Hillary Clinton

The Young Folks Call It Country, The Yankees Call It Dumb

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Chalk me up as a defender of the otherwise-odious Hillary Clinton for the moment. She's getting flack for adopting a Southern accent in her speech in Selma, Alabama, and it's undeserved. Says Glenn Thrush:

She does country-up her delivery in the south (especially on trips to her longtime home of Little Rock) and she does flatten her vowels mercilessly when she stumps in the Midwest. She also gets a little Jackie Mason in certain precincts of Brooklyn and Borschtland.

The point being made by Drudge and other Clinton haters is that her sudden Southern drawl is symptomatic of her dishonesty and duplicity. That dawg won't hunt. Everybody does it.

This is true. For example, I do it. I've returned from interviews with black or New York or Southern politicos and played back my tape, and been astounded by the change in my tone of voice from interview. As I talk to a Southerner I start to drawl and end the interview with some doggerel like "'pree-shade it." ("I appreciate it.") I get the feeling this is a thing most people do when they've entered a new situation and need to establish trust or affinity with a bunch of unfamiliar people.

So Clinton isn't being dishonest in trying on the Southern accent. She's simply not very good at it. I imagine her laborious attempts to nail the patois are making Democrats wonder if they want to present this candidate to voters every day for 20 more months.

UPDATE: It's called "code switching." Thank you, commenters!

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  1. I’m not sure that an interviewer who is becoming situationally sycophantic is exactly the same as a politician. Plus, it’s weird to me. And, that’s the worst Southern accent I have ever heard.

  2. Even Dave’s defense doesn’t get at the truth here.

    Clinton was reading lyrics written by a southerner, and imitating him – badly. She wasn’t “countrying up” the way she speaks; she was purposely and obviously, to the audience, doing an imitation of someone else’s speech.

    Which is why Drudge was so careful with his edits – once Clinton stopped quoting the songwriter, she dropped the accent.

  3. Really trying hard to avoid that “Democrat Shill” label, aren’t we, Mr. Weigel?

    Come on. Yes, people can pick up accents to a certain extent, but she’s ridiculous. If George Bush gave a speech at one of the Ivys (not that such a thing would be permitted) and started talking like William F. Buckley, you’d be all over it and rightly so.
    Besides, Hillary has always been a Yankees fan. She told us so.

  4. Dude, you’ve got to be kidding. Clinton’s rendition of a southern accent would cause even Scarlett O’hara to put a bullet between her eyes for being an obvious yankee conspirator.

    Clinton was an insult. Plain. Simple. An insult.

  5. Whether it was meant to deceive the audience or reach out to them, it was stupid, petty — and classic Clinton.

  6. Even if she does ham up the local accents, I’m supposed to care why…..?

  7. Who was that guy that thought Hillary Clinton was actually a marionaette for some insetoid space alien? I can’t remember.

  8. Speaking of W. Bush, I always found his accent suspect. It sorta kinda sounds Texas-like, to someone from Ohio, but I note Jeb and Fredo – I mean Neal – don’t appear to have one.

  9. Not exactly on topic, but this reminded me of Nick Kent’s amusing description of Mick Jagger in The Dark Stuff:

    “He had this particular habit of adopting the dialect and accent of anyone he was talking to, just as he was talking to them. On one occasion I found myself in a room with him, a white guy from the American South, a black guy from Los Angeles and someone from the North of England, and everyone stood quietly aghast as the singer’s voice weaved a reckless path away from his usual faux Cockney intonations to attempt a ‘y’all’ drenched drawl straight out of a particularly arch Tennessee Williams production before slipping into ‘soul brother’ black speak somewhat in the over-excited cadence of Little Richard. When he finally started talking like a Manchester bus conductor, everyone in the room looked utterly mystified because the whole performance was frankly ridiculous to begin with and you really couldn’t tell if Jagger consciously realized he was even doing it or not. But ultimately it didn’t matter because it got him what he wanted, which was to be the centre of attention…But he’d only stay the centre of attention until Keith Richards walked into the room.”

  10. Uh . . . she was quoting. When people quote Monty Python, do they not affect English accents? I fail to see the difference.

    I don’t like Hilary’s policies at all, but this is silly. The accent was bad because she was obviously hamming it up for the quote. I think this was obvious to the audience, and not insulting at all.

  11. Yes, but when people quote Monty Python, they are quoting people who are making silly accents for comic effect, as such the silly accent is a part of the joke.

  12. I find myself doing this sometimes. It’s probably not the greatest habit. But it IS a really cool topic because nobody ever talks about it.

  13. For what it’s worth, Weigel has something of a point. Not to say that she didn’t bound past natural behavior into “bullshit artist” behavior in this instance.

  14. For example, I do it. I’ve returned from interviews with black or New York or Southern politicos and played back my tape, and been astounded by the change in my tone of voice from interview. As I talk to a Southerner I start to drawl and end the interview with some doggerel like “‘pree-shade it.”

    Personally, I find it a little more understandable during the course of an interview or a back and forth where the other party has an accent/drawl and and you adopt/mimic it, but less so when you’re the only speaker giving a speech / lecture to a bunch of people.

    In the latter case it comes off as calculated and pandering whereas in the former case it could genuinely rubbing off and you are responding to what you are hearing.

  15. I personally find it as obnoxious for people to not code switch at all as I do for them to go overboard.

  16. “Yes, but when people quote Monty Python, they are quoting people who are making silly accents for comic effect, as such the silly accent is a part of the joke.”

    The accent was silly, no question.

    But the charge of pandering, of trying to fool the audience into thinking she really spoke like that and was therefore “like them” doesn’t hold up at all. She was imitating someone, and it was obvious.

  17. joe, it’s true that she was quoting someone, but the point she was making was that she’s a little bit country, and thus would use such a quote. Anyways its not important. Nothing will change the fact that I greatly dislike Hillary Clinton. Despite the work she’s done for women by using her marriage to a popular Democratic President to become a mediocre senator from one of the most Democratic states in the country. Who else before could mediocre little girls look up to. Now they have an empty suit to which they can aspire.

  18. There is something to be said for the unaware affectation of accents. But I’ve only noticed this phenomenon during conversations. I hear the other person and end up mimicking their vowels.

    I don’t see how Hillary could be in conversation with her audience unless she was reading their minds.

    The other explanation (that she was mimicking the author) reminds me of something my kindergarten teacher used to do.

    I don’t know which creeps me out more.

  19. FFF,

    In some skits they are using “silly” accents, but in others they are just using regular English accents.

    How about this? My friends and I also often quote from Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels, and we certainly affect the Cockney accents from that.

  20. I buy it.
    My wife does that whenever we travel. When we travel to a non-English speaking country, she talks like she hardly knows how to speak English. Drives me nuts.

  21. FinFangFoom,

    Now it’s her choice of quotes that’s the problem?

    I think the problem is that she’s Hillary Clinton, and therefore wrong whatever she does. It’s simply a matter of figuring out how it was wrong of her to do this.

    I don’t like Hillary much either, but I like these phoney “character issue” ref-working campaigns from the VRWC even less.

  22. Not having seen the clip or the story, I won’t comment on Ms Clinton’s actual speech. But I have a tendency to adopt the accent of whomever I’m talking to. It’s a natural attempt to put them at ease and make myself more plausible.

    As Rimfax points out, maintaining an extreme dialect without reference to whom you are speaking is as rude as mocking them. It’s aggressive behavior emphasizes your differences and becomes a judgement on the other person’s style of speaking.

  23. Brian24, but in the funny ones? Parrot sketch? Plus, I think the English do tend to make fun of each others accents. What is the joke, no Englishman can open his mouth without offending another Englishman?

  24. PS: They’re not talking about their teeth there.

    Sorry, low blow.

  25. Lots of people do this. I speak very differently when talking to my own family (in N. Georgia), my wife’s family (in SE Manitoba), or in a professional setting, in which I tend to speak relatively unaccented “broadcast”-type English, mostly b/c I work with a lot of people for whom English is a second or third language.

    Most people that meet me professionally comment on my lack of accent when they find out I’m originally from the south. But when I’m home and/or a little drunk, the mother tounge comes out.

    I also used to work for an Englishman, and while I didn’t pick up the accent, I did acquire quite a bit of the vocablary and usage. What was interesting to me was to hear his accent shift when he answered the phone from a very polished “university” accent to his much rougher native Essex one when he realized it was his wife on the other end.

    All that said, it’s hard not to be skeptical of Ms. Clinton here, since everything she does seems so calculated and staged.

  26. Maybe Hillary thought that if George W. Bush could put on a cowboy hat and fool Texans into thinking he was a Texan, how hard could it be?

  27. I think a big point has been missed here. Hillary and Bill lived in Little Rock, AR for many years. Hillary and Bill have based their political careers on being “man of the people” types. Well . . . shouldn’t she be able to affect a better “southern” or “black” patois than this? The dishonesty and disingenuousness is more about that “man of the people” mantle than it is the act of “code switching” itself . . . isn’t it?

  28. People from other regions or countries do begin to take on the accents and phrases of those around them, but they do so unconsciously and usually only over a long period of time. (Mr. Weigel sounds like an excellent candidate for hypnosis.) People who attempt to do so intentionally, on the other hand, bless their hearts (I recently moved to Dallas), are merely being condescending twits.

    A better defense of Clinton in this one particular case is, as mentioned above, the theory that she was giving a dramatic reading — acting, as it were, however badly. If, on the other hand, as Thrush claims, she’s affecting a different accent deliberately (Jackie Mason? Who knew?), then as her husband would say, “that dawg won’t hunt.”

  29. Her qualifications for Senator from NY were being a “lifelong Yankee fan.” So how hard can it be to fool those hicks from the South when she fooled those savvy New Yorkers?

  30. Hummm, in Rome do as the Romans? She’s trying to “reach out” and “be like” her target audience. Is this new or controversial? Happens all the time, not only in politics. If it’s a question of sincerity or not, I’m LMAO because what politician is ever sincere?

    Good one Dan, Many see to forget, or don’t, know Bush is from a New England State. That’s about as Yankee as it gets.

  31. The clip I heard had her (obviously) quoting, and then two other clips that sounded like her continuing her speach in a continued (but less theatrical) southern drawl.

  32. I don’t know if I’d call this code switching. Code switching is typically something like the following:

    And I’m like, no intiendo, I don’t know if the hombre is quite simpatico.

    It’s where you mix two different “codes” in the midst of discourse, something you hear bilinguals do all the time. I haven’t listened to Hilary’s speech, but unless she is jumping back and forth between different kinds of speech, it’s not code switching.

    What Radley is talking about is simply adjusting one’s speech to the parameters of the social situation you’re in. The two phenomena are related, but not the same.

  33. http://www.ifilm.com/profile/breitbart/video/2829104

    From 16:00 on sounds like normal speach in an affected southern drawl.

    It’s really cringe-worthy either way.

  34. DW,

    Keep shilling, baby! You’re the best!!!

    -Hillary

  35. Fenevad,
    I have done that (switch code mid sentence) for comic effect. Never knew what it was called, but I considered it akin to purposefully mixing metaphores.

  36. I’ve always lived in the South, so I have a pretty good idea of what various southern accents sound like. First, that accent that Clinton did sounded like a very bad imitation out of a movie — done by an actor who’s never been to the South and is merely imitating other bad actors. Second, the idea that she’s naturally picking up on the speech patterns of those around her is completely bogus in this case. Has anyone noticed she was with a BLACK audience? That accent was a very bad fake WHITE redneck accent, NOT what you’d hear from the black audience she was with. If she were naturally slipping into something as a result of what she was hearing around her, it would have been very different from what we heard.

    Last, I’ll mention that there are a number of different southern accents, depending on region and social/educational class a person is from. The accent that Clinton parodied was of a lower-class, uneducated yokel. To me, that says much more about her condescending attitude than anything else.

  37. “But the charge of pandering”

    Every breath she takes…

  38. David McElroy,

    I seriously doubt she put that much thought into it.

    And what she did isn’t that bad. Seriously. If the worst the candidates want to do is affect bad accents, then we’re doing alright.

  39. “Last, I’ll mention that there are a number of different southern accents, depending on region and social/educational class a person is from. The accent that Clinton parodied was of a lower-class, uneducated yokel. To me, that says much more about her condescending attitude than anything else.”

    THAT is a much fairer critique than Drudge’s.

