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How And Why I Lost My Texan Accent AKA The Y'all Drawl

James Ranka, more widely known online as Copywriter31, earned two BA's—one in Mass Communications and the other in Music Performance.


For The Record, This Is Not Yours Truly, But He Makes A Lot Of Sense!

Hey, Doesn't Everyone Talk Like This?

I was born and raised in SE Texas where the southern drawl was, needless to say, prevalent. I thought my ingrained accent was simply a part of the way people communicated. Little did I realize people living in California and New York spoke differently: I just assumed that everyone walked and talked Texan.

In fact, I had no idea that I owned a heavy accent until my first year in college. I was a class AAAA pitcher in high school and was heavily recruited for a full ride baseball scholarship. I chose St. John's in Kansas.

Imagine, speaking a certain 'Southern' way for 19 years and all of a sudden you are left to fend for yourself in the "Northern" state of Kansas.

Evidently, my accent was not terrible... at least I slipped through the loud-mouthed censors until the 3rd. week of college.


The Flag Football Game

I truly liked the campus in Kansas . . . to this 19-year-old kid it was heaven.

  • Go to class
  • Study
  • Play Baseball
  • Party

Not necessarily in that order.

One Friday night, the entire male population in our dorm decided to play a game of flag football. All well - all good... until - someone on the other team dropped a pass and I blurted out something like "y'all suck!"

Little did I know there were about 6 co-eds watching "the boys" play football. One of the girls picked up on my southern-drawled-y'all-statement and about 5 seconds later the razz began... "say y'all for us", "is that how y'all talk in Texas?"

On and on this diatribe continued until I smoothly slithered away - crawling to my dorm room for the night.

Right then; right there I knew my accent was MUCH more than just a different way of talking. My accent represented a slanted view of Texans. Within the blink of an eye, I realized my accent made me seem stupid and uneducated. I wanted to go back to Texas - back home - where I would be accepted; where no one would look at me as being ignorant for using the term, "y'all".

I may as well have been talking to a wall during long distance phone calls charged to my parent's phone. I called every night, begging them to let me come home. They would hear nothing of that possibility.

When I finally realized they were not going to give in to my crying jags, I quit calling, but I made a life-changing decision. I decided to LOSE the southern drawl - completely; totally!


The tape recorder

This activity took place in the early 1970s... long before digital recording, now so prevalent, was nothing more than a pipe dream. The cassette recorder was the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of the day and I will never forget the first time I heard my voice on tape. I remember thinking, "my god, I hope no one heard THAT!"

After hearing my voice for the first time, I could see why and how the 6 girls were so rightly judgemental. I sounded like a country bumpkin; no ifs, ands or buts. My voice made Larry the Cable Guy sound metropolitan!

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I didn't want to talk for the remainder of the current semester.

Knowing that was impossible, I continued to work on changing a drawl to a non-descript accent. Unfortunately one of my classes that semester was Speech! O My God, how I dreaded Tuesdays and Thursdays, the 2 days of the week when I was required to stand up and talk in front of students from LA, New York, and other places north of Amarillo, Texas.

I remember shaking like a leaf caught in a hurricane before my speeches. I survived Speech class, and as each day passed, I lost a little more of my now unwanted drawl.

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Long story; short

I'm not going to lie and say I lost all of my southern drawl that year. The reality is, 10 years passed before I unlearned the accent I so wanted to lose.

No doubt, I have come a long way in a quest to lose what I perceived to be a handicap - the Texas drawl.

I now feel comfortable speaking in front of groups , speaking on-camera and especially speaking as a narrator.


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My Southern California Confirmation

Moving ahead many years to 2000, I remember dating a girl who lived in San Marcos, California (I was working and living in Escondido, CA).

One night, these old memories came back to me in a flood. For whatever reason, I wanted to know what people in California thought of the Texas drawl. By then, I fit right in to the California scene, meaning I had lost ALL traces of a southern accent and my personality naturally melded with the Southern Cali attitudes and laid back lifestyle.

