Thursday, October 7, 2010

Um, Like, I mean, Like Um, Ya Know Like, I mean

Recently I've had several conversations with a woman who says I mean at least three times in any sentence. In between I mean she sprinkles Um, Like and then, of course, Um Like. I know that some teenagers tend to use like and you know a little too often but this woman is 50-some years old.

Conversing with her is downright painful. I want to scream Get to the point! She's a business associate so she's not someone I can take aside and gently suggest she not speak until she has her thoughts more composed.

I don't sound like William F. Buckley but I have worked on my speech for many years. I am a born and bred New Englander, specifically Rhode Island. There are several different accents to be found in this one little state of only one million people. Most are not very pleasant to listen to and often ridiculed, usually by the rest of us.

I have tried to 'neutralize' my accent. I focus on pronouncing the G's in words ending in i-n-g. I try to put my R's where they belong and keep them out where they don't belong. My favorite example of both is Columbee-er Rivuh. Seriously, that's how many RhoDyLanduhs say Columbia River. I could go on and on with examples of some of the funny ways we talk but you would think I'm being unkind; probably funny but unkind.

While traveling in the U.S., we used to say that we're from Rhode Island, now we just say New England. I got tired of being asked "Isn't that an island off New York?" No, you geographically-challenged dumbbell, that's Long Island.

In my real estate business I often meet relocation clients; people who come from all over the United States and abroad. Eventually the conversation comes around to where I'm from. Usually when I say I'm a native Rhode Islander I hear "You don't sound like you come from Rhode Island." I usually say, thank you, thank you, I have worked to NOT sound like a Rhode Islander.

I used to have a friend who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, whose accent I found kind of cool. He knew I had worked on my 'accent' but every once in a while, usually when I was in a rant and got 'tawking' fast he would start to laugh. "What are you laughing at?" "You sound like you're from Rhode Island!"

Well, um, ya' know, like sometimes I just can't like help it.


Debby@Just Breathe said...

Um, like you know this is really a funny post. I know that people will ask me where I am from, I guess I sound like a Chicagoan but I don't notice it!

Katherine said...

I used to think that being from the western part of the US made me a little more neutral-accented. But most people outside of that area can place me in a heart beat. Although I am starting to pick up some of the Midwestern sound.

Jeanie said...

I know exactly what you mean. I think a lot of times we all -- or most of us -- slip into bad habits like that but we get so used to hearing ourselves we don't catch it. I'm pretty good about listening mindfully, but now and then right will remind me something has crept in that I don't want to stay! Vigilance! I admire that you have worked hard to master your accent. (I have to say that I have an ear attuned to accents and I have to be very careful, because I pick them up quickly when I travel. And there is NOTHING more insulting to someone from the south or east to have a newcomer talk like you -- and you know it's not native. It's like they're mocking you! I have to be especially careful when I'm helping Rick with his tradeshows in the south that I don't go y'all!

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Excellent point!

Drives me bat crazy at work when full grown adults talk like wimpy pre-teens... add the snapping gum and I have to hold back the urge to smack 'em!

bettyl said...

I know what you mean. Here in NZ, English-bred folk have to put an 'r' on the end of a word if it ends with a vowel, but don't pronounce ending 'r's.

And, when I went to college in Texas, I told folks I was from Chicago because nobody knew where Indiana is!

Those things I can deal with. Like you, it's the, 'well, um, I tell ya...' that you KNOW is going to be followed by nothing coherent.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! So much to say.

1. I didn't realize Rhode Islanders have accents!
2. My Chicago cousins don't believe me that THEY are the ones with accents--not me. (I'm from Idaho. There is NO accent here.)
3. I try really hard not to rely on catchy crutch words of my generation: like, you know, I know, right...ugh, those bug the crap out of me. We're all adults. Let's talk like it.

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