Looking for tips; A proper lady of Virginia's accent.

Yankee Brooke

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Looking around, my heart seems set on my impression being that of a lady from The Old Dominion. I guess I bleed butternut more than I thought, especially for a "Yankee" at least by location and upbringing standards. But hey, I suppose we're all Yankees if you ask a Brit or Aussie....

Anyway, if I'm going to be convincing, I'm aiming to start work on a proper accent to go along with the clothes. My question is, what would that sound like? I can do a Southern accent, albeit a stereotypical, unrefined, and probably offensive one, but what does a proper one from the Northern Virginia area sound like? I also assume it's different from the modern one I typically hear in videos when I try and search?

I suppose it's not only the accent itself, but also HOW you speak. My friends pick on me for speaking "like an English major"(which I am). I use big words and tend to avoid most slang, from what I'm told. Though I suppose that's still quite different than 1861, I suppose there's many words that were slang(if they were even in use at all) back when, that we probably consider to simply be common tongue...

Any tips on this, or resources I can turn would be helpful. :smile:
 

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Zella

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Nothing wrong with speaking like an English major. (Says a fellow former English major. :wink: )

What are you considering northern Virginia? I'm not as familiar with Virginia, but I do enjoy studying accents and dialects. In my experience, accents/dialects can vary quite a bit within a small area.
 

major bill

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Would upper class and lower class women have the same accents? I am assuming that many upper class women would have been taught proper English, but not sure this would have changed their accents.
 

Zella

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I think it's quite likely. Accents can also vary markedly in families. People always ask where I am from and then are confused when I tell them I am local. I just have never had an accent, despite growing up surrounded by very strong ones.
 

Yankee Brooke

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@Zella Absolutely nothing wrong with it, I usually thank them for the compliment! I know that quite well about differing accents among family, my parents are both New Jowsians, with proper accents to go along, though far slighter now from spending 30 years in PA. My brother, sisters, and I do not have anything but the plain old American accent, very generic. Also I know of a few different accents unique to PA. Pittsburgh, Philly, PA Dutch, a "regular PA accent," and "no accent/generic American." So I understand how accents can vary within areas. By "Northern Virginia," I was referring to the hot bed known as the Richmond area, as I'm going to bill myself as from somewhere around there. Fredericksburg, possibly. Thank you for that link, I'm looking it over! :smile:

@major bill That is my understanding as well. Just like the British accent we know today is NOTHING like it was back in the 1700's... in fact there would have been little, if any discernible difference between an American and a British soldier during The War for American Independence. Someone should tell Hollywood that. I've ruled out movies and television as learning material, because not only do period pieces use modern accents, a Virginian, an Alabamian, and a Texan all sound the same, I've met enough southerners to know that those are vastly different accents, each Southern state has it's own "flavor" of the accent. I would assume upper class would speak in more proper English, but probably keep the same accent, I don't notice much difference between me and my siblings accent wise, just because I'm more proper and tend towards less slang.
 

WJC

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You ask a great question, one I don't know has a good answer.
I've often wondered how actors portraying period film roles know what accent is appropriate. How do we know if your Virginia Belle sounded like Mary Anna Lee, Mary Anna Jackson or Mary Chesnut? We suppose that all of these women- a Virginian, a North Carolinian and a South Carolinian- had 'Southern accents', but did they? If so, was it the same as a native of those states today? Did they sound like Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara? How different was the accent of a woman born and raised in Richmond from someone in Wheeling? What was the impact of ancestry: did a Virginian of English ancestry have a different accent from a Virginian of Scots ancestry?
The recordings of elderly southerners made in the 1930's give us some hints, but even they may not accurately portray an 1860 speech pattern.
Perhaps the best answer is to give the public what it wants, whether it is authentic or not. Give them Scarlett Ohara and fiddle-de-dee.
 

Zella

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@Zella Absolutely nothing wrong with it, I usually thank them for the compliment! I know that quite well about differing accents among family, my parents are both New Jowsians, with proper accents to go along, though far slighter now from spending 30 years in PA. My brother, sisters, and I do not have anything but the plain old American accent, very generic. Also I know of a few different accents unique to PA. Pittsburgh, Philly, PA Dutch, a "regular PA accent," and "no accent/generic American." So I understand how accents can vary within areas. By "Northern Virginia," I was referring to the hot bed known as the Richmond area, as I'm going to bill myself as from somewhere around there. Fredericksburg, possibly. Thank you for that link, I'm looking it over! :smile:

@major bill That is my understanding as well. Just like the British accent we know today is NOTHING like it was back in the 1700's... in fact there would have been little, if any discernible difference between an American and a British soldier during The War for American Independence. Someone should tell Hollywood that. I've ruled out movies and television as learning material, because not only do period pieces use modern accents, a Virginian, an Alabamian, and a Texan all sound the same, I've met enough southerners to know that those are vastly different accents, each Southern state has it's own "flavor" of the accent. I would assume upper class would speak in more proper English, but probably keep the same accent, I don't notice much difference between me and my siblings accent wise, just because I'm more proper and tend towards less slang.
I was raised in the Ozarks by folks from Appalachia. My grandparents and dad have strong Western North Carolina accents, my brother has a pronounced Arkansas accent, and I have been told I sound like a newscaster from Nebraska. LOL

Perhaps letters and diaries from the time might be helpful? Not necessarily a clue on pronunciation (though sometimes spelling can be if they're phonetic spellers), but those kinds of writings can give a good indication of someone's speech patterns and rhythms, especially if they're intended for family and friends or personal use and are not being polished up for official reasons.
 

