‘Little Phi-yull look out fer that white thang!’
Now that everybody over the age of seven can point a cell phone anywhere, video anything and have it on the Internet in about 90 seconds, we’ve got a major image problem to deal with.
Last week’s tornadoes in the Dallas area were a case in point. I wonder what the rest of the country thinks we are, a Jeff Foxworthy routine?
I clicked a video link on an Ohio newspaper’s website and by the time it was over, I was wondering if they’d selected it for its newsworthiness or entertainment value. This is how it went. It helps if you channel Carol Burnett’s classic “Mama’s Family” sketch:
“Mamma, come look, look at this up there’n the sky.”
Ah doan see nuthin’.
“Yeah, ya dew, look, I tell yeh, it’s a tornader.”
Whurr? It ain’t no tornader.
“Yeah, id-diz, look, it’s comin’ out of that cloud, mamma, yonder a ways, look!” That white thang? “That’s the tornader, that’s the tornader!”
Why, why, it’s raht they-yure, it’s just raht they-yure. Phil, Phil, come look at the tornader!
“Ummmm, ah think it’s comin’ tords us, mamma.”
Naw, it ain’t.
“Mamma, it’s comin’ raht at us, ah sway-yure!”
“Oh nooooooo! Lard hep-us, whurr’s little Phi-yull, whurr’s little Phi-yull!
You get the picture.
Now, just in case you think I’m some Yankee elitist, I’ve never lived anywhurr—uh anywhere— but Texas and I include myself in the large group of Lone Star staters with robust accents.
On my one trip to Minnesota, I was staying with a family which was making a phone call to another family member to see if his new answering machine was working properly.
I thought it would be funny, since he didn’t know my voice, if I made the call, pretended to be a state official and told him he was in violation of some rule.
Everyone in the room immediately burst into laughter.
I didn’t understand.
“Mike,” I was told, “you, with your Texas accent, were going to pretend to be an official of the state of Minnesota?”
Ah have uh ak-seyent?
Okay, I admitted the obvious. But I still agree with the aforementioned Mr. Foxworthy that whenever there’s a natural disaster in the southern U. S. the people who end up on the national news always seem to have no teeth and keep chickens in the living room.
Foxworthy swears he and his wife, a Louisiana native, were once watching coverage of a flood in that state and discovered the grinning goofus walking down the street in neck-deep water was her brother!
Here’s my proposal. Certainly anyone that can program a device to understand speech and then talk back to you could come up with some kind of accent filter to be applied to Internet videos.
L et ’s imag i ne la st we ek ’s encounter filtered to sound like, oh, a well-bred British family.
“I say mater, cawst a glawnce toward the horizon.”
I fail to see it, dear boy, perhaps I need the opera glahhses.
“Appears to be in rotation, don’t-cha-know?”
Still hahven’t a visual.
“I say, I believe that was our throughbred English Darby winner who just f lew through the parlor window. I really must implore that you revise your opinion.”
Oh my! Point well taken. Pahss the tea dear, I think it will set a good exahhmple to the servants if we stay out here on the lawn. Crumpet?
Wait a minute. I’m suddenly remembering other accents I’ve encountered.
In Massachusetts I was asked if I wanted a slice of “pizzer” and was told an opinion about the “democratic potty.”
I thought they meant one of those unisex bathrooms, you know with the little drawings of both a female and a male on the door. Instead they meant one of our two main political groups.
And the only time I was ever in England the main accents I encountered were those of surly waitresses whose entire vocabularies consisted of “wot?” and “yeah.”
Which wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t followed it up by serving me British food.
At least our Texas accents, unsophisticated as we may seem, are open, friendly and inviting.
And, unless we are in reality shows on The Weather Channel, we have enough good sense to get out of the way when we see a tornado coming.
Okay, just forget about that accent filter thing I proposed a while back.
Y’all doan worry. Me’n little Phi-yull are gonna be all raahht.