Plain talk about accents
Arizona Republic (Dear Abby:)
May. 23, 2006

Dear Abby: You gave a sensible answer to "Sean" regarding the people he has asked about their foreign accents. I would like to offer some advice regarding people he may meet in the future.

I grew up in a diverse metropolitan area. I quickly learned that if people want to share their accent's origin, they will after I offer a compliment (without an inquiry). I have said things like, "What a beautiful accent!"
or, "Your accent makes English sound like music." In response, some people will volunteer where it is from. Others simply accept the compliment.

I think you touched on a valid reason why some people are reluctant to reply. People are more likely to tell you about their past if they are proud of it. However, others also may feel that their relationship is not one that warrants volunteering personal information. When you work with dozens or hundreds of people a day, people may not want their last name known, let alone more private information. - Jenny in Brockton, Mass.

Dear Jenny: There can be many reasons that people are reluctant to answer the question. Read on:

Dear Abby: It gets very tiring to be asked the same question time after time, especially when the response we get for answering it is always the
same: "Oh."

Ninety-nine percent of the individuals who ask me about my accent cannot differentiate between London and the United Kingdom, so it puzzles me why they even ask the question. My response is to give a dumb answer to a dumb question.

Also, there are too many prejudiced people in this country who judge others based on their accent, and, besides, starting a conversation with so personal a question is offensive. - Ticked Off in Florida