So, I asked her this question... "Do you think people with a pronounced southern accent sound stupid?" She stammered and delayed but she finally said, "Well, I must admit, they do sound a bit slow on the uptake."

An honest answer... THE honest answer!

Losing my accent may not be right for ALL southerners, but it was right for me. Why? My new 'voice' produced:

  • Self-confidence
  • The ability to freely discuss any subject with any person
  • Removal of the inhibiting "what are they thinking of me" questions
  • The knowledge to know I can stand in front of 1,000s of people knowing I am not being wrongly judged by a long lost southern drawl.

So, what do you think?

Almost 40 years have passed since the infamous flag football game. In that time, I have sometimes wondered if I over-reacted to the accent mocking incident. Although I don't regret losing my southern drawl, I wonder if working so hard to lose it was that big a deal.

Answer the poll question (below) because I would really like to document your thoughts on the southern drawl, AKA a Texas accent. Your answers will help answer that question ruminating inside this noggin' for many years:

"Was I over-reacting to the teasing or is the southern accent detrimental to one's image?"

The Texas, Southern Drawl Cowboy Hat Poll

© 2010 James Ranka


James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on June 01, 2015:

You sound determined, Matt. You can do it - takes some time, but the change will occur.

Matt on May 29, 2015:

I've lived in Texas my entire life. When I hear my own voice, I notice the accent, but my normal speech flows out of my mouth unhindered. Many people have point out how heavy my accent can get. I also have issues with projecting, opening my mouth enough when I speak and speaking quickly. Combined, it drives people such as my girlfriend crazy.

I found this page hoping to alter my own accent. I'm not stupid or slow, but I am one of those people that people recognize as southern. The intensity is not anywhere near as heavy as it is depicted or described in media though.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on August 02, 2014:

I mainly listened to news anchors and mimicked their 'accents.' The critical vowel sounds are "I" and "A". Southerners usually pronounce these 2 dead giveaways as diphthongs or even draw them out as triphthongs. Once I corrected these vowels I was well on my way to change my accent. Appreciate your comment.

Bookin Weasel from Pasig on August 02, 2014:

Very interesting post. I am from Georgia and when I went off to college in the mid 1980's, I experienced a similar reception to my accent that you did. (I went to college in California). I to became extremely aware of certain situations and was shocked to hear myself on tape ( Do I sound like that?).

I am curious, what did you do to lose your accent? I know that you recorded yourself, but were there certain phrases/sounds that you practiced? Your post is so similar to what I experienced that I thought I was the only one.

Having come back to my home in Atlanta after college (20+ years) I have to say, hearing another Southern accent makes me feel right at home.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on July 17, 2014:

Understood, and a very good insight. Thanks for your comment.

Julius on July 17, 2014:

Ya know, just my 2 cents, coming from a guy who was born in Connecticut but never lived there for more than the 3 months after his birth, i find accents a very nice thing. i developed an accent which can't be anything else but "american"(everyone i have met says so) far away from america, in fact, south east asia and the europe. but the accent clings to me, and i don't mind it at all. it's something that makes

"me" - ME ;)

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on March 29, 2013:

Haha! Love it!!!

Abynormal on March 29, 2013:

We can't miss my Granny's sayins:

Now don't that beat a dog achokin on butter!

He's slicker n a snotty door knob!

Well, cut my legs off and call me shorty!

He's busier n a one-armed paper hanger!

He don't know come here from sic em!

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on October 03, 2012:

Haha . . . great comment!

Meade on October 03, 2012:

1. Texas is not Southern, or the South

2. There is nothing wrong with saying y'all. Its "you guys" that really sounds stupid and annoys the heck out of me.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on August 21, 2012:

Thanks for that very interesting story. AS a DJ, I would imagine one would need a collection of dialects and "voices" to be hugely successful. I also found the take the African writer had on the southern accent to be very interesting. VERY good comments - thanks for writing!

