Over the last year, there has been a lot of discussion about the death of accents around the city; people in Queens are fretting about it, people in Brooklyn are defiant about it, and nobody better think of trying to take it away from Lawn Guyland. But what happens when people choose to unload themselves of their unique accents with professional help?
The Times reports today on the trend, with a particular focus on Sam Chwat, who is considered the dean of speech therapists. He says that clients have come to him upset about the way they're perceived because of their accent, lobbing complaints such as, “‘People don’t understand what I’m saying,’ ‘I’m stigmatized by the way I speak.’ ‘I’m tired of people imitating or ridiculing the way I speak, or saying I sound “cute."’ ‘My accent seems to imply negative characteristics.’ ” Other speech therapists practically make it sound like having a New Yawk accent is a disease: “A New York accent makes you sound ignorant. People listen to the accent, but not to what you’re saying," said speech therapist Lynn Singer.
The article bring up an old debate: how important is one's accent to their identity? One student of Singer's said, “I felt if I lost my accent I’d lose part of who I was. Almost no one thinks I’m from Queens anymore.” Is it better to smooth over all of one's vocal imperfections in the pursuit of wider acceptance, or in pursuit of a career? And if making fun of Jersey accents is racist, does that make the eradication of New York accents some kind of genocide? Unless the voice of God told us to get diction lessons, we're not sure we'd go through with it.