As a legal writing professor, one part of my job is to help students who didn’t grow up speaking or writing “Standard English” continue adapting their writing to meet the expectations of employers and clients. Of course, to get through college, many students have already made changes in the way they use English. But some students come to law school with additional work to be done. In fact, at least for me, the effort to consciously conform my English speaking and writing patterns to expectations different from those I grew up with never really ends.
So, like the blogger in this post at frogs and ravens (which I reached via feministlawprof), whatever criticisms I might make of Sarah Palin, jabs at her speech patterns rub me the wrong way. As frogs and ravens points out, “How you pronounce a word says nothing about your character, your intelligence, your values, or your education. All it says is whether you are (a) one of the lucky people who grew up speaking ‘the right way’ as your native accent, (b) one of the people who did not, or (c) one of the people who did not and makes a conscious effort to abandon the speech patterns of their childhood to fit in with the expectations of others.” And it seems somewhat ironic, and, well, dumb, that the prejudice against “regional and working-class accents” enables a candidate “to distance herself from her upper-middle-class lifestyle, her position of power, and her lofty ambitions” just by the way she pronounces words.