Monday, March 10, 2008

Thick Southern Accent = Doomed to Failure?

I haven't ragged on my favorite self-righteous elitist, Neal Boortz, in some time. I listened to him the other night and he kindly supplied me with something to rant about.

Boortz was talking about a news story where a chunk of green ice from a plane's toilet had fallen out of the plane and ended up going through the roof of a tire business in a small town in Georgia.

Boortz included this story in his show in order to make fun of the accents of the store owner and his ten year old son, who were both interviewed by the news crew. The emphasis was on the nearly incomprehensibly thick hillbilly accent the little boy had. He went as far as to play clips of the father and son talking, so that the audience could have a good laugh at their expense. Boortz lamented the fact that they were interviewed at all because, in his opinion, such people make all Southerners look like "blithering idiots".

He then noted that any time there is some sort of disaster in the south, be it floods, tornadoes, or whatever, that the news people invariably interview hillbillies, whom Boortz thinks apparently come down from the hills for the sole purpose of embarrassing their more patrician Southern neighbors.

I have to admit that he's right when he points out that interviews with redneck types are practically ubiquitous when it comes to news coverage of various types of disasters. But I'm guessing the news crews interview such people because such disasters tend to happen in the neighborhoods where they live. There's no point in interviewing the Snooty McRichpants types when no disaster has befallen their exclusive gated communities. The point is to get accounts from people who actually were affected by such disasters.

But this wasn't the part of Boortz' show that pissed me off. After making fun of the little boy and his father, he went on to say that children with such thick country accents ought to be taken away from their parents, because failing to teach their children proper English and demonstrating it in everyday use, that such parents were committing child abuse.

Why would allowing a child to speak in the local accent constitute as child abuse, you might ask?

If you're a regular Boortz listener, it's simple. He believes that speaking with such a thick accent will prevent the boy from ever being a success in life, regardless of his actual intelligence. He predicted the boy would never have a job any better than selling bait to fishermen in a bait shop. Never mind that the father was a successful business owner of a tire shop and the son could likely inherit that business from his father one day and be able to support a family quite nicely with profits from that business.

But that would only allow the boy to live a middle class life, which,to Boortz, is being a "failure". If one doesn't aspire to be a millionaire with a high-powered corporate job, then that person is a loser in Boortz' eyes. I don't know about you, but I think an honest tire store owner is more relevant and useful in my life than some rich, fat cat CEO.

Boortz also ignored the fact that many people can read and write perfectly well, despite having thick accents of varying kinds. When I was on the police force, several of the lawyers in town had thick, countrified accents that made a Yankee like me wonder if they'd just fallen off the hay truck. But I quickly learned it was a mistake to underestimate such lawyers, as they'd wipe the floor with you in court if you did. After hearing this, it made wish that Boortz, who was a lawyer before becoming a radio pest, had gone against one of these lawyers in court and been made an ass out of in court.

It also never occurred to him that a better solution to teach children proper English would be to improve local schools, not to take them away from otherwise good parents. Indeed, did it even matter to Boortz that this boy's parents were likely loving parents capable of raising him to be a man with good character, despite their apparent shortcomings in English grammar and enunciation?.



Winter said...

I have family in a little town in South Carolina. The accent they speak with is tough for a Californian to understand. However, they all understood one another perfectly. They don't feel there is anything wrong with their speech. I'm sure it's the same for that boy and his father.

The bit about the lawyer reminded me of that old Andy Griffith show Matlock. Just because he spoke with a thick accent, and spoke in a slow drawl, the Yankee attorneys always thought he was dumb. And he always proved them wrong.

D.K. said...

How certain are you that disaster has only struck low-income/education level populations in Georgia?

Libertine said...

Well, of course, disaster can strike people of all economic backgrouns, but that wasn't the point of this entry.