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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Southern Living and Southern Talking

I don't usually pay much attention to the magazine, true confessions, but this month's "Southern Journal" essay in Southern Living really struck a chord with me. I so totally think Hollywood needs to pay attention. Much as I love The Closer, Kyra Sedgewick and her Thank you so mu-uch and those endless Lew-ten-unts is beginning to wear thin.

And don't people realize there's a difference between the way people in New Orleans and people in Nashville talk? If you've lived in Mississippi, you even know there's a speech variation between Deltans and Coast residents. I know Hollywood (and literature!) can't always re-create such nuances, but please- surely they can figure out something better than stupid Yankees mimicking dumb Southerners.

And while I'm ranting, there's nothing worse than bad Southern speech in books-- dare I say especially kids' books-- Nah, it's any book that crosses that line.

Maybe it's not possible to distinguish between regions in kids' books. (Although, when it counts, a few good writers do manage to get the flavor of certain sections of the country just fine, better than fine- perfect: Thank you very much, Kerry, Barbara, Kimberley, Phyllis- to name a few.)

So I know you do not have to be completely idiotic about it. I mean do all Southerners really sound like they're saying SHOULDA and COULDA all the time? Not to mention writing every other sentence with a dropped final G.

Enough already!

OK, now I got that off my chest. I can get back to work.

If you're interested in a much more articulate rant than mine, pick up the September issue of Southern Living and read Amy Bickers' backpage essay. Or you can click here and read it.
And if you'd like to read something I wrote for the Southern Writers' Blog, way back when I first started over there, on a related topic, click here for South Speak. You can leave me a comment about your favorite Southern expressions and words. And those we'd just never, ever use. Or at least we'd never mispronounce.

I hope Kyra's listening.


Janet Guyton said...

Gusty, you are a girl after my own heart! I can't even watch "The Closer" because Kyra's fake Southern accent is so bad. You are right--Hollywood just doesn't get it. Why don't they always seek out a speaker from the region in question, tape him/her speaking the dialogue of a given character, and have the actor performing that character imitate the native speaker? It sounds all too easy to me.
What peeves me most is to have an actor playing "Southern" drop "g's" incorrectly. You know what I mean--a real Southerner might possibly say "somethin'"--but would NEVER say "anythin'". And this is heard much too often.
Perhaps the all-time worst fake Southern accent was Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump". I guess he got away with it because Forrest was supposed to be not only Southern but also simple-minded.
It is going to kill me if they get the accents wrong in "The Help". I am already bracing myself.
Bless you. There are very few people to whom I can rant on this topic.

Warmest wishes--Jan Guyton

Augusta Scattergood said...

And FYI, my good friends in Jackson, Frank and Ivy Alley, have been recorded by the dialect/ voice coach for The Help movie as having very authentic Southern accents (they totally do!). So I'm also hoping the movie folks get it right. The director or producer-- I can't ever remember which-- grew up in Jackson. Here's crossing fingers!

Thanks for your comment, Jan.