I love certain linguistic accents. I could listen to Saoirse Ronan and Fiona Ritchie all day. I enjoy how their articulation sounds to my ear. The lilt, the cadence, the emphasis on certain syllables. Could it be because the way they sound seems more exotic and attractive to me? Or maybe it’s because it makes me feel like my Okie elocution sounds pedestrian. Don’t be surprised if this immersion among the Irish these next two weeks has me sounding like Liam Neeson when I get back.
How does an accent develop? Why do Midwesterners think they don’t have an accent? Who taught the Irish how to sound Irish? Or who showed a child in Alabama how to sound different than a kid from Boston?
We learned it from each other.
From an early age, we instinctively repeat what we hear. In both language and accent, the words formed and the particular way they sound are an imitation of those we learn from. I could try to sound Irish, but at my age, it would be a difficult conversion.
Already, a few times on this trip, I’ve been asked where I’m from after I’ve opened my mouth to speak. To some, it’s obvious because they predict I’m from the U.S. How I sound is an indication of where I live.
The dialect of social media has a predominant accent. So does our current political discourse. It sounds like dismissive annoyance and rage. I spend less and less time there because of that. I don’t want to pick up that accent. It really doesn’t matter what side of the aisle or point of view, if it ends up being delivered in the same patois, everyone sounds alike.
Here in Ireland, I’m a little self-conscious about sounding different, but in the realm of social media and politics, I don’t mind standing out from the crowd. I hope my voice sounds like it was raised in another Kingdom.