Michael Patrick Brady

Jeopardy!

Regarding the Accent

April 23, 2015

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The accent is not fake, but I understand why people think it’s weird. It’s definitely spotty.

I’m originally from Dorchester, and grew up with a pretty traditional Boston accent. Occasionally I’d get teased by non-accented peers in school about the way I pronounced certain things, but not a lot, because pretty much everybody in the area is familiar with the Boston accent.

But when I went to college (still in Boston, mind you!) I mixed with a lot of people from other places who simply could not understand what I was saying. Or, when they could, couldn’t keep a straight face. If I wanted to get through a sentence without having to stop and wait for everybody to have a good laugh about it, I had to adjust and over articulate. This was not entirely a conscious thing. There’s actually a linguistic term for this process.

What’s funny is, I would come home from school and my parents would then say I sounded strange. But my friends at school always knew when I’d just been at home, because my accent would be stronger when I returned.

So a lot of the time my accent is subtle or maybe not immediately obvious. But I never lost the classic non-rhoticity (the dropped Rs) and the combination and contrast between the the moments when you can’t tell and the moments when you can make it seem very harsh and jarring.

My accent is most prominent, I find, when I’m not thinking about what I’m saying. And in Jeopardy, the game moves so fast and you’re concentrating on buzzing in and thinking up the right response–there really isn’t time to think about how you’re saying it. Which is also probably why you hear it more in the answers than in the interview portion.

Basically, as I got older and had to interact more and more with people who didn’t have a Boston accent, in school and in my professional life, my own speech drifted simply because I needed to communicate with them more clearly.

So, if anything, if any part of my accent is “fake,” it’s the part that sounds like it isn’t from Boston.

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