Teaching With a Kentucky Accent

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 6 03:43:16 UTC 2002

At 2:19 PM -0500 12/5/02, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
>I tell my students that this prejudice will change as power and money move
>southward, as they now are.  Four presidents since LBJ have been from the
>South, and no one considers them dumb (well, maybe excepting the present
>one...), and the two recent midwestern presidents, Truman and Eisenhower,
>didn't talk like the Eastern elite by any means.

Actually I think there is some dialect prejudice at work here.  There
were (and for all I know still are) jokes about both Carter and
Clinton being dumb, even though by objective standards neither is the
case (Rhodes scholarship for Clinton, various honors for Carter, and
so on).  I suspect a lot of it had to do with them "sounding like
crackers", as I've heard it put, and some it specifically linked to
what people from Georgia or Arkansas are like. There may be a
disconnect in each case, part of which is presumably mediated by the
politics involved, but at least some of it by the dialect/accent.  I
don't recall similar jokes about Mondale, McGovern, or Dukakis,
although there were of course other sorts of jokes involved, as there
were about Ford, Bush Sr., Reagan, and especially Nixon.  In fact, a
nice minimal pair might be Ford vs. Carter or Clinton:  while there
were those jokes and routines about Ford not being able to walk and
chew gum at the same time, nobody (or not that many) made fun of the
way he talked or looked (remember the parodies of the Carter smile?)
or ate/farmed (remember the jokes about the peanuts?).  I don't think
regional prejudice can be entirely dismissed.


P.S.  Consider too JFK vs. LBJ:  the latter was often treated as
dumb, the former never, although again objectively I think this would
be hard to support.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list