a note about accents and stereotypes

12
Feb
2008

There is a specific type of Mexican accent that is recognized in the US, or at least it seemed that way to me before coming here. It is represented in many parts of American culture. I can’t think of any specific examples at the moment other than the man in the bee suit on TV in various Simpsons episodes. This accent is very particular, more of a tonal drawl or lilt, and it is the basis of a stereotype Americans have about how “all” Mexicans sound in speech. I’m certain there are racial and cultural bias overtones as well to this perceived trait.

In any event, since coming to Mexico I haven’t heard this accent or tonal drawl at all in the numerous people I have met. I have detected a variety of accents and manners of speaking in various people. Some use a lot more slang than others, as in any language group. And then last night, for the first time down on the street outside my window, I heard a young woman conversing with her boyfriend in that voice, that lilt. It really took me by surprise for I had completely forgotten about it until now. When I asked Julio about it, he told me it was mostly a class distinction, that the voice we were hearing was from a poor area, which was interesting, because I tend to think of accents as being more about region than about class or economics. But of course that is silly, the world is filled with multitudes of accents linked to subculture as well as place.

Comments

  1. Mom says:

    Actually, Americans stereotype much more on the basis of language than is generally recognized. Southern drawls, “eubonics”-type inflections, “New York” accents are marks of class distinctions that we theoretically don’t make, but of course we do. It isn’t surprising that such liguistic lines are drawn in Mexico, too.

    You should be glad you are there, btw. It’s FREEZING here. Sleeting, icy, and cold. I’m envious…..

  2. Y’know there’s that whole “gay accent” thing.