Thursday, June 2, 2016

It comes and goes like magic; my accent

The bus starts in Boston but goes all the way to Bangor.

It's a rare occasion when I might encounter people who preserve the friendly, somewhat loud, loquacious, rustic, sometimes racist, and always non-rhotic speech that my accent is an extremely watered down version of.


My mother was born in Lewistion-Auburn.  Which one?  Who knows; who cares?

My father's family are Portlanders for ... forever.  Well, white-people-forever at least.  Not the Mayflower because those people couldn't take a Maine winter, but some say the very next boat that hit this part of New England.  And maybe tribal connections, so maybe it isn't just white-people-forever.

When my mother was just a girl her father bought farmland and built a house in Cape Elizabeth.  Now the area is known as the place for rich people but back then it was all farmland.  Cape Elizabeth is in "The Greater Portland Area".

After I was born my other wanted to go back to where family was, and so my home in South Portland, a city that touches Portland (home of my dad's family) and Cape Elizabeth (home of my mom's family) both.

That is where I've lived my life.  I grew up there.  It is home.  I've spent my whole life, with a few temporary exceptions, in that house.  But that isn't about that.


I grew up a Mainer, my mother might have had foreign born grandparents, but I'm entirely multigeneralational Mainer on both sides of my family.

Even so, my accent rarely survives contact with other people.  Some words just have a certain way to say them and so stick.  Lonespark has been known to be befuddled by "Chowder" (ChowdAH) being full on Downeast speak when little else I say is in that dialect.

But the thing is - the thing, it is this: when I talk to people the way I speak changes.  I'm told everyone does it to some degree, but I do it enough for people to notice when they don't notice other people doing it.

If I talk long enough to the woman from just north of Dublin I do not, in fact, end up with an Irish accent, but the way I speak will become notably abnormal for an American accent.  At least any one of a non-Irish stripe.  Without thinking or trying I pick up parts of how other people talk and incorporate them when speaking to those people.

But something else happens when talking to another Mainer.  First let me point out that that's MainAH phonetically.


Anyway, other Mainers.  Northerners.  (Well, non-coastals.  The bus only goes to Bangor after all.)  When I talk to them I start talking like them, just as anyone else, but I'm not picking up on something belonging to someone else, I'me rediscovering something that once was mine.

Parts of I can't even describe.  "Fucking" takes on new character.  Of course one drops the 'g' because, seriously, it was halfway gone already, but there's also something with the vowel.  I can't put my finger on it but I can feel that my mouth is doing something different and hear that the sound is somehow changed.

When talking with people from farther north it's like I regain a part of myself.

And then it goes away again.


Mind you, right now, having not gone away completely,  it happens to be also fucking with my spelling something awful because I keep on wanting to write things like "fathah noath" since I tend to think and spell phonetically and, lest we forget, my accent is almost entirely dead most of the time so I don't hear "Ah" and think, "Right, the letter between Q and S," thus when I get back into a propah-speech mode I get outta propah spellin mode.

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