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Y'all Keep Talking: Lab Scratches 'Southern Accent Reduction' Course

Government scientists can speak Southern after all.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced that in response to complaints from staff, it's canceling plans to hold a six-week "Southern Accent Reduction" course, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Officials at the scientific complex in east Tennessee said they had only been responding to an employee request. They've now responded to the anger of offended workers.

"Given the way that it came across, they decided to cancel it," lab spokesman David Keim told the News Sentinel. "It probably wasn't presented in the right way and made it look like ORNL had some problem with having a Southern accent, which of course we don't. That was not the intent at all."

Oak Ridge had distributed a notice announcing instruction would be available from "a nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer."

"Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neutral American accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it," the notice promised.

The lab is not the first entity to suggest that a Southern drawl sounds ignorant to some listeners. "Studies have shown that whether you are from the North or South, a Southern twang pegs the speaker as comparatively dimwitted, but also likely to be a nicer person than folks who speak like a Yankee," Scientific American noted in 2012.

But bear in mind, a survey last fall by a dating site found that Southern accents are widely considered the nation's sexiest.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alan Greenblatt
Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.