I was born in Mississippi and raised in New Jersey by Southern parents. So it’s safe to say that I was exposed to a nice blend of colorful accents at an early age. It was always fun to watch my parents, with their slow Southern twang, interact with real N.J. natives (picture Scarlett O’Hara having coffee with Caroline Manzo). Now as I’m sure you can imagine, neither Oxford, Mississippi nor River Vale, New Jersey had a high concentration of British ex-pats. So while I became very comfortable with all sorts of American dialects, I didn’t have much access to the elegant sound of the original English tongue.
My limited introduction to the English accent came from bootleg concert albums of Ozzie Osbourne and History Channel replays of great Winston Churchill speeches. Churchill, one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century and a world-renowned orator, sounded like he was gargling water when he spoke. Ozzie, less an oratory genius but as much the English performer, sounded more like he was gargling acid. The point being --the English accent was fascinating. However, it was fairly unintelligible to me.
Now my wife comes from that great civilization which gave us both Churchill and Osborne. From the day I met Rosie, I was struck as much by her brilliance and quick wit, as I was by her beauty. She was so sharp and so quick with her humor that I always found myself playing catch-up. And I was so mesmerized by her that I never got around to divulging that I couldn’t follow many of the words coming out of her mouth. I would have asked her to repeat herself had I been able to keep up with most conversations.Eight years later, I find myself in the less than enviable position of broaching the concept of speech therapy with my wife. I am now personally fluent in “Rosie.” However, every now and then (typically once or twice a week), her mind speeds up from brilliant to Mach-5. At that moment, I’m typically able to catch 1 out of every 4 words that come out of her mouth. When I delicately explain this to her, she asks me how I could keep this to myself for so long. The truth -- I love the way she speaks. She combines the beautiful timbre of the English accent with confident cadence of a real New Yorker. Pepper in the most adorable-but-too-subtle-to-diagnose speech impediment and you have my favorite voice in the world. In the end, I couldn’t understand anything Churchill and Ozzie were saying -- so I figure I’m ahead of the game even when I’m catching 25% of Rosie’s words.
Given the fact that my wife now stars in Pregnant in Heels and has her speech parodied on SNL, I instinctively push the speech therapy concept. However, as I sit here writing this, I realize that there are two other options:
1. Do nothing at all (I love Rosie’s speech the way it is and think it’s somewhat iconic -- though I’m biased).
2. Ask the rest of the world to take speech lessons and become fluent in “Rosie”.