Monday, May 15, 2006

I am regarded by most people as 'unaccented'. Without local colloquialism. Devoid of distinctive southern drawl and pace. Although I think they are wrong it has never bothered me. I am unaccented only by comparison. Perhaps I speak Southern Light. At work I am often asked where my accent is, as if it was a physical object. Something to be removed from my pocket, used, then replaced in the pocket.

Just a moment ago I was entering text into a new book. It has yet to be published because rather than working on it I'm blogging. Books like: Stackhouse, An Original Pennsylvania Family are featured in the endnotes. Copy. Paste. I was thinking to myself 'Boy, they sure got there moneys worth out of that History of Chester Co. book.'

Apparently my mental narration has the southern dialect sometimes.

Beside my left hand a ceramic cup is resting . It is full of vending machine coffee. I feel its warmth breath-like as I type.

Earlier this week I was thinking about a hypothetical situation wherein I was for some reason asked to speak using a southern accent. Maybe I would be acting or entertaining. My voice could change for guests when I'm at the table. Being a waiter is one of my jobs. Most inn guests think that a sudden change in dialect is amusing or at least smile-worthy. I don't care for it much. To me it smacks of a theatrical antebellum cantor. Much like the late Ned Plimpton (aka Kingsley "Ned" Zissou) of Team Zissou fame. But I do it anyway. The accent makes the tips rise just a bit higher. Linguistic upselling.

Visitors to the Inn on Biltmore Estate often expect it to be filled with "locals". Generally they are surprised. Rarely do employees have the speech associated with the south. If you hear an accent at all it is more likely to be Jamaican. "Off-shore associates" are rather ruthlessly employed by the Biltmore Estate, most working more than 40 hours and, for some reason, ineligible for overtime pay.

Jamaicans speak Patois. When asked about it they usually respond with a eerily similar textbook-like "It is just broken english…" explanation. I suspect they were actually instructed by the Biltmore company to answer that question with the same phrase. I smile when thinking of people arriving to the inn, expecting to here quant North Carolina english and instead listening to wild Jamaican creole.

Diphthongs are aboundin.

I regard myself as a quiet man. I enjoy listening. But trying to understand Patois is very difficult. Their creole began as a Pidgen. Its lexicon is comprised of words from all the old colonial powerhouses (Seafaring Gun-toting European Assholes) and those who they subjugated (Natives, Slaves, Cheap immigrant workers). Sometimes a word will be a combination of a words for different language groups. To make matters more interesting Patois has many varieties. Perfect speech is used for more formal purposes like talking with a guest. Its sounds much like proper old english.

"He is working over there."

When speakers who know the diction are relating to each other they will use Broad speech.

" 'e a wok ova de-so."

One is high. The other is low. They sound nothing alike. It is bizarre.

Now my coffee is cold.

Now it is gone.


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