A little something different today, I’ve been traveling again and noticing something about the way we communicate with each other. I’ve been fortunate enough to live and travel throughout the country and I am a big fan of regional accents. Even though I was born and spent most of my youth in New England, you’ll still hear me bust out with a “fixin too” or a “Y’all” now and then. As a writer, I’ve developed an ear for phrases or accents that make me laugh or words that deliver a point with such clarity that they remain lodged in my mind for life. Do you smile or cringe when you hear someone who doesn’t quite speak like you?
Life would be so boring if we all spoke the Queen’s English! As a native of the Northeast, I can tell you there is a distinct cultural bias in that part of the world toward anyone with a “cute drawl” or any other kind of accent. A guy who stocks shelves at a WalMart in Boston believes, in his heart, that the brain surgeon from Florida must be a little slow because he talks a little slow. (As if not being able to pronounce the letter R is a sign of intelligence, I’ll wait for you in the cah.) Living in the south now, I can tell you that language doesn’t have as much to do with communication as you might think. Sure, an English teacher gets her wings each time we diagram a sentence but let’s not mistake talking pretty with saying the right thing. They don’t always match up.
The Cajun fisherman in the Louisiana Bayous is as emersed in his world as the Wall Street lawyer from Harvard is in his, so is the kid in the hood. For them to speak with an accent that sounds like Walter Cronkite would not be an effective use of language. Language is the voice of the people, and, like people, it evolves. (We aren’t still speaking Latin, after all). Just as “LOL” and “LMAO” have become part of the language, my ancestors probably said things like “Fuggedabout”, the environment, our culture, dictates how we communicate. To make the argument that we are “one culture” in America is just silly. Even England, our “Mother Country” has regional accents. In fact, the reason we have “Accents” at all in this country is that different groups of English settlers came from distinct regions of England and brought their own local dialect with them.
This is largely, a blog about doing business as a creative person and effective communication is a crucial part of doing business. As we work with people from all over the world in an increasingly global environment, it is important to listen to someone’s ideas, not just their voice. Your customer in Prague or Dallas might sound different than you, but he probably still has most of the same concerns and hopes for his life. That being said, speaking well, showing people that you can write or speak while using your language properly is important. It helps people to have a better first impression of you, it allows you to be more persuasive and it shows that you do have something going on upstairs. If your chosen language is Cajun Creole American, then be rock on cher! It’s words that I love and the effective use of them, whatever your medium, express yourself.
I’m not giving everyone a free pass, you still have to know your audience and make sure that your words convey what you actually mean to say. It’s not ok to sound like a dumb ass. Nothing is EVER, “As of yet”. It’s either as of now or yet. It can’t be both. Spell check comes on your computer people, give it a try. We “cite” sources, we don’t sight them. You probably have your own list of English pet peeves, the immediacy of Twitter and tiny screens has rendered grammar to the status of second thought, if we think of it at all.
On my trip last week, I saw some New Yorkers who made it a point to disparage anyone who was from somewhere else, it made me laugh out loud that people can be so narrow minded, the ‘ugly America” still lives. (Screaming out “J-E-T-S” in a crowded bar might work in Queens, but not everywhere else, really and it’s awfully hard to mock someone from Virginia for having an accent when you are acting in such a boring fashion.) Bless their hearts.