A long time ago, I visited my father with big news. "Dad, I'm taking elocution classes!"
"Wha for?" he bellowed in his thick, Brooklyn accent. "You speak boo-tee-fool!" This came from a man who had more than sufficient post-masters' credits to obtain his PhD. He took classes at night for decades solely to keep his mind alert. On second thought, perhaps he had a mistress. But, I digress.
In case you don't know, I've a THICK Queens/Long Island accent: nasal, twangy, explosive. And a shrill voice that goes up and down like Mamie Eisenhower. My claim to fame is my signature 4-octave shriek. Being neurologically deaf, I don't hear when people come to the door. Startled by the sight of something moving outside, I usually let out a wallop of a scream. Let's say that after experiencing those 4 octaves which make birds fall from trees, people no longer pop over and text me well in advance.
I'm better than a barking dog. More effective.
Once, an actress of good repute approached me. "I got an audition for a principal role as a Brooklyn woman and would like to hire you to imitate your accent."
Insulted, I said, "Good luck there, princess. This is a Queens/Long Island accent!"
The accent got STRONGER when I lived in San Francisco back in 1999. I felt like Marco Polo. Here I was: a New York Jew who wore the latest designer clothes in a city of laid-back. "High maintenance," khaki-clad executives sneered at me while I walked to work in power suits, make-up to the nines, topped with high-heels.
During that year and a half in California, my accent was derided. At work, I once yelled on the phone, "Rat bastard." Before I knew it, "Rat bastard," echoed down the hallway, picked up by each person hidden in the hallway cubicles. It became a tour de force.
"You sound like Howard Stern!" they said, jaws slack, eyes bugged wide open.
"He's from Long Island as well," I informed them. "Don't get me started in Yiddish."
Forget when I wanted to get a cup of coffee! At the local Starbucks - it didn't matter which one as there was a store on four corners of every street intersection - the people inside wouldn't take my order unless I used the word, "coffee." Or as I pronounce it, 'caw-fee.'
"Hey, we've a New Yorker here!" the baristas shouted in glee. The patrons stared at me. Once again, I felt like Marco Polo.
What's even funnier is that I'm bilingual French/English. Most of my life, my French had been impeccable Parisian. Today, it's infused with New York. Just couldn't keep that from creeping in. It was inevitable.
One thing Dad loved, besides malapropisms, is mispronunciations. The man mispronounced everything, but who could tell with that accent of his? He trained me well.
During a conversation at a restaurant with two friends, I ordered Almond Chicken.
My girlfriend immediately corrected me. "It's not AL-mond. It's ah-mund."
"Whaddya tawking about? It's Al-mond."
While we argued about pronunciation, the waiter turned away in disgust.
The other friend interjected, "No, it's A-mund."
She and I turned around to stare at him. Another possibility.
I eventually ordered Chicken Cordon Bleu. She couldn't correct me with that, not knowing French.
You'd think we have better things to talk about? Nope.
Now that I'm neurologically deaf, I stumble on words or mispronounce them even more, a result of my hearing loss. My conversations have devolved to monosyllables. It doesn't make things better when I have readings of my own work. I can't PRONOUNCE half the words I write! I have to practice over and over to make sure I get the words out right. Mind you, these are FREE readings.
To keep abreast of current American tastes in comedy, I watch internet tv. A 20 minute sitcom may take upwards to an hour or more as I require breaks because listening's an active role in my life. I can't do more than one show a day. It takes too much outta me. Even so, I still don't understand what people find so funny about these shows.
Outside of sitcoms, I must say that my favorite show, hands down, is Ancient Aliens. Although it takes 13 attempts to get through each episode. Admittedly, I do fall asleep after the first three minutes. But I love the show. Especially the guy with the Don King hair. The third season, with the show's explosive success, that hair is now coiffed. Yet, the episodes have gotten a little redundant. They do need more new stuff to keep people like me interested enough to return 13 times per episode. While I'm on the topic, can they lower the background muzak? It wreaks havoc to my hearing and makes it even more difficult to hear what they're saying.
Getting back to sitcoms, I watched New Girl the other day. Perhaps I'm old, but I don't get the humor and can't account for its success. Perhaps it's the ensemble. Like a mashup of Friends with Three's Company.
With fondness, I recall The Dick Van Dyke Show which guaranteed doubled over laughter each episode. Haven't found anything that remotely matches it. Except one episode in Friends how a guy lost his toe. Even so, the new sitcoms leave me cold. Besides, I don't get why the really funny jokes flash rapidly on, say, 30 Rock and, instead, the very un-funny portions are stretched out. I noticed that trend as well in several 'comedy' movies. Is that supposed to be hilarious?
I must be getting old.
I asked my boyfriend about that because he hangs out with a lot of comedians. He gave me an explanation which didn't make sense. Ok, I admit, I didn't pay attention to what he said. I was too engrossed in trying to hear the latest episode of Ancient Aliens before I fell asleep.
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