Panola/Rusk on August 21, 2012:

As your poll indicates, outsiders think our drawl is charming, but when stood side by side with a yankee, who are they most likely to trust with their finances? You have a point.

I could have avoided alot of fights as a boot and hat wearing North East Texan 6th grader in Bridge City, Texas during the mid 80's if I'd donned Guess shirts and Bugle Boys and pronounced my g's and said guys instead of y'all. Luckily I moved out of the Golden Triangle and back to the Ark-La-Tex for 7th grade. While in college in the mid 90's, I lucked into a job as a radio deejay while making fun of yankees on a demo for my radio-tv class. My first show was done in my natural dialect, but I was told by the station manager that he wanted the accent from the demo and that I'd sounded like a bumkin. For the next three years I obliged him while on-air.

I also had to learn to speak with the bland mid-western dialect, but I despise it. I only use it when I have to. Thankfully it's just a tool, not a part of me.

I personally agree with the African gentleman from above, but practically am forced (sadly) to agree with you.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on June 23, 2012:

The changing of my accent was a personal decision based on what I experienced many years ago. Do I regret the change? NO! For me, this change boosted my self confidence for a lifetime. Obviously, changing one's way of communication is a personal choice that's not right for all . . . but it was good for me. Thanks for your comment.

ngureco on June 23, 2012:

It’s very unfortunate you had to abandon your own accent in favor of another group’s accent. Each one of us has an accent and a dialect – when they say you have an accent, tell them they also have an accent.

In the 70s when we were growing up in Africa, we understood America to be all about y’all, Texas, cowboys on horseback and movies. That was about all that mattered in our lives as children.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 21, 2012:

You are correct: Guilty as charged! Thanks for the correction.

blue on May 21, 2012:

Just to clarify, as a Texan myself, it is actually written "y'all", as in "you" contracted with "all." I mean no disrespect; it just caught my eye!

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on September 03, 2011:

Thanks Eric. As of today, 9/3/2011, 49 people have voted, and 80% believe as you - the Southern or Texas accent is charming. Very interesting to hear an African agree with the poll results; and even more mind-blowing is the reason for your belief. Our media is very powerful (as you obviously knew.)... you may be on to something here. Thanks very much for your comment, Eric!

eric on September 03, 2011:

Hi I am from Africa.We actually find the accent fascinating here. It's your media that portrays the accent as negative just like blonde ladies. Blonde lady with Texas accent=dumb. But in reality that's not true.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 17, 2011:

I don't know how it took 2 MONTHS for your comment to appear in my mailbox, Wendy... but that it did.

You may be right! The poll TODAY shows 38 people voted.

24% thought the accent to be negative, while 76% found the accent to be charming. I never would have expected those stats. Thanks for the comments!

Wendy on March 08, 2011:

Well I'm from Kansas, and around here people use the word y'all ALL the time. The again I'm from SE Kansas just about 30 minutes from the Oklahoma border. I personally think it really just depends where exactly your from. I'm from a tiny rural town . A lot of my older family members sound like they could be from Texas. Saying things like "bidness" instead of "buisness", "rastlin" instead of "wrestling", "git" not "get" and so on.. A rural southern Kansas accent has oftentimes been considered to be like a southern accent only flattened out with much less drawl. As for your question: NO people with southern accents don't seem uneducated to me!

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on October 04, 2010:

A good perspective; one that never crossed my mind, and you may be right.

15 people voted me down in the poll with only 27% calling the Texas accent "stupid".

Very good insight and perhaps a lack of foresight on my part.

Michael on October 04, 2010:

Well, as a Yankee from the North, I would like to state on the record that I have never thought that colloquial accents, like a Southern drawl ... or particularly Southern phrases denoted stupidity, or ignorance ... not at all.

Rather I think it is distinctive and reflects the cultural South in a quirky but good way ... and that it is enormously cute and endearing for Southern women to have a drawl ... with my being a healthy red blooded male.

