Hillary Clinton has had a phenomenal career, hasn’t she? She’s been all over the states and all over the world with her political career which undoubtedly makes for some interesting linguistic influence. Case in point: her disappearing accent.
Clinton, who is from Chicago, probably shouldn’t have an accent, at least not one from the South. Yet, on occasion over the past few decades, she’s found herself with a little twang. Perhaps that’s the influence of life with Bill and living in Arkansas? That’s the theory.
The slipping accent—which most recently popped up last year—is frequently assumed to be a pandering bit, a strange affect put on to appeal to voters. As obvious and damning as that sounds, that is not the case as Clinton has had some accent politics to handle her whole life that has been documented for thirty years. Also, humans are predisposed to mimic other accents. We’ve all been in this situation, where you’re immersed in a culture and—out of nowhere—you slip into a way of speaking that is not like you. That happens to me if I spend too much time in the Jersey / New York area and happened once when I spent two weeks in Europe: perhaps it relates to a lusting to fit in? Actually, yes, because shifting accents come from a desire to be empathetic.
Regardless, Clinton’s accent wanders and has been speculated about for years and, as a 1999 story by Salon accused Clinton of taking on an accent to “stand by her man,” the slippage has caused no good. It is fascinating, though. The best coverage of this is Bloomberg’s tracking of her voice, a contextualizing of her speech. First, she is a multi-regional figure: of course accents are going to have an influence. Second, she isn’t alone in her accent assumption as other people—from politicians to celebrities—have also found themselves with an accent they didn’t have.
Is her accent fluidity cause for commotion? No, not really. But it probably will be brought up at some point in this election because she is who she is and people want reasons to not trust her, creating a backhanded excuse to be sexist. You keep on doing you and your random accents, Hillary. I’ll adopt one in honor of you, too.