I, Anonymous: I'm Sorry I Asked About Your Accent


Boy, are blind. You stuck your nose into someone's life and made a bunch of assumptions about his ability to speak multiply languages and commented that his accent, potential speech impediment, was singsong, and now you're confused as to why people in general, another assumption, don't like celebrating the richness of language/s, potential speech impediments. Just maybe it was your approach. If you wanted to get laid you should have simply bought him some malt liquor.
I believe that America has evolved into a society of the Perpetually Offended. I blame the Internet.
Years ago, I used to ask people about their accents because I wanted to know where they came from but I knew it was rude and possibly racist to straight-up ask, "Where are you from?", so I figured "Where does your accent come from?" was a clever workaround. Yeah, it wasn't. People knew what I was really asking -- "You don't sound 'American' to me. What box should I put you in?" -- and just like the person whose "musical" accent you pointed out, they didn't appreciate my inquisitiveness.

People who don't fit neatly into categories tend to arouse our curiosity. Is that person a man or a woman? Is that man Latinx or Middle Eastern? Is that young woman the mother of the baby she's carrying or just its caretaker? There's nothing wrong with curiosity, but "I was just curious" isn't a magical pass that suddenly makes it okay to personal questions of strangers. Nope, not even if the question is posed as a compliment. Wonder all you want, but don't ask strangers about their gender, their sexual orientation, their national origin, etc. It's rude.
I absolutely hate the place I am from and I actively try to speak without an accent. I've gotten pretty good at it over the years, but every once in awhile someone will notice and ask where I'm from out of genuine interest/curiosity.

I'm not offended when this happens, but I certainly don't indulge random requests to chat about a topic that I hate so much that it physically upsets me to discuss it. IMO, Seattleites tend to live in a bubble and have no idea how amazing it is here and how horrible other places can be in comparison.
@ anon
“Yet I wonder what is happening”
Just imagine how many times he was asked this question. What may have been an anecdote in the first few is now tiring and annoying.
It is even more so when people assume an accent and turn to you in that particular language, which may not always correspond.

@ 3
“so I figured "Where does your accent come from?" was a clever workaround. Yeah, it wasn’t.”
Thanks for recognizing this. I know someone who used to get this exact question and gave his residential street as the answer. The look on askers’ face was priceless.

“I certainly don't indulge random requests to chat about a topic that I hate so much that it physically upsets me to discuss it.”
And thank you too for pointing it out. A recent conversation the person I referred to earlier led to a talk about the leader of that person’s home country, which that person detests.
The pushy commenter went on to say how she considers that leader of that country to be the sexiest man alive, which almost prompted the askee to punch the idiot.
Any time you notice something you find "interesting" about a TOTAL STRANGER, just leave that person alone. S/he is a STRANGER and is not privy to nor interested in whatever tiddly-winks are fluttering in your skull. For fuck sake, people, MYOB just like mama told you.

Put it this way: " I [noticed you] in the University District. I said your [breasts] are very musical and asked what other [things your breasts can do]? I enjoy [breasts] and respect [breasted] people. You grew angry and indicated it's none of my business."
#2, I'm with you.
@4 Belltown Resident: Thank you for pointing out that, as a Seattle-born Washington native I live in a bubble.
After serving four years in the U.S. Navy and going through basic training in the Southeastern part of the country, I know how lucky we truly are here.
@6 CMDwannabe: "..The pushy commenter went on to say how she considers the leader of that country to be the sexiest man alive..." YUCK---I wanna barf! I say the consequential punch in her face was fully warranted.
@8 roland: Seconded re @2 Arty Zepp. This largely why I avoid Twitter.
Old people triggering each other. Why isn't this a reality TV show already?
This took me so long to figure out, and now it seems so obvious. All of it; there's just no need to question strangers about anything to satisfy your own curiousty. And further: no need to comment on appearances or make assumptions. Assumptions about strangers are usually just wrong.
You are a bit jealous of "victimhood" I gather. Way to stick it to the man.
@12, that is
If we are going to achieve the racial nirvana envisioned, we are going to need to cut people some fucking slack.
It's called small talk. It is, in the overall scheme of things, minimally intrusive.
Is speaking to strangers illegal in Seattle now?
What are you supposed to talk about if not manifest things that you might have in common?

