This may be one of those "you had to have been there" stories or it may lose something in the translation, but I am going to try and tell it anyway.
For those of you who have heard my voice, you know that I have a Texas accent. Not just any Texas accent, but a North Texas Nasal Twang from Wichita Falls. My earliest memory of someone pointing out my twang was in Red River. Mike Taylor was a teenage boy who often babysat my brother and I. I can remember him trying to teach me to say his name correctly. He would say "Mai-ik" like it was almost two syllables. I would say, "Mike" (as in mic – microphone) short and sweet. He would say, "Mai-ik" and I would think, "where did this guy come from?" A few years later I had this conversation with my friend Kim, who was a bit older than I. "Kim, you want to play Barbie dials?" She looked at me funny and said, "You mean dolls?" Me, "That’s what I said." Her, "No, you said dials." Although I did not appreciate her pointing out my speech problem, it was probably the first realization that maybe I really did talk funny.
Skip to my years of teaching English Lit and Grammar to kids who spoke English as a second language or were Limited English Proficient. The grammar book had a red section and a white section. The first time I told my students to turn to the "white" pages of their book, I had thirty teen-agers laughing and mocking my accent, which was pretty funny acutally. They made fun of my Texas accent fairly often, so I would make them repeat "white" or whatever word they mocked until they said it with a Texas accent. Then I would say, "That is your bilingual lesson for the day." They loved it. And I loved them. If you think their mocking my Texas accent was bad, you should have heard them when I tried to say something in Spanish. Then there would be thirty teen-agers in the floor laughing. Then they would make me repeat the word until they were satisfied that I could say it with a Spanish accent. Although I actually do a very correct Spanish pronunciation and could imitate (mock their Questa accent), my slow twang was just pretty funny to them.
Then there was the time I was at a highbrow society gathering at the Aldophus Hotel in Dallas mingling with a bunch of Yankees from Chicago who were all part of the company Toby worked for. Now those people had a nasal accent, but I did not make fun of them. I like hearing different people from different areas speak. Then one lady in her very Chicago/city/nasal/Yankee accent said, "I’d like to visit that building with the ball on top of it." And I said, "You mean the Hyatt" (pronounced "hite" like any good Texan). The lady (and I use that term loosely) paused for effect and said, "Well, where I come from that has two syllables." Then her little group of followers all snickered and had a good laugh at my expense. A year later when at a similar gathering in Chicago, I paid her back. She mentioned visiting "The Plaza" pronounced like it was related to "plasma". In my very best Spanish pronunciation I said, "Where I come from, that is pronounced plah-zuh." By the next year when the gathering was held in Vegas, we were good friends.
Last night after sign language class (thank God I do not have to speak to learn this language), I was playing with TFNP’s kids. PN2 and I were practicing our alphabet and signing names. In her very sweet, soft voice she asked, "Can you spell my daddy’s name?" I said sure and said the letters as I spelled them, "J, A, Y." She looked confused and asked, "Why did you say ‘why’?" I answered, "Because that is how you spell his name with a Y at the end." In her very quiet voice she said, "In my house we say ‘why-i.’" Mike Taylor would have been proud of her – she made the long "I" sound just like he did. I have had my accent mocked and corrected by lots of people, but never a four-year-old.