Teaching With a Kentucky Accent

Peter Richardson prichard at LINFIELD.EDU
Thu Dec 5 03:49:46 UTC 2002

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Dave Hause wrote:

> I think you might have taken that as pure career advice if he had
qualified it by saying "...teach English somewhere other than Eastern

The point about career advice is well taken. I begin the first day of a
class here by telling, oh, the first minute or so of Jerry Clower's
Mississippi Coon Hunt. Then, just after I've talked about havin' a rat
killin' ("If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'"), I interrupt myself and tell the
students in my real version of standard academic English that it was, in
fact, all a big lie. Then they're to talk among themselves about that
crucial initial impression they had of me and, as part of their homework,
to write a short piece about their reaction for the next class. Most admit
to wondering how anyone with an accent like that could be teaching in
college, and some say they immediately assumed I was a racist redneck. (I
did ask for absolute honesty, incidentally.)  "American Tongues," which we
see later in the course, reminds them of that first day when they were all
caught with their prejudices a-flyin'. That video, as you'll all remember,
has a nice section devoted to the extra mile that a speaker with a heavy
Southern--or Brooklyn--accent must walk in order to reach the starting
line for a responsible position. It's a tough lesson, not soon forgotten.

Peter R.

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