Excuse Me, What Did You Say?

When I speak, I may not sound like I grew up in rural Western Kentucky. I did. When I was young, I never really thought much about how I might sound until I was a senior in high school and traveled to San Francisco for a school related function. My best friend and I were asking directions to a nearby hotel for this convention and the person we had asked wanted to know “where the heck you guys are from”.
I began to lose my regional dialect in college. My first room mate was from Buffalo, NY, the second from Mt. Carmel, IL, the third from northern Kentucky and the last one was from Cedar Rapids, IA. Those room mates plus a concerted effort on my part to not sound like I was from Western Kentucky helped me lose my regional sound. Being exposed to a variety of dialects also helped me when it came to understanding what others were saying and how they said it.

I share this background because of a show I saw on the National Geographic channel about moonshine (the liquor not the reflected light). I was curious about this topic on a variety of levels. I wanted to see how it was shot and edited, I wanted to see how the producers approached this multi-faceted topic and on a personal level I knew one of my grandfathers used to make ‘shine to help make ends meet during the Great Depression.

Most of the action in this NG video took place in Virginia. As one would expect, you had some good old boys making “corn squeezings” and they looked like stereotypical moonshiners. What caught my attention was the fact that when these folks spoke, sub-titles were placed on screen to clarify what they were saying. Granted, some of these folks sounded like they’d been into the corn liquor before the cameras showed up for the interview. But for the most part I could understand what they were saying. For the most part. I caught myself trying to decide if it was funny or sad that the producers felt they needed to sub-title the comments. In retrospect, I agree with the decision to sub-title the comments.

The reality is there are some folks who need what they say translated. I ran into this on a regular basis covering news. No matter how much of an event a person was eye-witness to, if you can’t understand what they said, it does no good to have them on the air. And in the case of the National Geo report I understood what these good old boys were saying but I have an advantage over some. After all, I’m still fluent in “red-neck”.

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6 Comments on “Excuse Me, What Did You Say?”

  1. Joan Carr Says:

    I understand the BBC came under fire not long ago for subtitling comments made by people in Scotland and Northern England. BBC management in London deemed their accents too thick for folks in the rest of Britain to understand. Apparently, that offended some Scots, since as they point out, they speak the King’s English just like everyone else. But then, some Scots are still smarting over the Battle of Falkirk, as seen in the movie “Brave Heart.” They still haven’t given up their centuries-long struggle for independence, and may eventually succeed through political activism. To find out more, check out this website: http://www.scottishindependence.com/default.htm.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    What gets me is when poor english is thrown in the mix.

    For example –
    “The dude shot him, I seen it” and “I don’t have sinus problems, I have seenus problems. I was out with another man’s wife and he seenus” and “I was in Kmart and when I came out my car was gone. The tornado just blewed it away.”

    Please God Help Us

  3. newsboyarizona Says:

    Say, Joe, being from Western Kentucky, you probably have “heard tell” that the area between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers (which is now the area between Barkley Lake and Kentucky Lake and known as Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area) was a prime spot for moonshining in the early part of the 20th century.
    Here’s a link with more on that. Was there any mention of that in the NatGeo doc?

  4. Joe Larkins Says:

    The Land Between the Lakes was not mentioned in this particular video but it has been mentioned in others. Apparently the area around Golden Pond, Kentucky was well known for its ‘shine and most of it went to some guy named Scarface up in the Chicago area. Apparently this Capone guy was involved in some kind of bootlegging deal there back in the 20s and 30s.

  5. Tim Says:

    I speak gravel road redneck fluently.Growing up in the middle of West Tennessee,we would have kin from “up North” visit in the summertime.Of course,they would laugh at the way we talked and try to repeat the way we said certain words or phrases.
    At least we had good manners though-we didn’t make fun of the way they talked until they left.

  6. Joe Larkins Says:

    This is a sign-on attempt by the administrator

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