Idaho Has an Accent?

I spent my entire childhood in the 2T. I didn’t live outside of Idaho until I was well into my 20s, when I spent almost a year in the Chicago area. I suppose that means I grew up with an “Idaho accent.”

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It also probably explains why I have recurring dreams about wind.
Image credit: Wagner Christian

I personally don’t think the Idaho accent is much of an accent at all. For what it’s worth, corporate America seems to agree. Purportedly they¬†base call centers in Boise and other cities in the region because of our friendly, “neutral” speech mannerisms.

That said, I’ve always been intrigued by the differing accents and dialects in the English-speaking world. Indeed, there are obvious differences in accent between the 2T and places like Chicago and Philadelphia, both of which I lived in at one point. I lived in Las Vegas too, but I didn’t notice much of a difference there.

During my time out of state I began to pick up on several different accents I wasn’t exposed to as a kid, notably the Boston and Long Island varieties. In my estimation the Philadelphia accent wasn’t as “strong” as those, but it was stronger than the accent heard in, say, Washington, D.C. As I noted when I lived in Philadelphia, it seemed like the further northeast one went up, the thicker and more unintelligible the accents became.

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Until one eventually hit Francophone Quebec.

Earlier today I came across a terribly interesting site created by linguist Rick Aschmann. Aschmann has exhaustively researched and mapped the various English accents and dialects spoken in the United States and Canada. It’s an impressive work. Unfortunately, like many other works of a national or continental scope, it’s a bit lacking when it comes to Idaho-specific material.

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A Mike Crapo speech sample? C’mon, people, we can do better than that!

Now I could sit here and complain about it, because that makes for good blogging material. However, I could also do something about it, which … makes for good blogging material. On his site Aschmann asks for voice samples from native American and Canadian English speakers like me who spent most or all of their childhoods in a particular place. I was happy to oblige, especially since the ever-so-slight Chicago and Philadelphia accents I used to have are long gone.

Naturally, I pointedly informed him there is no “Z” in “Boise.” I’d be horribly remiss if I produced something like this and failed to do so.

I also read him a bedtime story. You’ll probably fall asleep too.

This turned out to be a fun afternoon project. I encourage others to try it as well.

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History Wednesday: Pranking Made Elementary

Last week’s History Wednesday was a bit on the dark side, so this week I wanted to lighten the mood. What happened in Boston earlier this week only makes the call for a less intense article all the more stronger.

Today History Wednesday travels back to 1917, but not to the bleak, war-torn landscape often associated with that year. Instead this story takes place in the countryside of Great Britain, specifically a town called Cottingley in West Yorkshire. It was here in this unassuming hamlet nearly a century ago that two girls pulled off a hoax that bamboozled an entire nation and made a very famous author look foolish indeed.

And so it was in this pastoral environment of rural north-central England that 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her 10-year-old cousin, Frances Griffiths, often found themselves dirty and wet after playing in the stream near their home. They explained to their exasperated mothers that they frequented the area because fairies lived there.

One day, the girls decided to “prove” it. Arthur Wright, Elsie’s father, was an amateur photographer who had set up a darkroom on the property. Consequently Elsie – a gifted artist – was somewhat adept at photography as well. Using illustrations from Princess Mary’s Gift Book, the girls made several two-dimensional fairy drawings. Elsie then took a picture of Frances with the figures.

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Pictured: Photoshoppe -13.0.

A couple months later the girls repeated the prank, posing Elsie with a “gnome.” Arthur Wright, who was sick and tired of the girls screwing around with his equipment, forbade them access to the camera after that.

That should have been the end of it right there. However, Elsie’s mother, Polly, believed the photographs were the real deal. A couple years after the incident she took them to a local meeting of the Theosophical Society, a group that researched esoterica such as, you know, fairies.

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Kind of like this, but without the LSD.

Needless to say, the photos were a big hit. Edward Gardner, a leading member of the Theosophical Society, became their prime apologist. After they were featured at the society’s national conference, they were “authenticated” by a guy who merely said the negatives weren’t tampered with (which was true). But hell, close enough, right?

Well, they were close enough for a certain Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an active Spiritualist who learned about the photographs through his editorial contacts. As the more astute among you know, Conan Doyle was a famous Scottish author best known for creating a character named Sherlock Holmes. He totally bought the “fairies are real” line, even after the photographic companies Kodak and Ilford expressed their, um, doubts.

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The mustache, however, is obviously fake.

That’s when things started getting seriously stupid.

In order to corroborate the “evidence,” Conan Doyle sent Gardner to Cottingley to meet the Wright family and get some more fairy photographs. Gardner brought with him two new Kodak cameras and some marked photographic plates. He taught the girls how to use the cameras and then left, charging them with taking the pictures themselves. The girls in turn would only take photographs when no one else was around, as they were the only ones the “fairies” trusted. Sure enough, three new fairy photographs appeared and the plates were dutifully shipped back to Gardner in London.

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“Hey, hey. Let’s tell them we found a way to turn brown sauce into diamonds. They’ll totally go for it!”

So did Gardner or Conan Doyle catch on? Oh, hell no! Upon hearing of the new photographs, Conan Doyle replied:

I had your note and the three wonderful pictures which are confirmatory of our published results. When our fairies are admitted other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance.

Conan Doyle triumphantly published his findings in December 1920. While some fell for the hoax, many others were quick to call bullshit. In other words, the world wasn’t completely stupid in 1920 after all. As for Elsie and Francis, they finally owned up to the hoax.

In 1983.

No Snark Today

I went into today’s post with a few snarky things to say about Facebook and their recent timeline change. Then I read about what happened in Boston.

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The City of Trees stands with Beantown.

Now I don’t feel snarky or funny. I don’t think it’s appropriate today anyway. Mark Zuckerberg’s skewering will have to wait.