an irritating yaccent

Soundtrack in my head: The Boo Radleys “I Hang Suspended”

I discovered something funny about myself the other day. I was at work dealing with a difficult caller on the phone. No matter what I said to her, even with some coaching from some more senior co-workers, she was never satisfied with my answers, and the call probably dragged on for some twenty minutes. When I got off the phone, I was listening to myself talk about the call with my co-workers, and was shocked to find that my Chicago yaccent had resurfaced.

This was not the first time I’d seen this odd phenomenon. When I went to school at the University of Illinois in Champaign, I was friends with a number of people from downstate Illinois. It was there that the word “soda” replaced the more common Chicago term “pop” in my vocabulary. Champaign is a 2 1/2 hour drive south of Chicago, and as I drove up to Chicago to visit family, I noticed that my Chicago accent would return right at about the point that I got off Interstate 57 and found myself on the Tri-State Tollway. Usually it would be triggered by some overly aggressive or careless driver, and suddenly I’d find myself saying, “Hey, buoddy, where’dyoo learn to drive like dyat?”

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Chicago, for all its charms, is a stressful place to live, and it’s more noticeable the longer I live away from that megalopolis. Thus it would stand to reason that stressful events elsewhere might, well, make me “go Chicago.”

When I moved to Madison over three years ago, I really wanted to drop the Chicago accent. It’s not like I wanted to adopt a Wisconsin accent either. But the best antidote to the rather annoying “Yeeeeeah!” that is common in Chicago lingo is the Wisconsinite “Yah!” While I didn’t quite go so far as to give myself Wisconsin elocution lessons in the bathroom mirror, I really did make an effort to drop the excessive use of the letter “y” prior to certain vowels.

So when the irritating caller triggered my old Chicago accent, I got concerned. I got more concerned when it didn’t go away immediately– when I noticed that a friend on the bus was wearing a jacket in the 80 degree weather, and I said, “Hey, what wuz da tempercher dis morning?”

Now I was scared. I ran home and locked myself in the bathroom. I looked in the mirror, and repeated to myself “Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah! Don’cha know! Don’cha know! Thurty point buck! Thurty point buck!” Then I popped open a New Glarus Spotted Cow and, after a few sips felt like a normal person again.

Okay, so I made up that last part about the bathroom mirror elocution exercises.

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