Because the Princess is a member of Gen Z (generally refers to those born between 1996 and 2012) I wasn’t the least surprised to read this headline on a recent “New York Post” story: “Gen Z is Killing the Southern Drawl Y’all.”
I’ve suspected this for quite a while. Ever since she was in high school I noticed, to my great sadness, the Princess and her classmates sounded like they were from … California. Not all, but most. I raised her better than this. The Cali accent, widely regarded as no accent at all, lacks the melodic tones of a proper Southern accent. Think slightly nasal, clipped descriptions of having traveled on the 405 to the Topanga Sepulveda Tar Pits or some such.
Alarmed, I decided to coach my only child on How to Talk Southern along about 11th grade, which would give her a year to practice before being released into the wild. (“wild” being defined as a state school less than three hours from home but you get where I’m going here.)
After a particularly vexing conversation in which she stubbornly used perfect diction while I, perhaps childishly, pretended to hold my pinky out over an imaginary teacup, I finally asked the question.
“Why do you talk like you aren’t from around here?”
“Excuse me?”
“See! See that right there! The correct response to that question was “Say what?” or the judges would have accepted the alternate “Do what?” I knew it! First, they came for our idioms…”
“I think you’re overreacting Mom.”
“Mom? MOMMMMMM? I’m not Mom. I’m Mama. MAMA!!!! And when I become a grandmother, I’ll be Big Mama. Have I taught you nothing?”
Fast forward to today when I asked if anyone gives her a hard time about her Southern accent now that she lives in Phoenix.
“Hmmmm. What? No. I don’t think they think I have an accent.”
Which made me feel lower’n a snake in snowshoes.
How did this happen? And why is my own daughter’s generation singlehandedly dismantling the soft, magnolia blossomy delight that is a classic Southern accent?
I returned to the “Post” article which made me wince at its clumsy “Researchers over yonder at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech…” Just don’t, New York Post, and I won’t try to tell you how to make a bagel.
After years of study, it turns out migratory patterns play a big role as folks get above their raisin’ and move all over hell’s half acre like their clothes are on fire. Or something like that.
Comparing the accents of white Southerners living in Georgia, the accent drops off sharply starting with Gen X (roughly 1965-80) and then Gen Z, the “Post” insists on saying drives the nail in the pine box.
(Note to the “Post”: That’s not really a thing we say. Perhaps you were watching a late-night Western on basic cable and got confused?)
Researchers reported Gen Z doesn’t, for instance, pronounce “prize” as “prahz” like their grandparents did. (For the record, that must be a Georgia thing; here in Eastern North Carolina we would sound like a “prahz idiot” if we said that. No, no. It’s more about stretching the word into four or five syllables: “Jimmy won Mama and them a priiiiiiiiiize at the county fair.”)
The “Post” reported (as if anyone could stop them) researchers are “fixing to” pursue a study of cross-generational accents among African Americans in the South. FIXING TO?!? Drop that like it’s a snake, “New York Post.”
Not only is the Princess’s generation not talkin’ Southern, they’re picking up British accents from “Love Island.”
Lord have mercy.
Although, I do get that. I’ve watched so many episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” I now call cake layers “sponges.” It’s the beginning of the end, all of you.