I have oh so many quirks… The weirdest one (and in my opinion the coolest) is that I pick up other people’s accents. I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. It comes from my theater background. I’m not the best, but I do have a nice array of them that I keep handy when needed.
I say when needed because you have no idea how helpful it is to be able to randomly jump into a Jersey accent when trying to teach children who can’t keep their mouths closed.
This is a thing that I have yet to figure out about teaching: I don’t know when it became acceptable to talk over your teachers… not subs, but actual teachers. When I put the kiddos in a seating arrangement, they complain throughout the lesson, or worse they try to talk across the room. If I let them choose their own seat, they ignore me completely. When I speak to them about it, they tell me that’s just how it is. When I point out that it’s disrespectful, they tell me that’s how they act at home, too.
So, instead, I pull out an accent or three. I make it entertaining. And I make them clap. “If you can hear me clap once. If you can hear me clap twice.”
The clapping works. It really does. They tell me it makes them feel like little kids, but they shut up. And then they start talking again as soon as I start talking….
Unless I pull out an accent.
It works in social situations as well, but not for the same reason. In social situations, I tend to mimic the other person. I’ve read before how this is a basic way to show people that you like them. I do it inherently, and it may be one of the reasons why people feel comfortable enough to tell me all their business.
Well most people. But that is a discussion for another day.
Most people do the mimicry thing much lighter. They mirror the person they’re talking to; it shows interest. It’s one of those things that dating advisers have been promoting for decades. By mirroring another person, it puts them at ease. It’s kind of one of those things that helps to establish you’re on the same team. It’s that whole thing about being a united front… mimicry is the first step. It says “hey, you and I are alike!”
I, on the other hand, inherently start picking up not just physical mannerisms, but also phrases and accents of the person I’m talking to. That’s not to say that I go around just stealing words and accents of all the people I talk to. I don’t go out of my way to sound like the waiter or the bartender or the guy behind the counter at the convenience store after one meeting. That would be rude and could be misconstrued as mocking.
But, when I feel a connection with a person, I catch myself picking up little nuances in their speech. The extension of a vowel here, or a fun phrase there. Sometimes some facial expression or another gets appropriated and mixed into my repertoire. It’s subtle, but fun
Remember the Bad Boy? The more time I spend with him, the more I find myself using bits of his accent, and when I tell my friends the story of our outing, I find myself using his accent a lot. That evening, by the end I found myself actively using his accent to put him at ease.
Superman once told me that he thought my British accent was sexy. He wanted me to just randomly go into a posh accent while talking to him. That was a little strange, and it felt wrong, but when it’s organic and just happens, it’s a lot of fun.
It’s definitely quirky, but I like it, and as long as I don’t let it get out of hand, I don’t think it’s a problem. It helps me make friends. Sometimes people from places decidedly not Texas tell me that talking to me reminds them of home… no matter where “home” is.
Yeah, I’m basically a verbal chameleon. I’m okay with this.