Growing up, I didn’t really think about accents that much. I knew that people from the south talked funny (and I still think that), and that they sounded a bit odd in England, thanks to reruns of “Are You Being Served?” and “Fawlty Towers” on Channel 12. But did I have an accent? Of course not!

In 1991, my family went on vacation in Virginia Beach, a drive that took us 12 hours. I’m not really sure if my dad was a really slow driver or that my brother and I needed a bathroom break every other mile, but that’s an awful long time for a 285 mile drive.

This little trip taught me a lot. Some local kid (a Braves fan) who was around my age taught me how to boogie board, a skill that I sadly have not practiced in more than 20 years. Also, if you chase a body-sized raft down the street right as the wind whips up before a thunderstorm, the shop’s owner will let you keep it, especially if it has a hole in it. Finally, I learned that I talked funny.

Or did I? Should I listen to a bunch of kids from rural Virginia and North Carolina? Of course I’m not going to listen to them – they’re the ones who talked funny. They also called me a “Yankee,” which offended me because I thought they were calling me a fan of the NY Yankees. Luckily my dad cleared that one up for me.

Eventually we returned to PA and the concept of accents faded into the background, probably until I moved to DC after high school. It was only then that people poked fun at the way I said words like iron, water, center, and coffee. And as I did some more digging (along with the Linguistics course I took in college), I realized that Philly, the suburbs, and south Jersey has an accent that’s all our own. It’s one that’s similar in many ways to Baltimore, and in some ways to New York, but at the end of the day, this “Mid-Atlantic” accent is our gift to the world. You’re welcome, guys.

Sean Monahan, a Bucks native, put together a series of videos on this accent last year, which can be found on his Philly Tawk blog. They’re both informative and entertaining, and hopefully they’ll partially explain to my west coast friends why I can sound silly sometimes.


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