Why is it that changing one’s vernacular accent is considered pretentious? What if people, on a daily basis, came into the office and assumed a different dialect — the Northerner with a sudden affectation of a Southern drawl; a Midwesterner assuming the melody of the Irish; or the New Englander presuming upon a Jamaican tango; and the next day, in random turns, everyone played musical chairs with the spoken word and its vehicle of communication — why would we be critical of such a display of linguistic malleability? The phonetics of pretension remain predictably unacceptable; somehow, we know that a certain “putting on” of an accent is either bad or less than genuine.
Take the hypothetical one step further: Say that the world went mad (this part of it is hardly difficult to fathom) and everyone around went about taking on a different accent, and there was one particularly annoying person (you pick the gender) who everyone thought was being overly “pretentious” by speaking in a melodious gaelic accent. “Oh, he thinks he is so good at it!” “She sounds so fake and insincere!” But let’s take it a step further: Assume that everyone agreed that the person was so terrible that we all demanded that he/she cease the phonetic banality, until it turns out that she is actually a native of Galloway from southern Scotland, and that the alleged pretension was truly genuine. Would the accent still be a “bad” accent? Is there such a thing as a bad but genuine accent, or does the “badness” inure to the pretension of insincerity?
Now, take the Federal or Postal worker who has a medical condition or is injured, and comes into the office or the facility daily, and hides — as best he or she can — the medical condition, but suffers by way of less productivity and inability to fulfill all of the essential elements of the position; is that Federal or Postal employee being “pretentious”? And when the Supervisor or Manager of the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service discovers the medical condition and begins the inevitable campaign of harassment, intimidation and PIP preparations, do the others come to his or her defense, or scurry away like rats on a sinking ship?
Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, of course, have the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset. In the end, there is never a “bad accent” when the origin of phonetic uniqueness is genuine and sincere; just as it is never a negative reflection upon a Federal or Postal employee who files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM when there is a medical condition which prevents the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.
Both are valid and viable “life” choices that must be considered.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire