Vacation Mode -ON-
My summer vacation is still in full swing, but I am enjoying daily breaks to do casual journalling. With so many new sites and smells and freedom- it is hard not to want to write about your experiences or draw new things. Travel really inspires you. This week, in particular, I’ve been travelling without my kids (thanks Grandma!), so it really shifts the mood and activity flow in a drastic way. I have many more hours to just sit, observe and reflect. It is completely silent for long stretches. I can hear my own thoughts more. I think when it is all said and done, my ‘vacation’ will make for more productive blogging. I’ve already thought of several topics from my random travel observations. The first being about regional culture.
My husband and I decided to kick off our summer travel with a visit to the Southeast. The prime cities on our hit list are Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. These are locations I always wanted to explore, but could never really make happen. There are just so many places that I want to visit, and the Southern cities tend to drift to the bottom of a long bucket list. However, this time we got an opportunity for reduced airfare, and we took it. I’ve now been in the American South for a total of two days. Not a long time, but long enough to start doing things and meeting people. In this time, I’ve noticed something really curious. The complete absence of a Southern accent from anyone under the age of about 30. In older crowds, I still hear it. But with the younger people… Not even a hint.
The Hell You Say?
Oh yes, Y’all! And before you think I am just a know-nothing Yank, let me share my background. I lived in the South for a number of years during my teens. At one time, I even had an accent of my own. So I know what Southern speech sounds like. Once upon a time, I could frequently encounter people of all age ranges spoke with a variety of Southern accents—some gentle and understated, some with a hint of twang, others deep and guttural, and of course the ones that were thick and nearly indecipherable. I know the differences. I know that not all Southern accents are the stereotypical Hollywood variety. And I was struck with how little I could detect it. Are all the young people transplants? Or has this generation abandoned wholesale the speech patterns of their parents? It is curious.
Coming from a military family, I always travelled as a kid. My mother hated planes, so a lot of times we drove thru the country by car. That is a wonderful way to experience our culture. Each state had distinct regional differences. By driving, you had opportunities to stop and explore them. There was always different food, accents, industry, and even social norms. But lately, in my travels, those differences seem to be fading. Some of that is a good thing. There were certainly negative traits associated with the South that I’d happily see disappear. But the changes I notice are not all in the name of social progress. There are many changes that are simply the stripping away of regional quirks. There now seems to be a pervasive National monoculture as I travel around the States. The same speech, the same shops, the same architecture. Heck, even the weather (thanks, global warming).
Thoughts and Theories
Television and movies have been around for decades. So this sudden shift is perplexing. Could it be the proliferation of online media? The internet is subtlety different than television. In that, you actively participate with online media thru instant chat and comments versus the old model when we could only passively watch and listen. My husband supposes that it is the Nationalization of our News sources. Indeed, the local radio stations and channels have decreased dramatically. There has also been a nationalization of shopping chains. I can now buy the same clothing and food I could anywhere on the West Coast. The new construction all follows a similar architecture. When we all dress the same and live in the same homes, maybe it subliminally shapes us. I wonder about the long-term outcomes of such a change. People find ways to differentiate themselves from the herd eventually. What will that look like? Maybe that time is already upon us. Maybe that is the political shifts we are experiencing now. I rather have the fun accents, to be honest.
I found myself longing for an authentic southern accent on a younger person. How unusual that is. Kind of like a foreign culture vulture. Southern culture isn’t mine to claim anymore, yet I pine for some aspects of it. Like people longing for a specific time period in history. If I felt this way as a traveller, I can only imagine how the older residents here feel. Must be surreal. It gives me a certain kind of sympathy for them. But alas, time marches on.