The responder had every right to close the conversation down, but to be offended by a genuine friendly question seems pathetic.
@17 Being genuine doesn't mean they weren't being an asshole. And this wasn't small talk - they heard him speaking and then approached him (inserted themselves into his life). It's no different than when my father innocently asks gay men "why they alk like that." He doesn't mean to be a dick, is just curious, and yet he's still being a huge asshole. It's not illegal to talk to people. But just as you're free to say whatever you like to a stranger in the name of small talk, they're free to let you know when you're being a prick.
@5 Well, besides that first sentence...
@18. What, so we need a contract now before we talk to a stranger. Sorry, I mean "insert ourselves into their lives"?
As a deaf person I've had many people attempt to guess where I'm from. Then after trying to explain that I'm deaf, they either get embarrassed, say I'm sorry or say I speak really well. I can relate to the feeling of not welcoming questions about my accent.
If I hear a language that I think is beautiful that I don't recognize, I ask! Usually by saying it sounds beautiful, then I ask. I am not asking to put them "in a box", and I certainly do not think talking to a stranger is "inserting myself into thier life". Is this how people feel when someone speaks to them?????? Really, cause that sucks! I am not gonna stop being friendly with people just because some people can't f'in handle it! I think it is a lack of confidence that causes this. It is amazing how one word to a stranger at a bus stop and they look at you like you're insane!!! I was born and raised here and this lack of friendliness wasn't here 15 years ago.
Anyway..., if I see a beautiful plant, I want to know what it is. If I see a beautiful piece of art, I ask the artists name. Language can be beautiful. Thats all it's about.
However, I realize an accent is a person doing thier best to use English, so I respect that and wouldn't mention it.
And people wonder where the idea of the Seattle Freeze comes from. Jesus H. Christ. When the consensus opinion in a place is "never ever speak to a stranger, you're being a giant intrusive asshole if you do" then, yeah, the Freeze is a real thing. All you people who so cherish your right to be horribly offended at innocent (if clueless) questions, enjoy dying alone. Maybe you can manage not to offend yourself.
I, Anonymous, you did nothing wrong. Nothing. You asked a well-
meant question, the old guy felt like snarling. Not your fault.
And don't let the judgy weinies like #18 mock and freeze and gouge
the friendliness out of you. Seattle needs more of it, not less.
ShimmyDooWop : "Wonder all you want, but don't ask strangers about their gender, their sexual orientation, their national origin, etc. It's rude."

What a sad state our society is in if we can't ask basic questions to better know others in our community. Attention people different than me: I am interested in you. If you assume the reason is because I want to attack or make you feel less than, then that's on you, not me.
You did nothing wrong in asking this man about his accent. It can't be compared to the other questions that people are posting here which would be rude to ask. Your's was a completely innocent question showing interest in the person and a friendly conversation starter. That the man got angry about it was his problem. Keep being interested in people and cultures and spread your friendliness around - we need more of it.
@24 Nailed it.
Everyone being worried about offending others lest they make small talk or say "hi/ hello" makes society even more all about people having their noses stuck in phones instead of interacting...which is weird to me.

As for the deaf commenter mentioning on being asked what their accent is, I'm familiar with that as well- (being mostly deaf in one ear and not so great in the other) but I certainly don't get bummed- I just laugh and tell then it's the "Deaf guy accent" and it's cool.
Surprised anybody would take offense...same with the old man. Maybe his hemorrhoids were flaring up?
I'd be glad if someone took the time to ask and want to interact with me.
When I lived in Japan many years ago, I enjoyed the custom between strangers passing on the street to say "Ii otenki desu ne?" (good weather isn't it?) and to be answered back "Soo desu ne?" (yes, isn't it?). Weather, particularly in Seattle, is always a safe topic.