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Hollywood’s Terrible Southern Accent Syndrome

Has anyone from Hollywood ever even been to the South?

by
Chris Queen

Bio

July 16, 2013 - 3:00 pm
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Filmed in Georgia...but no real Southern accents in sight!

Filmed in Georgia…but no real Southern accents in sight!

For years, the town where I grew up – and where I still live – has succumbed to Hollywood fever. Since 1955, television and film crews have called Covington, GA home. I have fond memories of five-year-old me standing on the corner in front of the pharmacy where my mom worked (next door to where I work now) with her and her boss watching cars race down the street over and over again. The chase scene was part of a pilot for a little new show called The Dukes of Hazzard. The show filmed its first season here before going back to Hollywood.

Years later, I appeared as an extra, along with the rest of my high school chorus, in an episode of In the Heat of the Night, (that’s me, second from the left on the back row in the video below) which filmed its six seasons in Covington. The library where I worked doubled as the police station, and we would remain open on filming days while the actors would come inside and talk with us in between takes. Currently, The Vampire Diaries films here, and the atmosphere on filming days buzzes with electricity. A local couple makes thousands of dollars every month giving tours to fans who call themselves Vampire Stalkers.

Our town has been the stage for Oscar winners (My Cousin Vinny‘s Marissa Tomei and a short called The Accountant) and Emmy winners (Carroll O’Connor of In the Heat of the Night). Celebrities as diverse as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Amy Grant, and Denzel Washington have passed in front of the cameras in our town. Needless to say, we longtime Covington residents are used to show business.

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Covington isn’t that unique. Production companies film all over the South – and have done so for years. So why is it that, most any time a character from the South opens his or her mouth on television or film, the accent that comes out is terrible?

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All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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Leave it to Dog fan to take a shot at Floridians. Although we are small in number, Crackers always punch above their weight.

You know why people say that Alligators make a barking sound? Because we eat Dogs for breakfast, lunch and supper! CHOMP!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re:
"Come on, Hollywood: we’d be glad to show y’all around!"

Speak for yourself only. Be careful what you wish for.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, I can definitely relate to what the article is talking about: I remember watching some episodes of Season 5/Volume 4 of "Heroes" (not really a good season IMO, thanks to what they did with Claire [let's just say that they... changed some aspects of her character to fit a certain agenda that got DOMA repealed that were not even hinted at in earlier episodes], among other things, but still...) and when they covered Caiman, Georgia, they had an accent that I could not speak at all. I was raised in Georgia for most of my life (I was born in Connecticut in 1990, but moved to Georgia due to UPS moving its headquarters down there), yet I could never speak a southern accent. Actually, the only people I definitely recall speaking with a southern accent, any whatsoever, that I've had any interactions with are my Elementary speech teacher (who spoke with a heavy Alabama accent, to the extent that I kept mispronouncing the word "theater" [she pronounced it as "the-ate-er", yet I kept pronouncing it exactly as it was spelled.]), one of my classmates (who sounded very similar to the Weasley Twins in the Goblet of Fire if you've met him recently) and my US History II professor at GPC (who was from Arkansas, yet spoke with a similar dialect to those in Texas). Funny thing is, I'm largely of Irish descent (being 3/4s Irish due to my mom's side being purely irish and my Dad having bits of Irish and Canadian in his primarily Norwegian background), yet I still couldn't master it. Similarly, my mom was raised largely in Massachusetts, but I can assure you of one thing: she certainly did not sound like one of the Kennedys.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Glad you mentioned the "old" southern accent vs. the "redneck" southern accent. It is mainly a generational thing. My grandparents, my mother, and my aunts and uncles all had the "old" accent. Even the ones who were country farmers were non-rhotic. However, their children all spoke with the "redneck" version - r's fully prounounced, etc.

I think the Southern Gentleman accent is dead, or at least dying out. Not sure why. Possibly because of radio, movies, TV, and travel. My impression is that it's all merging into one Generic Southern accent.

