Accent of a woman

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Don’t you love accents? Those cute little biological markers embedded in your voice which stamp the rough return address for a lot of people. You can tell a lot from someone’s accent. Accents add character.

Sometimes, a bit too much character, which is why they are shortcuts used by lazy screenwriters everywhere. Femme fatales in your script? Throw in a French accent. Homegrown American idiot? Slap a Southern accent for ol’ Bubba Cooper. Dangerous mob boss? There’s an Italian for that. Sophisticated gentleman? British English to the rescue. And why bother with elaborate character motivations for the villains when you can just give them all Arabic accents?

You can't just keep punching Russian accents. You need to adapt with the times.Rocky IV | MGM/United Artists

You can’t just keep punching Russian accents. You need to adapt with the times.

Accents are not all dependable, though. Your accent can change with time and exposure. Or you can just fake it. Some fake it better than others. Personally, I don’t have the stereotypical Indian accent, but it’s still recognizable as Indian.

My friends, coworkers and classmates spoke with a lovely variety of accents – sometimes their accents told more stories than they did. I was particularly interested in how they changed accents as they moved to different parts of the world – Germany, Switzerland, UK, Singapore; no matter where – their accents evolved to match their regions. I noted that some of them changed their accents overnight. That felt so unnatural – so fake. I found it fascinating that they’d fake an accent. You yourself might be amused by the insanely trivial, random nonsense that I find fascinating.

“Is that… Is that paint peeling? Oooh. Let me get some popcorn.”

When my brother, Lewin, and his wife, Swetha moved to California, I knew I’d see a change in accent, over time. I speak with both of them fairly regularly, but haven’t noticed a shift yet. I usually dial Lewin’s number to reach either of them. One late evening, however, his number was completely unreachable, so I had to dial Swetha’s instead. As I was calling, I was also listening to the voices in my head (as I often do.)

TRING TRING

Come on… What happened to Lewin’s phone? And why is Swets taking so long to pick up??

“Hello.

Wha… what’s with her accent?? She has a New York accent all of a sudden??

…you have reached… 

Ha ha… Swetha’s using a fake accent for her voice mail message? This was just too amusing. (The things I find fascinating are NOTHING compared to the things I find amusing)

…my voice mail…

This needs to be mocked. How could it not? This accent was new. It was not pre-installed. It was a custom add-on that materialized overnight. What sort of a brother-in-law would I be if I let this slide without at least a slight jab?

… please leave your name and number…

Oh, no. It’s almost over. I have to think quick. What do I say?

… at the sound of the beep…

Knock knock? Who’s there? Yaaaa… Yaaa who? Well, that’s what you sound like with that new accent of yours, Swets.

How about that? Nooo!! That’s stupid. First of all, her accent is clearly not a ‘Yahoo’ type of accent, and secondly, knock knock jokes don’t work if you do all the lines yourself! Stupid, stupid, stupid.

… and I will get back to you…

Quick! Something else. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just do… something. Just… mimic her accent. Yes, that’s it! Just leave a message in a fancy New York accent…

… as soon as I can.”

Ok. Ready.

BEEP!!

Well, here goes!

Time to channel my inner New Yorker.

Howdy!

Wha… What are you doing? That’s not a New York accent!!

That’s a maaghty fine accent ya got thar, m’ lady.

Great. Apparently, I’m Texan now. With a dash of pirate thrown in. But fine. It doesn’t matter. Just make some subtle jab at her accent.

It sounds purty lovely, I say.  Been practicing long, I reckon?

Not quite the zinger I was hoping for, but it’ll do, until I talk to her directly later on.

I was tuckered out ’til I heard your voice mail. Talk ta ya soon, Swets.

Ok. Running out of stuff to say. Wrap it up before your accent breaks apart.

Jus’ pick up the phone an’ hit me back, whydontcha?

And done! That’s a wrap, everybody. All the voices in here can just retire for the day. Pack up.

It was pretty late, and I wasn’t expecting Swets to call back any time soon. I actually forgot about this completely.

Until today. I was with my wife when I tried to call Lewin. Once again, he was unreachable, and I had to call Swetha instead. As the over-the-top New York accent greeted me with the voice mail message again, it reminded me of my call last week. I cut the call and started laughing.

My wife asked me what I was laughing about. I was all too happy to tell her the story of our lil’ sis-in-law and her fancy new accent. She found it slightly amusing, but also pretty confusing. She had a pretty good memory, and she didn’t remember such a New York accented message the last time she called her. She decided to dig a bit deeper into the mystery.

We'd have called the professionals, but you don't use magnifying glasses when you're digging.

“I’d have helped, but all I have is this magnifying glass, and that’s useless for digging.”

It turned out that The Mystery of the New York Accent was not that deep after all. She found out – rather quickly – that I had two contact records for Swetha, one of which had an old, discarded number that I just failed to delete. I was dialing the wrong number; a number that apparently got reassigned to some young lady with a New York accent.

Oh. Kay. I let that sink in for a minute.

Apparently, somewhere in New York, there was this young lady who had retired for the night sometime last week – probably after a long and grueling day in the Big Apple. In the morning, she checked her phone for messages, as she was wont to do. And she found this little nugget – from a vaguely Texan sounding stranger calling from an Indian number, who said – “Howdy! That’s a maaghty fine accent you got thar, my lady. It sounds pretty lovely, I say. Been practicing long, I reckon? I was tuckered out ’til I heard your voice mail. Talk ta ya soon, sweets. Jus’ pick up the phone an’ hit me back, whydoncha?”

Gulp. If that isn’t the creepiest, flirtiest, skin-crawlingest muck she’s heard this month, then she must really lead a truly awful life. On the off chance that you’re one of the three readers of this site from the US – lady – I’m really, truly sorry.

That doesn’t seem enough. I should probably apologize over the phone, but I don’t trust myself to dial anymore. If you want a fresh apology, I guess the only option is for you to contact me for it. Just… Jus’ pick up the phone an’ hit me back, whydoncha?

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