Upon entering college, it is the mission of every incoming freshman to make an attempt to meet and get to know as many other students on campus as possible. Last fall, I was an ardent first year student looking to talk to other students around campus. During a normal exchange between two people who have recently met, the two parties learn the basics about one another’s lives and can determine what type of person they are. Many of my exchanges with other students on the Trinity campus happened a little differently. The initial greeting was normal, but as soon as I talked for a longer length of time, the conversation usually turned into the same thing.
“Oh my gosh you have an accent! Where are you from?”
“You say [insert word or phrase here] so funny!”
“Are you a northerner?”
Although Chicago is 1,200 miles away from San Antonio, the many reactions to my “accent” made it seem like a foreign country. Whenever I was in a situation where I met new people, someone was bound to comment on the strangeness of my pronunciations.
I was born in Houston, but only lived there for a few months. My parents, who are both originally from Chicago, moved back to a suburb about twenty-five minutes northwest of the city. Hoffman Estates is the name of the Chicago suburb where I lived and went to school for the majority of my life. Growing up, I knew of the stereotypical southern and northeastern accents, however I was oblivious to the fact that Chicagoans seem to have their own dialect.
I had met other students from the Midwest, yet it was only me that had the accent. Despite my confusion as to why my speech was entertaining to others, I began to embrace it and would play along when others would ask to say certain words, such as “apple” or “obvious,” for the benefit of hearing the Chicagoan inside of me surface.
Toward the end of my first year at Trinity, someone made the comment that my accent had disappeared and I was a bit disappointed that a certain part of me was gone. However, after spending three months of summer back home in Chicago, the accent had resurfaced. Although not as pronounced as last year, the accent can be heard once in a while when saying the occasional “apple” or “obvious.”
Speech is only one aspect of a person’s character; I believe that my “Chicago accent” greatly encompasses who I am. It is a reflection of where I lived, where I went to school, and where I spent most of my life. Although my speech doesn’t completely define me, I view it as taking a part of home with me while I am 1,200 miles away.