Monday, March 05, 2012

The Radio Boston show that got me thinking

On February 27th Radio Boston did an interesting show. It was on accents, specifically the famous Boston accent. One which I proudly speak. I can go full on Boston, or Boston lite, the result of twenty hard years living in Connecticut. In Connecticut, speaking with a Boston accent is considered to be a sign of a lack of intelligence. While the New York City accent is considered to be the smart ones. Which is neither here or there, but something I just had to throw out there. This episode was an interesting one, the interview with Ben Zimmer language writer for the Boston Globe was informative. Sadly Richard Bailey the author of "Speaking American: A history of English in the United States" died before the book was published. Speaking American I plan on getting the book, but am having an internal war with myself as to I should get it as an E-book or a hard back. Still the most interesting thing about the interview was the comments that happened during and after the show. I commented that it was funny to hear a radio show about Boston accents, given by two people who don't have one. The main correspondent of the show responded to my comment about how she was born in Boston but did not have the accent. I countered the accent was something that had to be learned, just being born in the 617 area code is not enough to give you the accent. It comes from listening to siblings, parents, grandparents and the like all speaking with a unifying accent. I also mentioned my dislike of the use of "Native" to describe someone who was born in the area. Specifically -- I am a fifth generation local / townie. I sound just like my parents, grandparents and while it has been a while since I heard them, my great grandparents. I also know a lot of people who have lived here since college, and consider them selves to be Bostonians, with no accent. When they have kids, the kids don't really speak with a Boston accent either. But the kids consider them selves to be 'native' Bostonians. I also hate the term 'native' Bostonian, as my parents use to say unless you have Native American blood, you are not a native. -- There was the side conversation with a Max Headroom reference that I only just remembered I had not responded to. Some one made a comment about providing valid input, and the radio correspondent did not know what that meant. So I was able to clarify it for her. Someone responded to my comment about my dislike of the term native. With a very well thought out comment. Jan - while I take your point about 1st generation residents, I must disagree with your parents. The word "native" means that you are born somewhere. If anything, the term Native American is a misnomer, as any of us born here are in fact, "native Americans". But until someone comes up with a better, non-derogatory term, the confusion continues. Which made me think... In thinking more about this, I wonder if my inherited aversion to "native" has less to do with the Native American idea. Is it instead what would have been my great-grandparents, great grandparents feelings about what we now call Native American's. Could this be a bit of prejudice I did not realize I had? I love Radio Boston and good shows like this are the reason I listen. Radio Boston is on 90.9 WBUR Monday through Friday at 3:00 PM every day.

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