“So, where are you from?” The most common of questions, with the amazing possibility of so many varied answers. Where am I from, anyway? (and is it possible for the American people to ask a question that does not end in a preposition?)
“Surely you’re not from Georgia, you don’t have a southern accent!” “You sound like you are not even from the south!” (say the southerners with whom I go to school).
“Listen to that cute little southern voice” says my friend Jessica, “and it’s gotten thicker since you got up here with your family. Part of it might be affected, but not all of it.”
I have noticed that when I get tired I have a thicker accent, but I had never considered that I may slip into a thicker version of myself when I am with my family. It had never occurred to me. (I am so glad I have the privilege of friends who love me and listen to me speak, and can point out something even I am unable to hear).
These questions came up in my visit with my family. Usually I am quite careful how I speak. I strive for a well enunciated, unaffected, urban lilt. (I think I usually succeed, mostly…) But because of my spongy tongue I have the uncanny tendency to slip into what I think I hear those around me speaking. I can slip into a Irish brogue close enough to fool a few, I stymied the Kenyans and the Costa Ricans with my Kiswahili and Español, respectively, and I have been able to fit in at school without too much difficulty. However, my wise and attentively watchful friends have informed me that I have a deeper southern accent, especially when I am around a greater source of influence, or my closest circle.
Even though I do not have a single hometown, I have had the privilege of seeing many of the lands that I have lived in, and seen and heard how people work within their own spheres of influence. Since I have begun to see how to adapt to those around me, I can embrace it as a valuable part of me.
I suspect that involuntarily, I do this so that I can fit in more closely with the people with whom I work. I surely hope that is why. It is not conscious enough to be a manipulation technique (granted, I can’t do those when I try). It is possible that I have acquired it as a survival skill, that I didn’t pick up until later. I say this because otherwise I might have ended up with a thick Georgian accent, but part of that I that I do actually know what words are to sound like, and when I was in high school I was not nearly as capable of picking up, adapting, or conforming to anything around me (at all).
I anticipate that as I continue to work in ministry, I should continue to have opportunities to practice this newly identified skill. I pray it will help me grow in fellowship and community with those around me (even though and especially if they are laughing at me). Because we all need a good portion of humor in each of our lives.