Sunday, August 29, 2010

Accents in My Brain

The other day we had someone working on our house. When he left, Tim told me the guy was British, and that he gave us advice for our upcoming trip to London.

Anyway, I used to have a British-accent fetish, and it still lingers within me a bit. So I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't gotten the chance to chat with him. Good news though. Tim said he'd be returning.

He came back...rang the doorbell. I answered, and it wasn't him. Because  A VERY southern accent was pouring out of this guy's mouth. I tried not to look disappointed, but then as he talked more, I realized this WAS the guy. He did have a British accent. He also had a Southern one. He had a very weird mixed-up accent.

I think that's going to eventually happen to me. Or maybe it's already happened.

Here's the deal. I talk funny. Sometimes.

A family email went out with the news that my niece is going to have a British teacher. She had joked that the kids might sometimes be coming home with a British accent.

That got me thinking.....

And I have a theory. I don't know if it's original. Probably not. But I'll imagine it is.

Anyway, my theory is that we all have some kind of accent-learning thing in our brain. In most people, it shuts off at a very early age. We adopt the accent of our parents and those that we spend the most time with. Then we're stuck with that accent for life.

I think with other people (like me) that accent-thing in the brain does NOT go away. It lingers.

Some people like Meryl Streep are able to turn it into a talent. They make lots of money, and win lots of awards. They can turn their different accents on and off. They're very skilled.

Other people with this accent-brain (like me) are not skilled. We end up with weird accent combos, and/or we accidentally switch accents every so often.

For me, it's often a surprise. I open my mouth to speak, and sometimes another accent pops out. Sometimes it's American, sometimes it's British; sometimes it's Australian; sometimes it's Southern-American; sometimes it's a hybrid thing. It's often influenced by something I've watched on TV. For example, I go totally southern after watching True Blood.

Occasionally, I do these accents on purpose. But usually it just happens.

The other thing is my accents aren't consistent. It's not like I have one Australian accent. I feel I talk like twenty different Australians. Sometimes, I'll speak and think That sounded just like Michelle! But maybe I sound more often like Tracey, because when Jack talked to her on the phone, he said she sounded like my fake Australian accent.

Maybe I'm more consistent than I imagine.

Now this accent brain thing.....

It's probably something I could control if I REALLY put my mind to it, and practiced.

I tried once. Although I kind of love this weirdness I possess, sometimes it embarrasses me. So I decided I'd only switch accents in front of Tim and Jack. With the rest of my family, and in public....I'd speak in a plain American accent only.


That made me too self-conscious and uptight about talking. So I gave it up.

Anyway, back to my niece.

I don't think she'll come home with a British accent....unless she has this accent-brain thing. People spend decades living in a new country, and never pick up the accent.

I DO know of other people with the accent-brain. One of my young cousins in Australia has picked up the accent. I don't think his parents or brother have done the same. So I think he's the only one with the accent brain. The others HAVE picked up the vocabulary. I know that. They're all Aussie-cultured now. But as far as I know, they haven't picked up the accent. I haven't seen or heard them for over a year though, so things might have changed.

Our five-year-old homeschooling friend has it. One minute she's talking British. Later, she's doing Southern.

I think Tim has it a little bit. He'll pick up accents to a slight degree. It's very subtle though.

I don't think anyone else in my family has it, so I must be some kind of mutant. There's always the chance that one of my nieces and nephews could be like me. I haven't seen it yet in my nieces though. I think if they had it, we would have already seen evidence of it. Their accent seem pretty consistent.

I've read two novels where a character had this accent thing. In both cases, the characters were severely mentally disturbed. One was actually evil...maybe the other as well. I forgot.

So, that's a bit insulting.

Where's my POSITIVE role-model?

I don't think an inability to stick with one accent means you're mentally ill and/or evil. It COULD have some connection to Dissociative Identity Disorder though. Don't people with numerous personalities speak with different accents? Or is that just on movies and television?

I'm also thinking that this accent brain could have a connection to people with strong imaginations, and the ability to turn themselves into different characters. This might be as an actor playing different roles. It might be an author inventing characters for novels. It might be a person avoiding the pain of abuse by creating other personalities to deal with it.

I think someone should do a study on this. Is there a correlation between this accent thing and hyperactive imaginations? What percentage of actors can easily switch accents? I bet it's a lot. And how about novelists?

Oh! And another type of person who has this thing.... Well, it depends on what you believe. But how about people who claim to channel spirits? They can speak in different voices/accents. Maybe they ARE doing so. I'm skeptical, but open to the possibility. But it's also possible that they have some kind of dissociative thing going on. They THINK they're channeling spirits, but really just have multiple personalities. Or they could be actors and are purposely conning people.

Anyway, not that I'm a scientist or anything. But I AM curious. If any of you want to do some sharing about this, please email me. I'll have fun reading the anecdotal evidence. I'd love to hear from people who have this accent thing. Or maybe you know someone else who does? And you can tell me if you/they have a strong imagination.....

Edited Later To Add.....

P.S-I just said to the cat, I need to clean up your throw up. And the voice that popped out of my mouth kind of sounded like Marcia Langton. I think that's a first.


On another day, I was talking to myself a bit. Luna Lovegood's voice came out of my mouth. It was pretty cool. I just wish I could have control over it on demand. That would be a nifty little trick to show off.