Part of the joy of watching Saturday Night Live's "The Californians" (video on the next page) is hearing the ridiculously exaggerated Spicoli accents that seem to make even the show's own cast members, many of whom hail from L.A., quiver with giggles.
The bit is a fantasy of high-end, champagne-sipping Westside life dominated by infidelity discovered through Los Angeles society's constant talk of the best way to get somewhere in local traffic.
Or is it so fantastic?
Our understanding was that the California "accent" was utterly neutral, like a local weatherman explaining a 70-degree day in fall.
But new research at Stanford University called "The Voices of California Project" suggests that "The Californians" might be on to something.
There is such a thing as the "California vowel shift," where a vowel gets a second life (cool becomes coowell), Stanford graduate student Annette D'Onofrio tells The California Report:
If you try to think about what you think a surfer or a skater or a valley girl talks like, and do it, you can feel your mouth feels different. And I think that has to do a lot with the way that the vowels are shifting.
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Of course, the research is far from done. And, perhaps more interestingly, there's more to the California tongue than coastal dude-speak.
There's evidence that Bakersfield has some Southern drawl because of its dust-bowl settlers from Oklahoma. At the north end of the state there's Pacific Northwest influence. And, of course, we submit the East L.A. accent (think Cheech & Chong) and Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley who sound somewhere in between an Eastsider and the classic "Valley girl."
The Californians indeed.