“You’re Canadian? You don’t have much of an accent” people tell me when they find out I’m Canadian. It’s true, I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, but I’ve never had much of an East Coast accent, and much of it has faded since I moved away from home a few years ago. I never really minded in the early years because I was a little embarrassed by it (my home region is generally considered a little backwards by the rest of Canada), but lately I feel like I’m losing a little bit of my identity because of it.
There are many telltale signs of a New Brunswick / East Coast accent. The big tell are our hard Rs (“are are harrd Rs”), though that’s common to most of the region (I correctly identified Kirby Ferguson of Everything is a Remix as an East Coaster on his hard Rs, alone). More specific to New Brunswick is our unmistakable lexicon, like “right” (pronounced “rate") to mean “very” (“it’s right cold outside”), “some” to mean “quite” (“it’s some busy at the mall”), “ugly” to mean “mad” (“she was some ugly when she heard the news, let me tell ya”). We drop suffixes (“really badly” becomes “real bad”), too. And I’m pretty sure we invented the “as fuck” intensifier (“it’s cold as fuck right now,” “I’m tired as fuck”) long before the internet caught on to it.
I took a linguistics class in university (which I highly recommend, by the way), and we learned about language extinction, that many languages are disappearing and we’re left with less and less as time goes on. I asked my teacher why this was a bad thing, but I kind of got a funny look (I meant the question genuinely, not in a rhetorical or smarmy way; at the time I didn’t really understand why a lack of diversity in language was so bad). I think I understand the general sentiment a little better now.
Since moving away from home, I’ve definitely lost much of what I had of an accent. When you’re not surrounded by speakers of your dialect, it’s feels weird using words or sounds you know will stand out to people you talk to. My Rs have softened, my “eh"s have disappeared, and even the most quintessential Canadian word has changed: my “sorry” has gone from the Canadian “soar-y” to the American “sar-y.”
It’s a weird kind of identity crisis to either sound normal to yourself, but weird to those around you or to sound weird to yourself but normal to those around you. But I’m trying to reverse course by calling it out (and by watching copious Trailer Park Boys). Though the sound of the word might change, I’ll at least always say “sorry” when I bump in to somebody—that Canadian part of me will never fade.