Year round, but never more frequently than now, I have a secret lust for an accent. There’s nothing inherently intriguing about American speech, minus the fascination I have with the Bostonian brogue. I used to like southern twang until I discovered that often it’s symbolic of illiterate trash (not always though….you can’t go wrong with the sweet lilting murmur of a Mississippi belle.) Californian accents are often mocked and mistaken as the language of the stoned slacker. The upper Midwest harbors the clipped and amusing speech of Norse descent that reminds me of gelled fish, polka and hot casserole dishes. And Sarah Palin’s is complete bullshit. I’ve lived in Wasilla and hers is the weirdest mix of North Dakotan-Western Canadian I’ve ever heard.
When I was younger and obsessed with the Rastafarian culture and music, I thought that there was little more impressive than island patois. British accents, varied as they are distinguishable, always make someone seem smarter (unless you happen to be Madonna; ps- you’re from MICHIGAN). Italian and Spanish accents have the undeniable quality that the speaker is trying to get in your pants. Russians and Germans sound harsh and foreboding…. as though your misery is their end goal. Many middle eastern dialects sound as though you’re getting screamed at and moments away from a violent confrontation. (As an addendum, don’t go and get your panties all bunched up over the thought that I’m generalizing here, or, Allah forbid, stereotyping. I’m not. Okay, I am. Either way, you’re already offended, so what’s the point?)
But nothing has the appeal of the Irish (and Scottish) brogue. To me, they speak of a peoples forged in hardship and adversity; people with a deep and abiding love of beer. No matter the topic, when someone talks to me in a Celtic tone, I instantly feel a working-class bond with that person, even if they’re philanthropic socialites who hang in The Hamptons. Weird, yes. Maybe it’s because we’re working in a blue collar environment. Maybe it’s my love of Guinness. Maybe it’s the tradition (in other cities) of the Irish in the fire service. Maybe it’s because I find the lead singer of the band Garbage alluring.
Any way you look at it, there’s an inherently bad-ass quality to their language. And there’s nothing less alluring than people trying to emulate it, especially those who are terrible at accents. So my promise to you is that I won’t attempt one in your company. Never was this point better driven home than while in Kansas City last weekend to attend a Flogging Molly concert with my amigo Owings (which was fortunate enough to have as an mc THE brewmaster of Guinness. What a gig THAT guy has). While standing in line to get into the theatre, we witnessed some skinny-jeaned poseur trying to impress his date with an Irish accent that sounded like a bad imitation of the Lucky Charms cartoon character; it really was that awful. And he wasn’t quoting something, he was talking as though that were his everyday voice. Maybe they met on the internet. Maybe she was deaf. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental.
It would likely be best to leave the accents to those who own them. That, and people like RoJo, a redhead with the last name “Kelly”. I think he qualifies to fake it if necessary. All I can legitimately claim as linguistically inherited is the insane Dutch-Indonesian hybrid ranting accent of The Lyin’ Dutchman and Aunt Viper.