"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Friday, August 3, 2012

Academic Accent?

At an event the other day, as people were chitchatting over coffee before the presentations began, somebody asks me: "Where are you from?"

Me, thinking ze is asking where I work: "Organization X."

Other Person:  "No, I mean, I work with diplomats, and I'm good at picking up accents. I thought when you spoke I detected a bit of an accent. You're from here then?"

Me: "Huh???? Yeah. I am from here. Born and raised."

Other Person: "Oh, must be an academic accent then. I used to have one myself, but I lost it over the years. Haha!"

Me: "Yeah, I'm gonna go sit down now ... away from you. I think the presentations are about to start."

I walk away and sit down safely -- so I thought -- between two already occupied seats, but Other Person follows like a puppydog and sits right down in the row in front of me. Apparently ze wants to continue the conversation. The presentations have not started yet.

Other Person: "So, where was it you said you worked?"

 Me: "Organization X, but I just started there a few weeks ago."

Other Person: "And where were you before that?"

Me, thinking Think Tank and New Think Tank might be liabilities too complicated to explain in this environment: "I was at Grad U, stupidly teaching my way through a PhD in English."

Other Person, overcome with delight at hir clever detective work: "I knew it! You really do have an academic accent!!"

I stared momentarily at Other Person in disbelief. Thankfully, finally, the event began, as the moderator stepped up to the podium and told everyone to shut up.

*     *     *     *     *

An academic accent?????!?! WTF is an academic accent!! Have any of you ever heard of such a thing?

Maybe it really is true: You can take the post-ac out of academe, but you can't take academe out of the post-ac.


  1. I have never heard of such a thing.

  2. Nope, never heard of that ever and I'm talking on both sides of the Atlantic and even in other languages (I speak several). I wonder what this person who asked that question was trying to say about themselves? Ie..that saying that you had one so he/she had one since they'd been to grad school? Do you see my line of thinking?

  3. Yes, I have heard of such a thing. There is a "generic" accent that is fostered, something like television personalities develop intentionally. In journalism and communications, we actively teach students to adopt this "nowhere" accent. Most performance majors are absorb this accent, too.

    Though seldom said aloud, we judge some accents harshly: Southern and "Jersey" come to mind. We assume accents reflect education, class, and more. Of course, sometimes they do.