Here's a question.
Why don't Californians have accents?
In fact, why don't any of the Western states have accents? Washingtonians, Oregonians and Californians are indistinguishable by speech.
It's a huge area. Compare that to New England and the Eastern Seaboard....where there's a different accent every 20 miles. And New York City, good Lord, where they change by neighborhood.
When I was a kid, I lamented our lack of accent. My mother comforted me by saying that we had a "California accent" and that we just didn't notice it because we lived here and everyone spoke the same, but if we went to another part of the country, it would be noticed and identified as such.
But when I got older, I found out that wasn't true. Everyone from all over the country agrees that Californians "don't have accents".
How is it someone who has a Brooklyn accent which must seem "normal" to them, considers Californians, who speak differently, not to have an accent?
They'll identify us immediately as coming from California—by our speech—but don't call it a "California accent".
I mean, New York and Boston and Philadelphia existed long before California. Why aren't one of those considered the "norm" and California a "deviation from it", an accent?
I get that putting an "r" where no "r" exists ("warsh the clothes") or dropping them altogether ("waash the caah") isn't how the language is written and all, but even the Queen's English drops "r's" ("good evening, suh" and "she is a sweet little gel" ) and it's considered the "standard" in England...you know, where ENGLISH came from!
And yet I've heard Englishmen say that Californians pronounce English as it is written...esentially, without an accent.
Sure, Californians pronounce all the letters and don't add ones that aren't there. We say "wash" and "car" and "sir" and "girl"...and pronounce all the nouns without undo broadening or chopping, but what makes our pronunciation the "right" one?
We're a region that was populated late, who came up with speech that is different from the rest of the country which had been the country for a lot longer, and suddenly we're the arbiter of correct American English?
Seriously, everyone who came here came from a place where they talk "funny". How did all all those regional—and foreign—accents that met here amalgamate into accent-free California English?
Don't you think that's odd?
And it's not just me saying so, obviously. We've decided it as a culture. Everybody who wants to be a national broadcaster has to drop their regional accents and adopt California English. You don't tune into the networks and hear thick Boston, or Jersey, or Cajun, or Fargo from the anchors.
It's always California English.
Of course, it all seems very natural to me. When I turn on the TV, everyone sounds like me. But why does it seem natural to Americans who don't hear people who sound like them?
I'm not arguing; I agree with the conclusion. Californians do speak English "without an accent". (And I'm okay with it now, Mom.)
I just can't figure out how or why it happened that way.
The Gunslinger, EOTIS