklyn accent, as by TV. I spent so much time in front of the tube as a kid, watching sci-fi shows and sitcoms, that I really think that I learned to speak from listening to all that homogenized TV-land dialect.

I have also had a great knack for mimicry. As a kid, I did spot-on imitations of all my rebbes and teachers. In college, it was kung-foo movies and Monty Python. Now it's Strong Bad and Homestar Runner. Which is why, I think, after a while, I start to sound like the people around me. My kids are the same way.

So I shouldn't be surprised that my daughter is starting to sound like a New Yorker as she takes her bee-ath.


motomama said...

I like to make my Brooklyn born mother say "or" then ask her to say "orange." "Arrrange." :)


Esther Kustanowitz said...

My sister-in-law is from Long Island and keeps her socks in a "draw."

I'm a bit of an accent chameleon myself. One year in camp, my bunkmate was British, and I found myself "fancying" things I thought I "wanted" or "liked."

PsychoToddler said...

You know what goes really well together? Chawk-let and Kaw-fee. I wasn't going to tawk about it, but I what the hey? Fogedaboudit!