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On a Bit of Speech

I've always had some speaking troubles, which might plague me to the grave, or not. Sometime around my mid-twenties, I began to explicitly identify the problems which I had with speech as owing to a muddle of accents which troubled my lips and tongue in odd ways. At times, it would seem as if I would trip over myself as two or three different ways of pronouncing a word might present themselves at once. Some would present at the front of my gob, some at the rear, others at the top, and -- as its difficult for a single tongue to occupy three places at once in a single mouth -- what would issue-forth might be a bit of an embarrassing slur, or stammer. It took several years of intentional work on the matter to clear it up to a reasonable extent, though, anyone who knows me well enough has noticed that I have an odd habit of slipping from one accent to another (particularly when reciting Shakespeare).

Thus, in spite of the work put-in on the problem, a bit of mystery presented itself as to its origin. As it turns out, a saving tale manifested, which I can largely confirm, or, at least, cannot totally deny.

Sometime during primary school in Quebec, probably around age five or six, I was called into an office. It seems that someone somewhere along the line became a bit concerned with me -- that I was a little "off" somehow. From what I recall, the gentleman who met me there -- who I remember being a bit portly, wearing a grey sweater, and sporting a grey beard -- had me continuously repeating words for some interminable amount of time. I remember this routine going on daily or weekly for some length of time. Apparently, I wasn't talking right, and some effort was being put in by the school to identify and "correct" the problem. By their expert assessment of my speech, as it turns out, I was "learning disabled". Apparently, when my sainted mother eventually learned about all this assessing (and the school's planning for my future exciting career packing boxes under close supervision), her assessment of their assessment of my talk was something to this effect:

"He's not retarded, you idiots, he's Irish."

Well, truer words were never spoken, I suppose (or at least hope). In any event, apparently I had a substantially Irish accent as a lad, or at least substantial enough to confuse the Anglos at the school. Some amount of damage was done however, as some pressure was put on the re-train me to "speak right" -- meaning, of course, sound like whatever an Anglo Quebecer is supposed to sound like (which, apparently, was not Irish, if you went to Laurentia). Thus, a muddled mass of accents wended itself into me over the years, between the latent one, the one drilled into me, and the necessary French Quebecois accent (leaving aside the poor influence of the television). Quite the mess. Still, maybe the thick slathering of confusion over my normal speech was for the best: as it turned-out, my high-school shop teacher really hated Irish folk.

Edit: Just for fun, a few of the oddities in my speech patterns which surely drove the English teachers mad:

1) A tendency to drop the "g" from words ending in "-ing".
2) A habit of dropping the subject of a verb from the beginning of a sentence.
3) The occasional foray into reversing the normal subject->direct object->indirect object flow of sane English.
4) Big tendency to pronounce "you" as "yea".
5) Persistent inability to remember what the proper English word for "dépanneur" is. Or "domaine". And a sometimes habit of spelling "Parliament" as "Parlement"...

Feel free to add to the list!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
There's an English word for dépanneur?

Oh you're thinking of the expression "alcohol-less dépanneur." Or "dépanneur where the cream soda is pink."
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:20 am (UTC)
I've seen Bill and Teds: your word for these things is "circle-K."
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:45 am (UTC)
It's ok. I call them "Mac's." Unless I want a sour cherry slushy, in which case I call them "seven-eleven."

But if I want box wine and clear cream soda, you know it's gotta be "dépanneur."
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:49 am (UTC)
No no, he's French French. They don't have dépanneurs. I realize we've confused you terribly.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2011 09:09 am (UTC)
Nooooo waaiiiiis. The friendliest people in Canada are French Canadians. Or Maritimers. Then French Canadians. But they're both way ahead of boring upper Canada Anglos, who are to the one dreadful bores. I suspect it's all the pink cream soda, and absence of hills on the horizon. Plus you haven't lived til you've had a proper lunch of poutine and hotdog steamé with diced lettuce. Mmmmm, hotdog steamé. They must put opium in that steam I swear, but the logistics of the whole thing must be quite byzantine.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2011 09:34 am (UTC)
Don't get me wrong, I know it sounds terrible. And I'm with you on this: when it's hotdog time in Ontario, I'm grilling to just this side of charred and slathering mustard and onions on it. But somehow you cross the border and a steamed hotdog with half a side salad thrown on top is the greatest thing under the sun. I'll post you one express this summer, you'll see.

And real poutine is monster good. I have it at least weekly, as part of an ongoing game of chicken with my high metabolism. It has to be proper curds, not normal cheese; and a weird kind of thick, almost sweet gravy. But then it works.
Feb. 28th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
And as I have just googled what a "steamie" is... really? I mean, I understand steaming the frank, and if you can't grill a hotdog like God and nature intended, I suppose it's as good a way as any, but steaming the bun as well! Scandalous.

People in this world still char their processed meats with fire? How very barbaric -- it would be like being on campaign in Homer's Iliad.
Feb. 28th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
No no, he's French French. They don't have dépanneurs. I realize we've confused you terribly.

This is precisely why France represents an inferior culture. It was all downhill after the Ancien Régime; 'should've stuck with it like the rest of us. Further proof is the fact that all of their swearing centres around bodily functions, rather than proper cursing by the implements of the sacraments.
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:50 am (UTC)
And I don't know the colour of their cream soda.
Feb. 28th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
Oh you're thinking of the expression "alcohol-less dépanneur."

This is a strange and foreign concept. 'Sounds like the sort of thing that Protestants would mistake for a good idea. Reasonable civilizations make wine available where-ever someone can scrape together the twenty-bucks for a permit.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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