Your Accent Gives You Away
“After a little while, bystanders said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent gives you away.’ Peter cursed and swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed.” – Matthew 26:73-74
I grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine.
I didn’t know I had a wicked thick Maine accent until I moved to New Jersey after the seventh grade. New Jersey isn’t known for its refined take on the English language, yet I was ridiculed daily by merciless eighth graders for talking funny. My first friend was a kid from Texas. He sounded foreign too. We both learned to speak New Jersey in a hurry.
It was a taste of what millions experience in the U.S. who don’t speak like American newscasters and therefore struggle to find acceptance and credibility. According to this 2010 study, people who speak with accents (foreign and domestic) are less likely to be trusted or taken seriously.
Peter proved the point. He tried to deny knowing Jesus after Jesus had been arrested in Jerusalem, but Peter’s accent kept giving him away as a fellow, untrustworthy, Galilean.
Jesus had the same accent. For some, Jesus sounded too country to be credible. But maybe Jesus’ accent was a like a fishing net, a way to find those who not only heard but listened, those who could put their prejudices aside and understand. Maybe his accent helped give the gospel away.
God of every land and language, let me listen for your still accented voice in all people.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.