I also think the accent in general is going away. That's largely due to the media as well. It's no longer cool to sound Southern - especially among young, college-educated men and women.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
P.S. - Mom's from Milledgeville, dad's from Savannah.

I used to have a thick southern accent. Moved everywhere (military brat) and pretty much lost it. Now I live in Northern Virgina. This place has a native accent, but it's hard to pick up. There seem to be more Yankees up here than natives. To me, the NV accent sounds like southern with a good bit of Scottish or maybe Canadian thrown in. Norfolk sounds similar to me. Old-time Tidewater people (like the singer Keely Smith) tend to say "out" like "oat." Travel to Roanoke, in the southwestern part of the state, and you get more of a "pure" southern.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You might be right about the Scottish, or Scots-Irish influence, Monster. That "oat" pronunciation seems to be in a mid-Appalachian area where lots of Scots-Irish settled. There were also lots of English and Germans there in the early years, though, so I'm not sure where it really came from. I knew people in the mountains of Fulton County, PA who spoke that way, and I've noticed it in other areas to the north and south.

I think this kind of thing is fascinating. I'll need to dig up a copy of Albion's Seed soon!

On a tangent, I lived in Savannah for a couple years and loved it there. There were still a few southern-gentleman speakers left, but they seemed to be getting drowned out by outsiders moving in.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Okay, I guess I need to have my eyes checked....


Take a look at the top picture; I think that show was called, "Heat of the night", or some such silly thing.

Look at Archie Bunker, er, whatever his name is. Now look at the forearms that are perched on his shoulders. JUST look at the forearms. ONLY the forearms. What do you see?

Muscular, hairy, and with a big gold watch. They look like a middle-aged Marine's forearms. A trucker's forearms.

But they are attached to....????

Either there was some serious photoshopping going on in that picture, or....

I don't think I want to know!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lois Nettleton. Excellent actress, never convicted of using steroids.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hmmm. Never CONVICTED, you say....



;-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Most actors can't seem to get the New England accent right either. Even on Cheers, remember? I always thought Rhea Pearlman butchered the Boston accent.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I lived in Rhode Island for a couple of years. To me, all them Yankees sounded like gangsters!

Seriously, I never heard the "typical" Boston or Down-East accent - it all seemed basically New York-ish to me.

There are subtleties that escaped me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not exactly South here, but close enough...I remember watching "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and hearing Owen Wilson's Louisville Kentucky accent. First off, Louisville is urban...VERY urban...and they share more, culturally, with Indiana than they do with most of the rest of Kentucky, including an Indiana accent; I think their way of saying Cheeseburger sounds like "cheesebooger". Back to my point; Wilson's character said he was from Louisville Kentucky by making it sound like "Loo-ee-veeyal" in a southern "drawl" sort of way. Here's the thing...the Kentucky accent doesn't have a "drawl", it's almost the opposite. Whereas the "drawl" is an evolution of the old English settlers, the choppy central Appalachian accent is an evolution of Scotch/Irish accents. So, where Wilson gave Louisville an extra syllable, we here in Kentucky would have stolen one of it's syllables and said it as "Luavle".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I dated a man from KY for sev. yrs. He said he was from Louisville, but had spent some time growing up in Knoxville. Mutual friends set us up, and the first time he called me, I was very surprised by his drawl which made some things into words I couldn't decipher. Turned out he usually sounded "old south", but when very nervous could slip into a low, slow drawl (I wouldn't classify it as 'cracker' or redneck, tho). When about the 3-4 time I asked "What?" he said, "Don't worry, I'm not as stupid as I sound." Bad me, my reply just popped out: "You couldn't be!" ;)

Altho my gran'ma was born in NE, she lived in MO until she was 6-7 (then moved back to NE). She usually didn't have an accent, until she used a similie, metaphor or saying of the south. Then a bit would creep in. Even when I got divorced (she was late 70s), when she said, "Sorry for your troubles" it defin. had a southern via Scots/Irish lilt to it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm from Kentucky and if you ask anyone who doesn't live in Louisville they'll tell you that it isn't Kentucky.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Regardless, there's no way a Louisville native ended up with a Southern "drawl", since that's not the accent rednecks like me have, nor do people from Louisville have anything resembling a "country" accent. Addendum: people out the far eastern corner of Kentucky do have a sort of "drawl", but not a slow "deep south" one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I know people from Louisville and many of them will tell you that it isn't Kentucky. Some will, some won't. Even those that do claim Kentucky, claim Indiana as well, coining the term Kentuckiana. I'm from Jackson County, they're all city-folk to me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can mimic several very well-inflected Southern accents. But proving your point, that's because I lived and worked there for a number of years and paid close attention.