    I call it the “Dukes of Hazard Accent.” Giy-giy-giy! Them ol’ boys done got themselves in a heap o’ trouble!

  40. Xanthippas, whether she put thought into it or not, she was being condescending. This was the accent she chose (consciously or not) to “identify” with this audience. She didn’t choose a black accent. She didn’t choose an educated drawl. She chose the speech pattern of a redneck who lived in a trailer and never made it out of high school. The dumbest part about that (from her point of view) is that she was doing the accent of someone who is about as different from her black audience as she could get. It was just stupid on SO many different levels.

    BTW, I’m not saying this is some horrid thing that changes my views of her. I’ve always thought she was a condescending, arrogant and dishonest leftist. She’s just living down to what I already assume her to be.

  41. I never thought my affectation of a southern accent would turn into a Spanish Inquisition.

  42. UPDATE: It’s called “duplicitous pandering.” Hillary is a master of it, and people are catching on to how fake she is. Thank you, David Wiegel!

  43. David McElroy,

    Actually, it was the accent she used to identify with the songwriter, not with her audience.

    I don’t really know anything about the songwriter’s social class and speaking style. Maybe she just does a bad southern accent?

  44. Maybe this is a better example: this is akin to when people quote Joe Pesci in Goodfellas saying “How am I funny?” or DeNiro in Taxi Driver saying “You talkin’ ta me?” Do they quote it in their own normal voice? No, they mimic the thick NY accents of the characters. Hilary is doing the same thing–admittedly, poorly. But there’s nothing malicious or condescending about it.

  45. “No ways tard” ain’t in no white southerner’s lexicon. She was trying to be black . . . and it sucked. Even more pathetic is that the audience reacted with cheers when there should have been laughter and jeers. The whole thing is PHONY.

  46. You keep missing the point Brian. Yes it was bad. The questions remains . . . WHY is it so bad? Why can’t she do a better “southern black” patois? I’m from Baton Rouge and went to a mostly black high school and I assure you I can “kick it” when the situation calls for it. How is it that Hillary, who claims to be such a folksy sort, and who lived in Little Rock for many years, can’t do “southern black” more justice? Could it be that she’s a PHONY twit?

  47. Song: Why Can’t the English? Lyrics
    Henry Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,
    Condemned by every syllable she ever uttered.
    By law she should be taken out and hung,
    For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.
    Eliza Aaoooww! Henry imitating her Aaoooww!
    Heaven’s! What a noise!
    This is what the British population,
    Calls an elementary education. Pickering Oh,
    Counsel, I think you picked a poor example. Henry Did I?
    Hear them down in Soho square,
    Dropping “h’s” everywhere.
    Speaking English anyway they like.
    You sir, did you go to school?
    Man Wadaya tike me for, a fool?
    Henry No one taught him ‘take’ instead of ‘tike!
    Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
    This verbal class distinction, by now,
    Should be antique. If you spoke as she does, sir,
    Instead of the way you do,
    Why, you might be selling flowers, too!
    Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse,
    Hear a Cornishman converse,
    I’d rather hear a choir singing flat.
    Chickens cackling in a barn Just like this one!
    Eliza Garn! Henry I ask you, sir, what sort of word is that?
    It’s “Aoooow” and “Garn” that keep her in her place.
    Not her wretched clothes and dirty face.
    Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
    This verbal class distinction by now should be antique.
    If you spoke as she does, sir, Instead of the way you do,
    Why, you might be selling flowers, too.
    An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him,
    The moment he talks he makes some other
    Englishman despise him.
    One common language I’m afraid we’ll never get.
    Oh, why can’t the English learn to set
    A good example to people whose
    English is painful to your ears?
    The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears.
    There even are places where English completely
    disappears. In America, they haven’t used it for years!
    Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
    Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks have taught their
    Greek. In France every Frenchman knows
    his language fro “A” to “Zed”
    The French never care what they do, actually,
    as long as they pronounce in properly.
    Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning.
    And Hebrews learn it backwards,
    which is absolutely frightening.
    But use proper English you’re regarded as a freak.
    Why can’t the English,
    Why can’t the English learn to speak?

  48. I never thought my affectation of a southern accent would turn into a Spanish Inquisition.

    No one ever expects…

    Happy now?

