Growing up in a secluded mountain valley in Southwest Virginia everybody talked alike. I never knew there was even a difference in “accents” until I was older and traveled out of the valley and started noticing that other people didn’t talk like me. When I say “it sure is bright out here in the moonlight tonight”, it doesn’t sound like someone say……from up North. My sentence is long and drawn out with lots of long “i”s in the mix.
My “mountain talk” has been mocked, laughed at and made fun of. My number one pet peeve is that as soon as some people, let’s just say not from the South, hear me talk, in their minds my IQ automatically goes down 100 points while stereotypical mountain hillbilly scenes go flashing through their minds.
And yes, it really used to bother me. It bothered me to the point that I would try to change my mountain drawl to try to sound like, well, anyone but me. But no matter how hard I would try those “ya’ll”s, “Bless your heart”s and long “iiiiii”s just kept coming out like it was engrained in my being.
On a trip to Colorado years ago I went into a small diner for breakfast and ordered sweet tea and grits with my meal. I quickly learned that I was WRONG. After hearing my accent my waitress said (with a slight snarl), “You must be from Texas because there are two things that you can’t get in Colorado, one is sweet tea and the other is grits.” OK, good to know.
Since I have recently moved to Cody, Wyoming, a melting pot of people and accents, many will hear me talk and want to guess where I am from. The majority of the time they guess either Oklahoma or Texas. It wasn’t until last year, in Texas, at a Western Folklife Festival, that I learned the reason why people guess Texas. I am ashamed to say that it took me 52 years to learn that Stephen Austin, “the father of Texas”, was raised in Austinville, Virginia, just one county over from where I grew up! So Mr. Austin took that good old “mountain drawl” and settled what was to become the great state of Texas. Makes me kind of proud!