We get the same up here. Most anyone who tries to do a proper Boston accent sounds like a drunken New Yorker.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've often thought that the accents of N'awlins and B'ahstin could be almost interchangeable. With just the few differing local colloquialisms/slang terms. But the ACCENT is almost identical.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
my accent is Southern, but having lived all over the country, and especially around the Gulf States and the east coast of Florida, my accent isn't like those who live around me now. i say words as used in other regions of the South that i sometimes have to explain.

funny story> while living along the pacific coast just south of l.a. (late '70's) , i went into a drug store to buy some toiletries. it had long ago gotten old having people ask me, every time I said a few words, "where are you from?" it got so bad that i had just about quit talking to the general public to save time explaining. anyway, when i paid the lady for my purchase i inadvertently said "thanks". she immediately asked me "where are you from?" i answered that there was no way in he11 she could know i was from somewhere else from just one word. she replied, "yes i can, that word, 'thanks'. you see i moved here from Tennessee 30 years ago and believe me, nobody thanks you for chit out here".

moral to this true story? we Southerners don't really have to say much to say a lot. ararar

tolbert is right, some of us can do a mean English accent, especially after watching some brit show or movie. maybe because Georgia was mostly settled by British prisoners, much like Australia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Miss Peacock would hit me over the head with her pointer if I fell asleep in Georgia History class. Oglethorpe's original colonists included English debtors. You had to have been of enough substance to get in debt to get in debtors' prison; English bankers didn't hand out VISA cards or make NINJA loans. Australia was first settled by deported criminals. Oglethorpe's Savannah settlement was far from the first white incursion and settlement in what became Georgia. The Spanish had moved in from the south and already had forts in place when Oglethorpe arrived in 1733. Settlers from Carolina and Virginia, many of them absconding indentures, had moved in encroaching on Indian lands and trading with the Indians. Early interior Georgia was free range land devoted mostly to livestock herding, subsistance agriculture, and timber. The "pine barrens" of southcentral Georgia remained so until well into the 20th Century when the longleaf pines began to play out.

The Georgia of GWTW, to the extent it existed at all, was in the belt of good upland cotton lands from Augusta south and west through Macon to Columbus, the major access to the Gulf as it grew up at the limit of navigation by deep draft vessels on the Chattahoochee River. This entire area had good communication with seaborne shipping with the Savannah River navigable by deep draft vessels from Augusta to Savannah and the sea. Some shallower draft shipping was available to the middle areas on the Ogeechee, Oconee, and Altamaha Rivers. Other than the river bottoms in Richmond and Columbia Counties mostly, this middle area was developed from the early 19th Century as the cotton gin became available and made upland short staple cotton profitable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think everyone on FX's "Justified" nails it, but I think "Justified" is Appalachian Shakespeare (and yes, I know why that is so karmic)

It's not just the South they get wrong.
Having lived and worked for more than 20 years in NYC, and lots of travel to small factory towns, y'all should know Hollywood gets New York accents wrong. Even worse with New England and the Upper Midwest inflections.

Can anyone explain why Australian actors dominate American westerns?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a native of central Illinois, I always got a kick out of the Saturday Night Live cast trying to do thick Chicago accents on their "Super Fans" sketches, and somehow sounding more like Milwaukee cheeseheads. I've never heard a good upper Midwest (NW Illinois, N Iowa, W Wisconsin, Minnesota) accent anywhere on television or in movies. Hollywood tends to make all rural characters sound like the faux 'white trash' southerners.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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