Even in the retelling of your story I'm surprised that it did not occur to you, that those girls were not making fun of you but were more likely casually flirting with you.

Not criticizing you, if you feel better for having lost the accent ... well then more power to you, and I wish you well ... but still I think you perhaps need to check your assumptions about it.

Being different is distinctive ... even from a Northern perspective ... and if we kid or tease someone about it that doesn't conote a negative view ... but is more probably expressing an appreciation, interest, or curiosity about that difference.

Best Regards

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on July 09, 2010:

Hey Buck, following are the keywords used within July used in Google to find my Hub.

Once again: Your comment proves my point... thank you!

stupid southern accent: 1

southern speech stupid: 1

19 year old country accent, made fun of all the time: 1

texas accent: 1

lose southern drawl: 1

are southern accents stupid: 1

laugh texas accent: 1

southern drawl texas: 1

i'm just a stupid texan: 1

how to lose a texas accent: 1

texas stupid accent: 1

Buck Steiner from Steiner Ranch on July 09, 2010:

If the point was you are a little insecure then you proved it. Most people grow out of it, insecurities will just hold you back.

Buck up little camper..

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on July 09, 2010:

Point proven.

Buck Steiner from Steiner Ranch on July 09, 2010:

You were really concerned about how you sounded?

Are you sure you're from Texas?

Most Texans don't give a damn about what anybody thinks, why should we? We're Texans...y'all

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 07, 2010:

Nah, no problem, if YOU don't mind hearing proper Spanish spoken with an English accent! LOL

EllenGraeger from Madrid on May 07, 2010:

You're welcome, copywriter31. Just contact us in Madrid, we'll show you our lovely old city. One thing: I speak English also with a German accent. You don't mind, do you ?

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 06, 2010:

It's very rare these days to live in one locality for life, so I'm sure most everyone who read this Hub can identify with me to some degree.

BTW, I would LOVE to visit Spain!

EllenGraeger from Madrid on May 06, 2010:

You should come to Spain and speak Spanish with a German accent. I have been living here for 20 years by now (a German in Spain) and no day passes by without being asked "You have an accent ! Where are you from ?". Not that anybody who asks speaks German... But that's another topic, yours is a regional accent.

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 06, 2010:

Oh well, I was a big boy and I could take it. I think when I heard my voice played back for the first time was the convincer... my accent was VERY thick.

Thanks for the compliment Goji - I'm glad you enjoyed reading this Hub.

GojiJuiceGoodness from Roanoke, Virginia on May 06, 2010:

I'm sure you did have a lot of pressure about your accent! I have a friend who stopped saying "y'all" because his classmates made fun of him as well. It's just too bad people do that. Last time I checked Southerners don't laugh at Northerners for talking so fast! :P

Btw, this is a great hub & I really enjoyed reading it!

James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 05, 2010:

I've lived in many American states. I loved California but it's now just a little too expensive for this southern gent. Honestly, I wouldn't live anywhere except Texas. I truly like it here. I know MANY highly intelligent Texans, but the drawled accent stigma is real.

You experienced pleasant exchanges with people calling you on the accent. I heard the razzing for half a semester, and that's tough on a 19 year old kid.

The teasing stopped when I threw my first fastball... No one could hit it (LOL). All of a sudden I became cool and totally accepted.

I guess it was simply peer pressure and wanting to be accepted.

GojiJuiceGoodness from Roanoke, Virginia on May 05, 2010:

Do you think a pronounced southern accent makes a person seem ignorant or stupid? Absolutely not! :) I guess I'm biased; I'm from Lynchburg, Virginia (western edge of the state in the mountains) and although we don't have thick accents, we've got Southern ones alright! My Dad is from the South originally, but my Mom is not.

I get people commenting on my accent sometimes, especially when we travel or I'm talking on the phone to someone in the north. :P I really don't mind and they aren't unkind or anything.

My honest answer? I LOVE Southern accents and wouldn't ever want to change. That's part of being a Virginian, or in your case a Texan.

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