by Phil Stott Is it superficial to want to move because I don't like the accent where I live now? Or, more specifically, because I don't want my children to grow up with Long Island accents? Up until recently, this question isn't one I'd entertained in any meaningful way. My wife and I have had conversations where she's confessed that she'd like to raise our kids in Scotland (my home country), so they'll grow up with "cute" accents. That argument's never had a lot of sway with me, though; the thing about accents is that their beauty (or cuteness) is entirely in the ear of the beholder. When you've heard as many Scottish tongues as I have (and the insane amount of variation on the accent-it literally changes every 30 miles as you go around the country), the "cuteness" of it soon wears off. Plus, if you then live anywhere else, you have to have "the conversation" at least once a week with a complete stranger who's taken aback by your accent-and who usually starts said conversation by asking if you're from Ireland or Australia. Another reason that I haven't thought much of the question, I suppose, is that Maeve has only recently begun stringing basic sentences together, and she's always just sounded more or less like a baby to me, with no discernible accent. Along with that, I'd always sort of assumed that she'd adopt a sort of amalgam of my wife's Wisconsin twang, some of my pronunciations (I've already got her locked in on "to-mah-to") and the local variation, resulting in something "American" but not overly regional. Over the last few weeks, though, I've begun to notice a disturbing trend. There are signs-just occasional words here and there-that she's becoming a fully-fledged Long Islander.* Just this morning as I was getting out of the car to board my commuter train into the city, she pointed out of the window and said "many cars." Only, that wasn't quite it. What she actually said sounded more like "many caw-ers." My initial reaction was to assume that she'd choked halfway through, so I asked her to say it again only to be met once again with "many caw-ers." I'm still shuddering now as I think about it. How far away can the moment be where she points to my mug and correctly identifies "Daddy's caw-fee," or the "cute daw-gee" at the neighbor's house? Now, obviously growing up somewhere with a bad accent isn't the end of world. After all, I grew up in a town which boasts one of the worst accents in Scotland, yet I display very few signs of it-largely thanks to my parents insisting that I didn't lapse into it as I was growing up. And I do realize how elitist and snobbish all this sounds, but there's proof out there that bad accents can hurt your hiring and promotion chances. Who'd want to handicap their kid like that if they could possibly avoid it? Anyway, I do take some comfort from the fact that I'm not alone in all this. In addition to all the other incomers with kids I've talked to here, I also know a couple of native Long Islanders who despair at the thought of their children growing up mangling their vowels, and becoming the person you can hear all over the Island bellowing "oh MY Gawd" into their cellphones. I'm also aware that it's not just Long Island: I met a guy a few weeks ago who confided that he left Texas and moved to Colorado in the 1980s in large part because his now-adult daughter would count by saying "one...two...three...four...faaiive." So what do you think? Is this just too superficial for words, or do I have a point here? And-perhaps more to the point-if I do decide to move, where else should I avoid for terrible accents? *Disclaimer: there are a lot of things that I like about Long Island-especially the scenery the further East you go-but believe me when I tell you that The Daily Show's Samantha Bee didn't have to work too hard to find the guys in the bar in this clip.
- Survival Guide
- RAISING SAVVY KIDS