After “what’s your name?” and “what’s your major?” the most frequently asked question I get in college is “where are you from?” I get it from everyone – from other students and teachers, and also from plenty of parents and prospective students at this weekend’s Open House here on campus. My answer is always, proudly, “Chicago.” And the most common answer I get is, “I can hear it in your accent!”
I have never really thought that I have an accent. I know Chicago has an accent, just as Boston does (a few parents asked me where “Claahk” Hall was this weekend) and how more than a few friends from the South address a group as “Y’all.” But having lived in the same house about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago for 18 years, I have been around this accent my entire life. It wasn’t until I came to Hopkins, where people of all cultures and places of origin mix, that I realized how pronounced my accent is.
In particular, how I say Snapchat (SnAApchAAt, or, as my friend Emma in linguistics classes would spell out, [s n æ p t ∫ æ t]) and the Chicago itself (ChicAAAgo, or [∫ I k ã g o ℧]). During the Open House last Saturday, I was talking with some of my SAAB peers who interviewed me (so I could write for this blog!) and they said part of the reason they liked me was my accent. In particular, I was told the way I say “values” as “vAAHlues” was especially endearing.
People tell me that I am me because of my accent. Quite unlike Henry Higgins looking to improve Eliza Doolittle’s cockney accent in My Fair Lady, I hope my accent never evolves with where I live or what I learn. My accent is a part of home that I always keep with me.
On the other side of the coin, I am absolutely fascinated with the Baltimore accent. If you ever find yourself talking to a Baltimore native, listen for the way they say their “O’s;” there’s a little rounding of their lips. Think of John Travolta’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
My Fair Lady. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Warner Bros., 1964. DVD.
Hairspray. Dir. Adam Shankman. Perf. John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky. New Line Cinema Corporation, 2007. DVD.