Hometown City Girl: The City Ain’t Easy With an Accent

If you live in Southeastern Ohio, whether you want to admit it or not, you have an accent. Some are thicker than others but to some degree I can guarantee there are at least a few words you say with a sprinkle of twang. I just want to be clear before we go any further, in no way am I saying it’s a bad thing, I’m not insulting anyone for the way they speak. Every region of the world has their own accent and we have ours.

I grew up in the Cincinnati area but moved to Gallipolis when I was only in 3rd grade, then later moved to Meigs, so you would think I wouldn’t have had such a hard time getting acclimated since I was so young, but when it comes to the way I talked apparently it was a dead giveaway that I wasn’t from the area. I have one of those voices that tends to change easily when I’m around different people but there was something about it that my voice would match accents from time to time but never really changed completely till sometime after I graduated.

The way I spoke actually was something I frequently got picked on for in high school. I had kept some of the Cincinnati accent and vocabulary and people thought I intentionally spoke differently because I thought I was above everyone. That wasn’t the case but I also wasn’t going to force my voice to adapt an accent when it wasn’t natural for me. Like I said, sometime after high school that changed though, not sure if that was just enough time to adapt it or what but here we are I’ve been living in Columbus for over a year and my voice is still a dead giveaway.

I honestly didn’t realize I had picked it up until I moved but it immediately became apparent to me. I realized that some days it’s thicker than others, sometimes I have trouble annunciating my k’s, and I tend to do the Southeastern Ohio triple contraction thing where you combine more words into one that you probably should which tends to confuse people that aren’t used to hearing it.

The response I’ve gotten from my accent is mixed but it tends to go one of two ways; either the person I’m speaking with automatically assumes I’m more uneducated than them, or they find it adorable and ask which of the southern states I’m from, to which I get a surprised look when I say I’ve only ever lived in Ohio. It’s been surprising to me how much something as simple as the way I speak can be a barrier to the other person I’m having a conversation with, especially in the workplace.

I’ve had two jobs during my time in Columbus and at both I’ve had instances where my voice has been the cause of a problem with customers. As I stated one of the two reactions is people assuming I’m not very smart because of that. This has caused customers I’m working with to question my knowledge in assisting them, people have even straight up stated that there’s no way I could know anything because of where I came from, and most of these types of interactions were over the phones so my voice was all they had to go off of about me. It’s happened in person as well, it’s been more rare but I’ve had people walk away from me and ask another employee the same question they asked me. I honestly don’t think this comes from an inability to understand me because of a too thick accent, I think it’s more about a social stigma and stereotype. This is unfortunate because myself and many people I know from home that have a regional accent are very smart, but sometimes people’s perception keeps them from listening . There were a few times after certain interactions that made me feel so bad about myself that I actually considered getting a voice coach because I was tired of being unfairly judged for the way I speak.

Now it isn’t all bad, I mentioned some people react to finding it adorable. Especially when I worked to where almost all my interactions were over the phone a lot of people would comment about how unique and sweet my voice was. Strangely enough some people even thought I was younger because of it. Now that most of my customer interactions are in person I’ve also seen people gravitate toward me because I sound more familiar. I work in a bridal salon now and we get people from all over, when I ask where they’re from and they say ‘I’m sure you haven’t heard of it’, my favorite thing to say is ‘try me’. More often than not in these scenarios they say Gallipolis, or Meigs County. When I explain I grew up there they light up and instantly get a little more comfortable. It’s been great for me to be there for these customers, I truly enjoy getting to relate to them and make them feel a little better from being out of the area.

There’s really nothing wrong with the way I talk, and I don’t plan on forcing myself to make it change. Your accent is your own, it’s a part of you, a little piece of what make you who you are. So even if you ever find yourself in a position where it makes you feel isolated just be proud of who you are, and that area that gave you that accent is full of wonderful people with an amazing sense of community. Let that be what defines you.

~ An ambition too big for home; a heart too big for the city

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