I ran into a few new accents during my visit to Joplin at the weekend. Some more than others I had to listen to three or more times before being able to understand at all. “You said what?” And, as always, it was as hard as ever to ask people to repeat what they’ve said without feeling guilty. My accent also became the subject of a few random stares, and eventual conversation starting prompts: “You speak good English” and a few more variants of the same compliment/curiosity. That was Lauren, the beautiful American from Tulsa who was excited to meet people from different parts of the world – especially from the faraway places like Nigeria and Benin where Mafoya and I come from. She thought that our accents sounded “different” but “cool”. Tulsa Oklahoma is about a hour and half from Joplin. And now, we have a standing invitation to visit there whenever we find ourselves again in that part of the country.
Who has seen Justified, the tv series featuring Timothy Olyphant? The accent that the preacher at the church service on Sunday spoke was similar to what I heard a lot from watching the series. Musical, a little slurry, and definitely pleasant to the ears, a distinct Kentucky-like flavour that delights a stranger’s hearing perhaps more than anyone else. Maybe a style of dressing too, but that’s beyond my specialty. But it is more understandable that those who live in rural, farm areas dress in a particular way, especially in the summer. And what do I know. I’m the guy who wore chinos rather than jeans to a work site.
Tulsa (Oklahoma), Topeka (Kansas), and Fayetteville (Arkansas) were some of the famous little towns from which the people we met came from, bearing gifts of the different ways of speaking and, no doubt, looking at the world. (PS: The writing on the garage door in the photo above reads U loot, we shoot. Click to enlarge. I won’t count that as just a kind of Joplin humour.)