The other day Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is dropping hints he may join the Republican herd stampeding for the White House, said it’s high time for another president with an accent. That struck me as a odd, since it’s only been seven years since President George W. Bush drawled and cut brush mightily on his Texas ranch.
And it’s been an equally short a time since President Dick Cheney announced he was taking America into his dark bunker with an accent reminiscent of old black-and-white creature features.
Graham was really talking about was it being time for another southern president. And the South Carolinian was betraying yet another prejudice by asserting only Southerners have accents.
Well, everyone has an accent, even those smart-phone voices that tell us where we can buy killer chimichangas in the next town.
I’m a native Californian, and my parents were native Californians. I’m fairly certain I have a distinct California accent, seasoned slightly by growing up in Bakersfield and having a gang of childhood pals whose families accented Oklahoma at the dinner table. That’s why I have always used the word ain’t in my normal conversation, though I say it with a distinct California accent. I ain’t fooling, dude.
For over a year while living in Portland, Ore., I mumbled a lot to conceal my accent, for I had heard horror stories about what real Oregonians do to arrivistes from California. When confronted with the chilling prospects of pronouncing common Oregonian geographic words like Willamette, Wallowa and Tualatin, I would sneeze and curse my hay fever.
Oregonians, a polite, pale and hip people by nature, would commiserate. For if it wasn’t raining in the “Willy Met Valley,” you could be sure the pollen count was in the stratosphere.
From movies and television, we all are familiar with Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Fargo and Simpson Family accents, not to mention the Austro-Calliforniaye accent of former Gov. Terminator and Moon Unit Zappa‘s Valley Speak.
Is Graham pushing Schwarzenegger ( I am so glad I no longer have to spell this name in daily copy) to enter the race? The gentleman from South Carolina should be careful for what he wishes. Or do more research on accents.
Hillary Clinton spent several years in Arkansas, and she isn’t above dropping the g’s in her present participles when speakin’ to the good folks who like grits, gravy and floatin’ down the Whitewater River.
Why, Bill Clinton himself — no matter how much a citizen of the world he has become since leaving the White House — still delivers his $100,000 speeches with an Arkansas drawl. And Jimmy Carter, it must be recalled, spoke folksy Georgian when calling upon the nation to save energy by wearing his line of cardigan sweaters.
No one party, nor one part of the country, has a monopoly on accents.
And the true language of politics, as Sen. Graham should know, doesn’t speak anything but dollar signs, with the accent heavy on the dollars.