Hey Ohio, you killed my accent

Doug Hite

As an out-of-state student, one of the most surprising attributes of Ohioans was their immense pride in their state. The harsh side of this pride was the unfounded notion that a great deal of Ohioans had that their state or region of the country was home to people who were, in one way or another, better than the remainder of the nation.

I’m from the South. More specifically, I’m from the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. And even more specifically, I’m from the southwestern part of Virginia. Upon learning this about me, most Ohioans make the comment “That’s weird. You don’t have an accent.”

It’s because you killed it. I once had a beautiful Appalachian dialect filled with y’alls, fur pieces and a unique syntax much more vivid and expressive than any other form of English I have ever heard. But that is now as distant to me as the mountains I grew up in the shadows of.

How did you kill it? Through every depiction of a Southern drawl your “standard” English has portrayed. My accent, through years of stereotypes spread by humor and the media, has been equated with ignorance and primitivism. This has been done by speakers of “standard” English in a vain and often subconscious attempt to assert their way of life, their dialect and their regional home as greater or more advanced than that of other areas.

In defense of native Ohioans, it may be stated that these stereotypes may be based on fact: Historically, Appalachian Americans are less educated, impoverished and out of touch with the outside world. I cannot deny that these facts are founded. But they are with reason.

Education is typically gained in preparation for a job. Secondary and college education are not essential to all occupations. Instead, hands-on learning and constant practice can be more efficient than formal education. With this said, some Appalachian Americans, while not seeking formal education, are actually better educated than others who have completed a traditional post-secondary schooling.

Also, poverty has been portrayed only negatively as we are constantly reminded, as a rich American society, to help those who are not wealthy. With wealth comes a decreased focus on interpersonal relationships, insincerity and a craving for material possessions. Those of us in an Appalachian culture do not need wealth to enjoy life, but can find pleasure in simplicity.

As an Appalachian society, we are immensely content. With this in mind, Appalachian Americans do not need or want to immerse themselves in the cultures of others or to follow the rest of America in a pursuit of worldliness.

So, why, if Appalachian people are so content with their culture and heritage, did I allow my accent to be killed? Because Ohioans have taken Appalachian stereotypes as fact. And while I may be as well educated, as wealthy, or as worldly as anyone else I encounter in this state, I could never be taken seriously with my accent.

An accent is not indicative of a person’s worth, knowledge or social status. So, before you sarcastically point out ignorance, think again before you do it in a Southern drawl, because your culture is no more advanced or progressive than the one you are making fun of.

Doug Hite is a junior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]