Monday, May 16, 2005


Well, another weekend in the coal mine without incident. No more playing with the methane detectors for me! I did have someone with me for part of my shift though and in retrospect, I think I might have rather been by myself.

Let me explain. The guy I was with was ok, it's just that I couldn't understand a goddamn thing he was saying. I was stuck with Boomhower from "King of the Hill". The accents in Tazwell County, Virginia are the thickest I've ever heard.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the southern accent and find it pleasant to listen to. In fact one woman I met back last year in Beckley when I was still working on the railroad has the most sensual voice I've ever heard. I could listen to her all night. The West Virginia accent is one of the reasons I moved here in the first place. I was sick of the homoginized, pastuerized anti-accent in Arizona with their fake sincerity and plastic personalities.

I love West Virginia and the people. West Virginians are the nicest and friendliest folks I've ever met. I fit in here.

But southwest Virginia is a whole different story.

This guy's voice was so thick I barely made out what he was saying.

And he had a lot to say. A whole lot to say...

It got to the point I'd just smile and not my head, laugh when he laughed... It was like pulling teeth.

Now when I open my mouth, you can definitely tell I'm not from below the Mason~Dixon line but I do have this habit of picking up the local accent rapidly. My first duty station in the Army was Fort Stewart, Georgia. I was there for two years and the first time I came home to Philadelphia on leave I was saying things like "Y'all" and "Yaunto" and "Ya' Reckon?" ...

My friends from Philly looked at me and would say:

"Yo! Tommy! Wuzzup wit da' way you talkin'? You sound, I dunno, kinna stoopid!"

Oh, that's great. Sylvester Stallone and Joe Pesci telling me I sound stupid. That's the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

I for one do not think the southern accent makes anyone sound less intelligent, although I would definitely not want my neurosurgon coming into the exam room sounding like Larry the Cable Guy.

"Weel, This here's how were gonna git r done... We's gonna saw open yer skull and look at yer brain..."

I'd have a problem with that.

But I love accents, one's I can understand though. I met an exchange NCO from the Scottish Highlanders when I was in the Army. Again, I hadn't a fucking clue what the hell he was talking about.

So here I was sitting in the mine office with this coal miner. He was telling me jokes, laughing it up, and I hadn't a clue what he was talking about. It was like I was in a foreign country.

"Hey, dingdang yooze ginna do ma ya'll!"

"He he, yep, I heard that one before!"


This went on for three hours. I was ready to slit my wrists.

Different accents from around the country are one of the great things about our country. I can pretty much pick out where someone came from be it Chicago, New York City, Maine, Georgia... The Midwest where they really don't have an accent... Or Canada, where Peter Jennings is from and tries so hard to mask it, but I can tell... Especially when he's "Aboot" to tell me some important news item...

Some accents are really annoying... Like a heavy Bronx accent... Or the "Northeast Philly Yenta"... That one is really bad. Or the one southern accent I really don't like which I call the "Southern Belle, Mint Julips won't melt in my mouth Scarlett O'Hara" accent. That one is really annoying.

I've got to get out of Tazwell county!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

1 comment:

Becky said...

One of my first part-time reporters when I moved here in 2002 was a Tazewell native. Now, I'm originally from Kentucky... and do you know I had people asking me where my accent was when I moved here? Hello, it's the SAME mountains. And I'm not from the mountains, anyway. But I digress... I thought I was going to keel over the first time we sent this kid out to do a live hit and he said something about the "tar far" that "farfarters" were working to put out. Lost? Tire fire and firefighters. Ouch!

I love my southern heritage, with or without an accent - I've never really been able to decide if I have one, but I'm guessing it must not be much of one. But I confess it drives me crazy when northerners try to stereotype southerners and screw it up (as in the incorrect use of "y'all" - don't get me started!).