That Dirty Watuh
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It was nevuh suggested to me that I speak with an accent until one summuh when I was nine and my cousins from Florida were visiting.

A couple of days after they arrived, the oldest of the cousins, Jay, turned to my Uncle Benny. “Hey Dad, do you think if we moved up herre, we’d starrrt talking with Boston accents?” he asked.

My uncle shrugged.

“What’s a Bostin accent?” I asked, intrigued.

“Like when you say ‘caaaa’ instead of carrr.” Jay replied condescendingly.

“I don’t say ‘caaaa.’ I say cah. Not ‘carrr.’ Cah. I don’t have an accent. You do. What’s with all the ‘ahs’?” I shot back.

He laughed at me. “How do you spell carrr?” he asked.

“Duh, C-A-AH,” I replied.

  
 
He just laughed hahduh.

“Derr. Why do you say ‘ah’ instead of ‘arrr’?”

“Because ‘arrr’ sounds retahdid.”

“Does not. ‘Ahh’ sounds retarrrded.”

“No suh.”

“Aww. Haww.”

“Okay that’s enough,” said Uncle Benny in the classic you-kids-are-giving-me-a-headache voice.

I glared at Jay.

“Carrr,” I drawled tauntingly. But I knew it was useless. We would never see eye to eye on this one.

I just talked like everyone else I knew, and I was not about to staht talking like those Florida kids.

My father overheard this conversation and decided to have some fun. That evening during dinner, he opened a bottle of wine. He held up the cork and looked at my teenage cousins Jay and Matt.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

They snickered and shook their heads.

“It’s a cock,” said my Dad.

Jay and Matt busted out laughing.

“No it’s not. It’s a corrrrk,” said Jay after he recovered enough to talk.

Years later, after my innocence waned, I recalled that conversation, got the joke, and made a note to watch my ahs around wine.

After graduating from Wakefield High, I began the carrhea of a series of office jobs in Boston. At first, I recall noting differences in inflection and pronunciation of certain words, depending on the region of suburban Boston the speakuh was from. And after yeahs of being exposed to the rich diversity in the city, I got used to hearing lots of different accents from all around the world.

I decided that if I did have an accent, it deserved to be spoken with pride, out of respect for my roots.

Recently while reading a short at an open mike, I was faced with a grim self-discovery. The story was about my and my brother’s first whoopee cushions. Inevitably such a tale will beg for the utterance of the one word I cannot fake: faht. And it wasn’t until it slipped out that I realized I had been reading without the accent that I really don’t have.

I was unable to successfully pull off a faht with realistic ahhs, and, worse, I was embarrassed about it! I had failed in conforming to the universal language of aht. Did I subconsciously think that people would judge me by my alleged Boston accent? Perhaps I was following the example of ahtists I admired. For it occurred to me later that even Mick Jagguh loses his accent when he sings.

It can be a real bastid, but the dirty watuh, she runs through my veins.

I fantasize about one day having my own language school in Kenmore Square. I shall name my language Bostonics. All the college kids from out of town will delight in learning how to speak like Boston natives. It will be a place where the guttural melody of the accent I don’t have will be embraced.

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