Thursday, September 27, 2007

Say it Again...Please!

Last night hubby and I were watching t.v. when a commercial came on pleading we return Friday night for the fall premiere of a program we watched last season. I now understand the meaning of “harrumphed”. It’s the sound I made while muttering, “I still can’t believe they killed off the doctor on that show.” Hubby pointed out the man wasn’t a major character. I shot back,“Yeah, but he was the only normal one. Besides, he was so pleasant.” As hubby raised an eyebrow, I swallowed the rest of my sentence.

…to listen to.

Suddenly I realized it was the doctor’s accent I’d miss. Said actor doctor is a native of Scotland and although his lines were few and far between, they made me smile. His were lyrical, lilting words which made my ears applaud the audio change in diet. Had I admitted that hubby would’ve pointed out I was merely clinging to my childhood, where Star Trek’s “Scotty” was the closest to Scotland I’d ever get.

Accents have always intrigued and delighted me. I’m pretty sure I was the only little girl who sighed when Ricardo Montalban did Chrysler commercials about “Corinthian Leather”. Okay so there’s no such leather, which Montalban admitted, but his speech had such a musical rhythm, it was almost hypnotic.

Television has done wonders in spreading information and educating, yet it has homogenized our unique verbal signatures. As t.v.’s popularity rose, regionalized accents declined. Born in the midlands of South Carolina, my ears can tell you if a speaker is from the Holy City of Charleston or upstate Greenville…where they sound a lot like Scarlett O’Hara. Southerners can identify fellow southerners by state. Find an early recording of Andy Griffith doing a comedy bit “They Called It Football” and his N.C. accent is so thick, many t.v. executives were afraid to give him a show because they believed no one would understand him. Griffith never lost his accent, but the “strength” of it was watered down for the masses.

My husband finds it amusing that when watching a documentary, I’m not happy until my ears identify the Narrator. But I can’t help it. It’s like I have a dial in my head which easily switches from Southern/Bostonian/Jersey/Midwest/Californian to British, Scottish, Irish [yes, there’s a difference] to Hispanic, Indian, Australian and on and on. The sound of people’s words are just as fascinating to me as what they’re saying. I’d sit and listen to James Earl Jones read a phone book just to hear that lush voice. Ironically, he stuttered as a child. I’m glad he didn’t give up.

And I won’t give up the fight to keep my ears happy.

Amongst my senior citizens is a group of women we call the British Wives. Ranging from their mid 20s to mid 80s, they’re English girls who married American GIs. The sound of them talking brings back childhood memories of the boy across the street whose Mum was British. Her parents also lived there. Although I was sad when my friend moved, I missed his Grandfather more because he always entertained us with stories. After talking to the British Wives, I find myself using words like “lovely” and “brilliant!”. I’m not mocking them, my brain sees it as an auditory tribute. They hold a Christmas Tea for my group annually and a few years ago, one of their fathers attended. He was Welsh and as his daughter chided him to stop talking my ears off, I kept egging him on and waving her off. I hope he comes back this year.

I may quietly mourn the demise of the Scottish actor doctor, but I’ve discovered a website of Scottish poets like Hugh MacMillan and Rab Wilson reading their own poetry. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “grinning from ear to ear.” And when British Wife Jean, a Scotland native, came into my office to “translate” a poem from her homeland, I thought, “I didn’t get to Scotland, but Scotland came to me.” Insert big grin here.

Maybe my fascination is a good thing. Occasionally while watching a program with an international cast my hubby will sigh,”What did he say?”

Just call me the In-House translator.


shug said...

Did you know Scotty from star Trek has a museum opened in his home town of Linlithgow exactly 15 years before he's due to be born?

hope said...

How cool is that?! Thanks for sharing.

And I'll be working on my reading list next week. ;)