Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, March 30, 2007

But this is how I really talk

I rarely exercise the blogger's perogative to bitch about things that are merely personal irritants. But today I'll let myself go:

What the hell is going on in the heads of people who use fake accents in regular conversation?

I run into one of these people every year or two. They are usually college students (but sometimes not), often geeky (but sometimes not), who are sporting some kind of vaguely British accent. And I'm not talking about the linguistic phenomena of "code-switching," in which people sometimes unintentionally adopt the accents of the people with whom they are speaking. This is the exact opposite: trying to adopt an accent different from everyone else, presumably to sound exotic. It happens often enough that I'm sure everyone else has known one of these people.

It's clear to me they must have no friends, because surely someone who really cared about them would slap them across the face and tell them they are acting like an idiot. First of all, accents are exceedingly difficult to fake, and actors study diligently to be able to pull it off. (I remember the first time I heard James Marsters ("Spike" on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) speak in his native American accent, instead of the street Cockney of his character, and my jaw dropped. Now that was a professional accent.) So what makes anyone think that an unhealthy number of hours watching Doctor Who qualifies them to begin faking an accent?

Also consider that anyone who dares to fake an accent in public life is heaped with ridicule. If you Google "fake accent," the list is topped by bloggers savaging Hilary Clinton for attempting a Southern drawl, or the withering contempt for Madonna's assumed accent. Nobody is fooled, everyone is annoyed. A fake accent screams to the world: "I'm a phony! I'm a BIG FAT PHONY! And I'm either too stupid to realize it or too self-absorbed to care!"

So why do they keep doing it? I have to chalk it up to adolescent attempts to create an identity. I suppose everybody tries to conform to their ideals and alters their dress, speech and manners to fit an constructed identity. It's just not so freakin' obvious most of the time. And the reason it's so disconcerting to listen to is that, deep down, we wonder whether our own mask is slipping . . . "Jesus Christ, I hope I never sound like that . . . "



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