  49. I never thought my affectation of a southern accent would turn into a Spanish Inquisition.

    No one ever expects…

    Happy now?

    Yes I am!!

    For years I have been dying to make a witty, yet obscure, pop culture reference, AND, have someone notice it.

    Thank you, Highnumber.

    Thank you.

  50. Don’t get cocky, kid!

  51. For years I have been dying to make a witty, yet obscure, pop culture reference, AND, have someone notice it.

    We’ll soon change your mind about that!

  52. “From where I started from”? I hope she’s quoting someone when she says that, because the hell with the accent, I want to hit her just for saying that.

  53. No one ever expects…

    Should be:

    Nobody evah espects . . .

  54. They all do it. It is part of the sales pitch. the question is, what was she saying in that southern drawl?

  55. Last time I was this pissed was when June Cleaver was talkin jive on that damn plane. Honky mo-fo’s

  56. There is just no defending Hillary on this. No way, no how, no ways tard. That is the most grotesque, monstrous, nauseating, youth-depraving performance I have ever seen. She deserves to be SKINNED for that disgusting abomination. Fox News is going too easy on her.

  57. Tim Cavanaugh? Tell us how you really feel.

  58. Yeah! SKINNED!

  59. “I don’t feel no ways tired.” She’s trying to sound Black. Bernard McGuirk suggests that before it’s over she’ll have corn rows and gold teeth before the fight with Obama is over.

  60. Obama is black?

  61. This is true. For example, I do it. I’ve returned from interviews with black or New York or Southern politicos and played back my tape, and been astounded by the change in my tone of voice from interview.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, cowboy. There’s a big, big difference between engaging in a talk with someone, or a group, and getting up on a podium and talking AT a group. I’ve been known to do it too when immersed with people of a specific accent, after days or weeks of being around them. But if I fly to a city in the south, get up on a stage and start talking, I’m not going to sound like Colonel Sanders coming out of the gate.

  62. If George Bush gave a speech at one of the Ivys (not that such a thing would be permitted) and started talking like William F. Buckley, you’d be all over it and rightly so.

    It is far easier for a civilized man to behave like a barbarian, than for a barbarian to behave like a civilized man.

  63. About George Bush and his accent…

    Wasn’t he born and raised in Texas? IIRC, his parents are from New England.

    I always assumed his accent was the result of his parents influence combined with what he picked up from his native Texan neighbors.

  64. I have no love for Hilary, but c’mon. She wasn’t “code switching,” she was trying to speak as the quote was written. And yeah, she did a lousy job.

    Also, I think the audience was cheering her use of the quote, not her accent.

  65. Hate to agree with joe, but much of this phony “controversy” is about hating Hillary Clinton, then coming up with confirmation about Clinton’s badness.

    It’s also about filling airtime.

  66. I’ve always lived in the South, so I have a pretty good idea of what various southern accents sound like. First, that accent that Clinton did sounded like a very bad imitation out of a movie — done by an actor who’s never been to the South and is merely imitating other bad actors. Second, the idea that she’s naturally picking up on the speech patterns of those around her is completely bogus in this case…”

    Geez, what do you expect? Hillary certainly isn’t a professional actress, so it doesn’t seem fair to criticize her character because of this. This isn’t something she does all the time, she probably thought she was being funny by quoting in a fake accent. Of course she wasn’t “picking up” the accents of the people around her, she was trying to be funny.

    Personally I don’t want Clinton to be president, but it’s for her actual policies, not just the latest media “scandal” of what music she likes or the latest verbal mistake she made or whatever. In fact, many liberals/progressives really hate her. She’s a living, breathing example of everything wrong with the Democratic Party. A “Republican-Lite” Democrat who’ll never stand up for her principles, but just do whatever she thinks will make her look good.

  67. Hillary certainly isn’t a professional actress

    She’s been acting like she is happily married for over 20 years.

  68. “Who was that guy that thought Hillary Clinton was actually a marionaette for some insetoid space alien? I can’t remember.”

    http://www.davidicke.com

  69. Why do we hate Hilary Clinton for being so calculated when we hate George W. Bush for being too rash?

  70. Why do we hate Hilary Clinton for being so calculated when we hate George W. Bush for being too rash?

    George W. Bush is calculatingly rash.

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