Yankee Brooke

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Or I suppose I could just say I'm a transplant from PA, but that's no fun!:bounce:

I quite love Vivian Leigh's accent in GWTW, though it may not be accurate. Like you said though @WJC , that may perhaps be more what people expect. Fiddle dee I'd better watch GWTW more so I can pick up on her accent. Maybe it'll rub off on me if I watch it enough. I already watched it once today..... I can't think about that now, I'll think about that tomorrow.
 

Yankee Brooke

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@Zella I've been told I sound like I'm from Chicago. I've never even been to Chicago, I didn't know they had an accent. :roflmao:
Letters are a good idea, I'd also like to learn some Spencerian script, so a dual purpose!

@Equestriangirl93 I was thinking more "military brat," actually. Though I suppose class would depend on daddy's rank....
 

Zella

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Honestly, some of the older recordings I have heard would sound really odd to a modern ear. (Not just counting Southern accents there. Also including Northern accents and English accents.) Even the more contemporary but old-fashioned Transatlantic accent can sound weird now. So, using a more contemporary but regionally appropriate accent might be the way to go. :smile:

What was the impact of ancestry: did a Virginian of English ancestry have a different accent from a Virginian of Scots ancestry?
I've read some really interesting discussion--would have to hunt it down again--that rhoticism in American accents is a good clue of whether the area is more influenced by Scottish or English speech pattern. So, Tidewater/Lowland Southern accents are non-rhotic because the early settlers were primarily of English extraction while the more inland/mountainous areas of the South are rhotic because of a stronger Scotch-Irish influence.
 
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LoriAnn

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Perhaps the best answer is to give the public what it wants, whether it is authentic or not. Give them Scarlett Ohara and fiddle-de-dee.
That's what I was thinking. In my experience, non-Southerners neither know nor care about any regional differences.

and I have been told I sound like a newscaster from Nebraska. LOL
I love Nebraskans! :D

I met a man from Louisiana at Faire a couple of weeks ago. He asked me a question, and I responded with, "Oh, no..." Which made him laugh. According to him, it sounded like, "Oh, noooo..." (Think Fargo.) Then he said, "It's...naw." :laugh: And we went back and forth for a moment, "Nooo." "Naw." "Noooooo..." :giggle:
 

Zella

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@Zella I've been told I sound like I'm from Chicago. I've never even been to Chicago, I didn't know they had an accent. :roflmao:
Letters are a good idea, I'd also like to learn some Spencerian script, so a dual purpose!

@Equestriangirl93 I was thinking more "military brat," actually. Though I suppose class would depend on daddy's rank....
LOL I'm always intrigued to hear where I'm supposed to be from, according to other people. :D

I like your military brat idea. That might be a really fun background story to come up with. :smile:
 

Zella

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That's what I was thinking. In my experience, non-Southerners neither know nor care about any regional differences.


I love Nebraskans! :D

I met a man from Louisiana at Faire a couple of weeks ago. He asked me a question, and I responded with, "Oh, no..." Which made him laugh. According to him, it sounded like, "Oh, noooo..." (Think Fargo.) Then he said, "It's...naw." :laugh: And we went back and forth for a moment, "Nooo." "Naw." "Noooooo..." :giggle:
Bahaha that's great! :D
 

Yankee Brooke

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@Zella I agree, I thought GWTW would bug me, because most movies of that era, their voices sound so odd to me... but it didn't. Weird. It's funny though, I have people that say that, then someone will tell me they knew I'm from PA, because I "sound like it." Though as I said before, we have lots of accents, maybe it's more the words I actually use. I went to NYC and asked for a hoagie, I thought I offended the guy behind the counter, "It's a sub!!!!!!!!"

This song is a joke, but it's funny(to me) because it's true. Pay particular attention to the intro, it's what I mean when I say "PA accent." Its spread throughout the song though, and a bit stereotypical:

@LoriAnn I have a friend from Louisiana so I was like, "I bet he'll say 'it's naw' " before I even read that part. lol

So I'm guessing learning a modern Virginia accent with period correct vernacular should suffice? That or channel my inner Scarlett O'Hara?
 

LoriAnn

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This song is a joke, but it's funny(to me) because it's true. Pay particular attention to the intro, it's what I mean when I say "PA accent."(Though a bit stereotypical):
That was great! I don't think Illinois has anything quite that entertaining.

There's video of me somewhere doing the Chicken Dance. Also not entertaining. :unsure:
 

Yankee Brooke

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Fiddly dee, looking it up, my region of PA speaks the same dialect as most of yous in Illinois, @LoriAnn . I suppose that explains the Chicago thing.

It is quite entertaining, especially to someone who lives here, and can laugh at herself! :roflmao:

As an aside, all those weird a-- towns are actual names of ACTUAL TOWNS IN PA.
 

LoriAnn

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It is quite entertaining, especially to someone who lives here, and can laugh at herself! :roflmao:
Amen, Sister. If you can't laugh at yourself, life is going to be way harder than it needs to be. :smile:

I scrolled through the Wiki article and noticed Dennis Farina's name. I would agree that he sounds like a lot of guys I know. Not all, of course. We're a very diverse area, so we have a multitude of accents (my area and my job is very heavy with Spanish and various European accents). But the average dude in my family sounds like him.

So. We're Inland Northern. Woo! *high five*
 


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