I have been fascinated all my life by people's language usage and pronunciation. I suppose most people are. I have seen discussions of language comparisons between British people and Americans last for hours. ("What? Men wear jumpers where you come from? That's weird.") Same kind of thing among Americans when Yankees and southerners get together.
Sometimes passions can run high. My father used to throw a mini-tantrum if I ever said "for-est" or "or-ange" like my mother did, even though that's um, how the words are spelled. Not acceptable in his book. As a result, to this day I have switched to his New Yorker's preference: "far-est" and "ar-ange." I drew the line, however, at saying "dunk-ey" instead of "donk-ey."
I don't know why people feel so strongly about matters of pronunciation. As long as we can all understand each other, what's the diff? I do think it's nice if one's voice and accent and intonation are pleasing to the ear, but there's no one right or wrong way to say things and there's no reason to assume that it is better to say "flat" rather than "apartment" or vice-versa. Of course, sometimes we don't understand each other. I was utterly bewildered when I visited New England for the first time and was asked whether I wanted "jimmies" on my ice cream cone. I have also met people from South Carolina and Scotland whose speech I simply have not been able to make heads or tails of -- much to my embarrassment and mortification.
Fortunately, I don't think that accents are as strong a marker of social class in the U.S. as in Britain. Social class can be hard to detect unless a person has a very working-class accent a la Archie Bunker or some such, or the rather rare hoity-toity accent, like the Mahattan private school accents sported by people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ivanka Trump. The rest of us, for the most part, occupy a vast undifferentiated middle ground. And even a working class accent doesn't carry quite the stigma that it does abroad. Most people find my husband's occasional switch to the working class New England accent of his youth rather charming and, at times, amusing. When he spent some time out west, his friends there forced him to say "quarter pounder" repeatedly. Southerners who come north probably face the worst prejudices pertaining to accent in this country.
I have been told on many occasions that I have "no accent." Of course, that's impossible because everyone has an accent, but I guess I speak standard American English. While I am not quite ready to do an audio-cast for you all yet, I will share my "linguistic profile" as generated by this test:
|Your Linguistic Profile:|
|50% General American English|
|5% Upper Midwestern|
It warmed my heart to see the 5% Upper Midwestern, the stubbornly surviving influence of my Milkwaukee-bred mother. I think it was the word "kitty corner" that did it -- although in reality, I probably say "diagonal" more frequently now. If you feel like procrastinating, PBS has a fun section on American English.