Southern Accent Reduction Class? Are you kidding me? People are actually teaching folks how to talk like they are not from the South?

Yep, that’s right. There are some people who see a southern accent as a liability. Can you imagine?

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory was fixin’ to offer classes to help folks lose their Southern accent. They had employed “a nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer” to teach people to speak “with a more neutral accent.”

I agree with Sam Massell, former Atlanta mayor and current president of the Buckhead Coalition. He asked, “Why would anyone want to give up the advantage that comes with the warmth and hospitable persona that accompanies a Southern accent?” Why indeed?

After receiving complaints, Oak Ridge cancelled the classes. Boy howdy! I reckon they got the message.

When I moved to New York in the mid-60s people would ask me to repeat words that we southerners drag out. I worked at J. C. Penney’s and customers liked to hear the long “I” when I told them the price of the item was ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. The company should have paid me extra commission because of the sales that were made because of my “charming” southern accent.

According to Scientific American, “Studies have shown that whether you are from the North or South, a Southern twang pegs the speaker as comparatively dimwitted, but also likely to be a nicer person than folks who speak like a Yankee.” While I resent being considered “dimwitted” because of my accent (or for any reason), I am happy to be thought of as a “nicer person.”

According to a press release, Cupid.com surveyed 2,000 men and women and determined that 36.5 percent of respondents voted the Southern accent the most attractive. That was far more than any other regional accent. The survey by the dating site also concluded that the Southern accent is the country’s sexiest. At my age “sexiest” doesn’t carry much weight but I am glad to know that people consider the southern accent “attractive.”

The Apostle Paul said “there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.” He was writing to the Christian community but I imagine he would agree that one’s religion, ethnicity, culture, or language should not diminish the value of any individual.

In the New Testament Peter, James, and Paul- all leaders of the Early Church- expressed the same opinion about God’s attitude toward people. Each of them stated clearly that God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34, James 2:1, Romans 2:11).

We are all special creations of God, “formed in God’s own image,” reflecting God’s own nature. We may have different skin pigment. Our traditions and customs may vary. The languages we speak and our accents are many. But I suspect that those factors endear us to God.

I think those different qualities, and many more, are priceless. Just as many colors are needed to form a rainbow, our dress, the foods we eat, our mannerisms, and our accents are treasures that should be retained and not destroyed.

That’s my opinion. Do y’all agree?

Jamie Jenkins

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