THE PRU, mentioned heah is the tall building on the right.

Remind you of a song? Something by Bing Crosby?

What I really want to talk about, however, is ACCENTS.

I’ve lived in California for more years than I want to admit. When a stranger—an airplane companion, a clerk in a store, for example—asks where I’m from, I still say Boston, where I grew up and went to college, or The Bronx, where I went to graduate school.

When I first arrived in California, I had a heavy Boston accent. I’d deny it, except there are videotapes with the evidence. I worked hard to speak Californian, which I acknowledge is closer to a “national” accent:

• Stress those r’s wherever they appear.

It’s harrrrrrd, not hahd; forrrrrrty, not fohty. And so on.

• Insert an r, when the next word begins with a vowel.

Cuba(r) and Laos, as JFK would say

My sistah(r) and my mothah.

When I stahted teaching in California, I noticed my students having a hahd time understanding me.

For example, the designation for the nuclear radius is R-with a bar across the top. R-bar. Or Ah-Bah, as I would say. So I worked at it, telling myself I’d learned Italian (all through home and school); French (in high school, because it was there and Nino was taking it); German in college (because we thought the Germans would prevail in science); Russian in graduate school (because we thought the Russians would take over science, what with Sputnik and all).

I could certainly learn Californian (one of my Boston friends says Cali-foh-nia).

And I did. But I slip now and then when I’m on the phone with a cousin back there. And a few days ago when I was telling a story about a mall in Boston, illustrating it with my hands:

“The Pru is heah,” I began. And my friends laughed.

How about you? Can we tell where you’re from by your “accent?”


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