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Federal Lab Scraps ‘Southern Accent Reduction’ Course Idea

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

Workers at a federal laboratory in Tennessee can talk with Southern accents to their heart’s content after managers scrapped an idea to help them “fix” their natural dialects.

Last week, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a science and technology lab operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, announced that it would be offering a six-week “Southern Accent Reduction” course, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

The lab’s human resources department pitched the idea, claiming that the training would help staff overcome “the most common pronunciation and grammatical differences between Southern dialects and standard American English.”

Staffers could “feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neutral American accent” the course description claimed.

The course’s “nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer” would utilize a technique called code-switching in order to neutralize pronunciation and grammar differences “that make your speech sound Southern.”

While, according to the News Sentinel, lab management embraced the training idea at the request of a staffer, others at the facility rebuffed the course offering, and it was canned.

“Given the way that it came across, they decided to cancel it,” lab spokesman David Keim told the paper. “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.”

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