America’s Loveliest Accents: Tallahassee

Shortly after I posted the first of America’s Loveliest Accents, Matthew Harrison tweeted, “This really is lovely. I hope you do some Southern accents!” As I told him at the time, the last seven of these sixteen cities are in the South, if you define the South broadly enough to include Baltimore (#16).

It’s hard to tell whether New York accents get more hate than Southern ones, but it’s close. I don’t think there are any accent groups whose speakers try as hard to cover them up. Being half-New Yorker and half-Southern, I’m happy to say that they’re both misjudged. My father was a master of the Texan strategy of deploying arch gentility and folksy wit in proportions finely calibrated to the situation at hand.


Tallahassee is another of those cities I’ve never been to (the closest I’ve gotten is New Orleans or Orlando), but my neighbor, Teresa Ward, went to college there, and sent me this guest post:

Well, Tallahassee is a beautiful north Florida town. It should actually be part of Georgia, as it has a distinct Southern bent to it. It’s near the border with Georgia. It is also close to the Gulf of Mexico, so it is slightly “coastal” in feeling.

Their are roads in Tallahassee that are extremely romantic, canopied and dripping with moss. On a sunny day, the road can be cool and shaded by the canopy.

The nearby beaches have sand as soft and white as sugar and the oysters and shrimp are the best.

And the accents are warm and friendly. When I think of Tallahassee accents, I think of my friend Carol and how she says “Hey” over the phone when I call her. It is slow and cozy, and takes her about three or four syllables to finish it. And there is always a slight smile and generosity to her conversation.

I also think of another old friend from there, who had a much quicker way of talking than Carol. In fact, as Debbie herself might say, she could talk “ninety to nothing.” The voice would go a little high in the head and louder than Carol’s, but it too would drip with kindness and laughter. That’s how I remember it.

My brother, who is in sales, has a wonderful Tallahassee drawl now too. And I think it helps him continue to be one of the leading salesmen!

When I started school at FSU, in the theatre department, I do remember my voice teacher tearing out his hair to get me to hear and say the difference between “pin” and “pen” (and, of course, “tin” and “ten”), and as an actress I mastered it. But really, in daily life, does it matter? Down there, we know what y’all are talking about, it’s all in the context.

Speaking of FSU, students often come from out of state, or city, to go to school there, and end up staying. The town has grown quite a bit since I made it my home in 1978. And, I would say a number of the residents are former students who were swayed by the friendliness of the city. (You go into a grocery store, and they actually look at you and thank you and talk about all kinds of things before you can leave. . .)

I’m guessing that the Tallahassee accent is pretty close to the accent of nearby Gainesville, which you can hear in Tom Petty’s song “American Girl.”

This is part 10 of a series where I say nice things about all sixteen of the accents that Gawker’s Dayna Evans nominated for “America’s Ugliest Accent.” Previously: Los Angeles. Nextly: Louisville.

2 thoughts on “America’s Loveliest Accents: Tallahassee

  1. Carole Bevis

    That was so sweeeeet! I put in a few more syllables just for all ya’ll up there. :) Love the Tom Petty just rockin’ out a little this evening.

  2. Michelle McNeill

    I’ve lived in Tallahassee all my life. I visited some cousins in Orlando when I was 18, everyone there could not believe how country my accent is, it was a little embarassing back then but now I love my accent and so do most hot guys! Lol

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