Unspoken Accents: Micah Getz

Unspoken Accents

Accents are the constantly changing linguistic frontier. I have yet to discover if I have one, or to explore where it would have come from. I think I’m in slight denial about that. However there’s something I’m rather sure makes me relatively unique: my ever-present love of reading. While reading didn’t give me an accent, it became both a boon and a bane for me: an extensive vocabulary, but no experience using it with others.
Though I developed excellent grammar and a superb vocabulary, using words that few others knew didn’t benefit conversation, partly because nobody I knew used or said it. However, that wasn’t my main issue (though it was a rather large point in social development). My main issue was pronunciation. Reading hadn’t given me an accent, it had given me an arsenal of words that I could read and write, but never correctly say.
For example, I’d say the word ‘peon’ when trying to say something intellectually, like “So they’re rather like the medieval peons.” Even though I knew I was talking to someone who I knew the word, I still couldn’t get them to understand me until I described it, and there I learned my issue. I said “Pay-own”, which makes more sense than other ways I thought it could be pronounced, except I was wrong. It actually was pronounced “Pee-on”, which makes less sense. After all, why intentionally bring up peeing on someone?
There were, of course, other issues. In similar embarrassing discussions in the middle of class I would proudly flaunt a high-class word “Zealot”, and then in a public rebuttal by a teacher learn that I had said, “Zeal Lot,” when it should be, “Zell Ot,” with the O sounding the same as the O from the word Oz. My word made more sense, because why should I change the sound of the word zeal just because of the three extra letters after it? To which the reply would be that it’s just how the language worked, and that the teacher wasn’t giving a rebuttal but speaking to the contrary.
I was cool with just reading though. In books you don’t have the issue of pronunciation, of trying to pronounce intentionally bizarre words such as “Thu’um”. If you are unlikely enough to say any word you read from a fiction novel aloud, you will hear an instant cry of
“Militia is ‘Milisha’, not ‘Millet-iya’” or "Pseudodragon is ‘Sudo Dragon’, not ‘Swayed-o Dragon’”
I liked reading, even with the word issues. It was the place I felt I belonged, and since there were no accents, there were no dialects, and there was no dreaded pronunciation, that I belonged there linguistically. I had, as James Baldwin wrote in If Black English Isn’t a Language, What Is?, “The price for this is acceptance and achievement of one's temporal identity. I empathize with it in that I had accepted who I am, what I spoke, and what it made me. Which was completely fine, and for a time I rejoiced in the fact that I had an understanding of a world where the way you talk, or look, or your age, or your class, wouldn’t taint your first response.
Then I realized that reading still had the same common signs that speaking often had. There are still ways to tell who you are from the way you write. From the amount of speaking that’s written compared to the descriptions, the times character development happens, you can tell who is writing the story. The times when people interact, whether they act slowly and realistically, whether they just don’t quote them and put them all in paragraph form, or whether they take an intentionally macabre look on the normal; all of these are like little fingerprints that the writers left on it, tiny pieces of themselves that they copy down which show who they are. An easy example for this is this paper, where I rarely show people talking, and instead tried to engage my reader by intentionally psychoanalyzing myself. If you read this paper closely, you’ll even notice how instead of saying him or her, I use the word “they” as an androgynous term, which you can make all sort of strange assumptions about. This overly in-depth reading into texts is possible anywhere.  
Take for example, the writings of the authors Terry Pratchett and Robert Jordans. Both are authors of thousands of pages of literary material, except that they both have different ideas of what they needed to write, as well as the recognition afforded them. Terry Pratchett wrote mostly on fantasy, with dabbling in Sci-Fi and horror, but Robert Jordan wrote on many things, ranging from dancing, to historical fiction, to epic fantasy. The difference in their experience as authors also flavored the way they wrote. Terry Pratchett's way of writing would be best shown by the book Maskerade. “She was light enough on her feet but the inertia of outlying parts meant that bits of Agnes were still trying to work out which direction to face for some time afterwards.”  Two pages later, he writes, “Nanny Ogg thought about Agnes. You needed quite big thoughts to fit all of Agnes in.” He barely references it in these quotes, but what he’s generally trying to build is the idea of Agnes as a fat person in your mind, while having all of the characters act too politely to say it. He alludes to things but rarely actually says it, expecting his readers to be smart enough to figure it out.
Robert Jordan writes in a completely different way. When he introduces characters he waxes poetic on everything to do with them, while still managing to include the character's own opinions. This happens every time anything is introduced, be it a chapter, a place, or a character, but one such time is in the novel New Spring on page 117  “A tall slim women, Kerene looked exactly what she was, her ageless face strong and beautiful, her nearly black eyes pools of serenity. Even here, she wore a riding dress, the divided skirts slashed with emerald green, and her dark hair, lightly touched with white, was cut shorter than either Karile’s or Stepen’s, above her shoulder and into a braid.” He continues of course, not letting himself be limited with constraints such as word limits. The details are entrancing, and they make me realize about the times he must have written of dance, and the amazing detail he must have been used to writing. He writes in an amazingly realistic world of braided hair and divided skirts, reminiscent of his experience writing historical fiction. He writes in detail, because he expects his readers to read it as much for the details as the plot, the world, the characters, and everything else he writes so well. This is completely different to the funny, sarcastic, and intentionally unrealistic way that Terry Pratchett writes of things, such as dwarven flatbread that’s so hard that is has been known, in times of dire need, to stop being used as a weapon, and to actually be eaten.
Which made me realize that I might be wrong. Books have accents, if you know what you’re looking for, even as voices do. They reveal who you are, and where you’ve been, what things you’ve written, who you’ve talked to. Whether you choose to judge someone by that has more to do with your opinion than how they are talking, or as, it turns out, writing. The important part is being understood and conveying your meaning. Why else was language made?

Pratchett, Terry. Maskerade. London: Victor Gollancz, 1995. Print.

Jordan, Robert. New Spring the Novel. Vol. Prelude. N.p.: Bandersnatch Group, 2004. Print. Wheel Of Time.