Friday, October 23, 2009

You Say Potato, I Say Potato


I've always had a fascination with language. I began thinking about this when we were taking the kids to school this morning. Charlie said mother, in perfectly enunciated English. The kids have lived in Wisconsin for their whole lives, so I've often wondered if they'd develop the "Northern" accent. Since Charlie began speaking, you would think the kid was from Boston! Where did he get this? There's been no one for him to model this after.

Let me back up a bit. I've always been enamored with language. In reflecting upon this, some of my most remembered teachers through school were related, in some way, to language. Mr. Nutman in seventh grade was from England, I loved to listen to him speak. Jan Gist, my college theatre diction coach made me chew words, change pitch and alter my vernacular the moment I got into character. Mr. Larson, my college Shakespeare instructor when I lived in England, made me love Shakespeare even more (I'm still known to pick up our big anthology on a whim, just to be swept away into the poetic dialogue.) My college philosophy instructor, whose name escapes me though I can picture him clearly, guided us through the great philosophers many of whom we had to decipher not only thought but verbiage.

When I meet people I'm frequently asked where I'm from. When I say California, I tend to get one of two responses: "I never would have thought that based on your accent," or "I hear some West coast but something else too." I'm always taken aback when I hear this, because I didn't realize I had an accent. Maybe it's the years that I spent studying theatre, but I've always been very sensitive to the dialect, inflections and the sounds of words around me. I've developed, apparently, my own unique intonation that is the sum of my parts and experiences. Odd hugh?

I'd have thought so too, until I realized this morning, Charles must have some of that sensitivity too. I still can't figure out where the Boston-like sounds have come from. But as he said mother this morning, I see those sounds are starting to diminish. Funny, I felt kind of sad that those sounds were leaving him.

I only hope that he can be swept away in the richness of language as I have.

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