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Friday, October 15, 2010

What does a Southern Accent Say?

Opinion topic tonight. Southern Accents and Southern Belles

The southern states in the US retain a very specific culture. In the 19th century, this region was known for its tobacco plantations and the caste system that grew up around these estates. The “new money” enjoyed a lifestyle of extravagant European imports slowed by the warm southern climate and rural pace of life. Slave labor manned the crops, while young girls went to finishing school to learn proper manners and enter society through débutante balls and cotillions. The archetype of these young girls has somehow managed to live on well after the existence of the Old South. They are known as Southern Bells and are loosely judged to be calm gentile and hospitable, with a simple mind and a charming naiveté. The idea has retained its appeal for young men still today, who frequently call to name the ideal of this almost mythical creature. Now that gigantic dresses are gone, social etiquette out the window, and courting replaced with sex, one of the only remaining traits of a would-be Southern Belle is her accent. Slow and twangy. 

The southern accent has withstood chiding and not so tacit disrespect in the intellectual circles of the North and Midwest. A sly comment here and there says that a southern accent cannot sound intelligent. One has to wonder, why? The modern south is characterized by its people: former farm hands, working-class, the brawny Scots-Irish immigrants and their penchant for fighting and rebellion. Even though great minds have come from the south and moved to the south, the reputation has been hard to shake. Perhaps great subcultures like the Nascar racing population have carried the torch.The reputation got a nice sketch in this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine. With a potpourri of ridiculous quotes, those approached for the story did not give any reason to reconsider the stereotype. Has the southern accent forever been pigeon-holed?

Weigh in.

Back to the Southern Belle, with the only thing left to identify her being her accent, what does that mean? Does it say she is less intelligent than other girls? And most importantly is that the appeal? 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sherringford Sherlock and Count Wampyr

We’ve talked about alternate universe book titles for the past couple of days, but sometimes it’s just the characters who have undergone name changes (and in some cases, sex changes). Here are 10 of them!

1. Scarlett O’Hara was almost named Pansy. In fact, the iconic character didn’t receive her iconic name until just before the story went to print.

2. In early drafts of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly was named Connie Gustafson. That’s an entirely different character, in my opinion. Side note: Truman Capote is thought to have based Holly on several different women, including Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona Chaplin, and Walter Matthau’s wife, Carol Grace. His own mother was probably also an inspiration.

3. Bram Stoker’s notes on Dracula reveal that he had been referring to his famous vampire as “Count Wampyr.” During research, Stoker came across Vlad II of Wallachia, who went by the name Vlad Dracul. He was intrigued enough to change his character’s name.

4. Similarly, Arthur Conan Doyle made notes that indicated he had been considering the name “Sherringford” for Detective Holmes.

5. If that doesn’t throw you for enough of a loop, consider this: Holmes’ assistant was originally going to be called “Ormond Sacker.” Arthur Conan Doyle decided the name was a bit too bizarre and changed it to the decidedly duller “John H. Watson.”

6. Batman’s alter ego was named for Mad Anthony Wayne because the creators were looking for sturdy, historical names that suggested gentry and entitlement. Before “Wayne” was determined, Bruce Adams and Bruce Hancock were considered. Bruce, by the way, came from Scottish patriot Robert Bruce.

7. Before “Nancy Drew” was decided upon, names kicked around for the plucky young heroine included Stella Strong, Diana Drew, Diana Dare, Nan Nelson, Helen Hale and Nan Drew.

8. Small Sam, Little Larry and Puny Pete were all in the running before Charles Dickens settled on “Tiny Tim” for the sickly sad sack in A Christmas Carol.

9. Little Orphan Annie was nearly Little Orphan Otto, until Harold Gray’s publisher at the newspaper syndicate suggested his character looked more female than male and told him to stick a skirt on it.

10. It may have been a much different story if George Lucas had gone with his original “Luke Starkiller” name. Although the Skywalker name prevailed, “Starkiller” has since popped up for other characters.

from Mental Floss