“You’re from Boston?!?!?!”
Uh, yeah. Well, okay, not Boston-Boston. If I said the actual small New England town I’m really from, you’d give me a blank stare of confusion. Seriously, no one has heard of it, or the closest “cities” either.
That wasn’t the reason for my new friend’s confusion though. It was my accent.
A Funny Thing Happened to My Accent
If you’ve watched one New England-set movie (Good Will Hunting, Cider House Rules, The Departed…), you might think that everyone from Boston and Boston-adjacent locations talks just like the characters on the screen.
Wicked. Wicked pissah. Pahk the cah in the yahd. Sweetheaht.
Yup, I’ve heard them all. All of those stereotypes about Boston, Massachusetts and New England accents. Except that I don’t sound like that. At least, I don’t sound like that anymore.
Military life has literally changed the way I speak, caused me to drop my accent over time. Right now, I don’t know if anyone meeting me for the first time could even really pinpoint exactly where I grew up.
Military Life Has Changed the Way I Talk
Right from the get-go of military life, I realized that I was outnumbered. I was the minority “wicked” New Englander in a sea of Southern belles. I was about to get “y’alled” and “bless your hearted” to the nth degree.
I was in no way prepared.
I’ve always been kind of good with an accent. It’s a gift, I know. Not one I asked for, but here we are. If I’m around you for a minute or more, I might just start picking up some of your regional slang or adding a little drawl to my words. Heck, when we went to Scotland, I started sounding like Peppa Pig!
Truly, I don’t mean to be insulting. And I hope I’ve never offended anyone. It’s just so easy to slip into the way y’all are talking, to be part of the crowd, to fit in.
And so I followed that natural inclination right into my current status: accent neutrality. Maybe. Hopefully?
Picking Up Y’All, Dropping Youse Off
It’s been a decade. Ten years of being surrounded on all sides by folks using y’all like it’s going out of style. a decade of drawling, honey-tongued accents.
I’m here for it. In fact, I might just have joined the club. Count me in on the y’all bandwagon. Put me on the express train.
The “youse” or “youse guys” of my youth is gone. Now, I say y’all with the best of them. And I can’t seem to stop.
Y’all is just so easy, so sweet and inclusive. Youse is harsh. That “zzzzz” sound at the end is grating. But y’all just flows off the tongue. It’s mellow and made for lazy Sundays. I’ve officially adopted it as my own.
Along with y’all, I’ve noticed that some of my words have a slight Southern-y twang to them now. I’m not sure when that happened, but here we are. Maybe it’s because all my best military friends (with just one exception) have been from the South for ten (10) years.
And, darn it, if they haven’t rubbed off on me!
The Accent Comes Back
Now, my Boston accent hasn’t entirely disappeared. I still pepper “wicked” into my conversations regularly. But I no longer actively say “cah” or any of the other more well known New England-style words.
Unless I’m home. Then it all comes rushing back.
Mostly, it’s in public or social places. Like at the bank or talking with the people at the Italian deli. I notice the pacing of my words speeding up, the round vowels sharpening again. Suddenly, I’m right back to “youse” and as far away from “y’all” as I can get.
If you’d really like to check out an authentic accent, meet me in Boston. We’ll go to Fenway or the Garden, have a few beers and watch a game. Yes, we actually do those things and explain our plans exactly like that: “have a few beers and watch a game.”
Then all the Boston in me comes out. You’d think I was plucked directly from central casting: typical New England lady; likes Boston sports, beer, cussing and saying wicked all the time. Double that description if I’ve got a conversation going with someone else from the area. Southerners, just try to keep pace with our wicked fast conversation.
Military Life Has Changed the Way I Talk
As soon as I’m out of New England, my neutral newscaster-worthy accent slips right back into place. I’ve got the “y’all” back and going strong. Sure, I still sometimes say wicked or get a little rowdy during the Super Bowl. 2017 was a wicked great year for the Pats, eh? (Please be sure to read that with your best “Ben Affleck in a Boston movie” voice.)
But the way I speak is different after a decade of military life. My vowels are rounder, my pacing is slower. You maybe couldn’t quite figure out where I’m originally from.
And I kind of like it that way.
What’s changed about you over your life as an ArmyWife? We’d love to see before and after pictures or hear your story!
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