Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Allison Pond

Pond, Allison
Ahn, Jae-Young
Date of Interview: 
Stories and Storytellers; Cultural Identification
Allison K. Pond tells folktales relating to body image, and regional dialects and accents in the US.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Jae-Young Ahn interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
JY (Jae-Young Ahn): Where did you live before you come here?
AP (Allison Pond): To Charlotte? Or to the States? To Charlotte?
JY: Uh, specifically, uh, which, which city did you move around? ( )
AP: I lived in Asheville, North Carolina. [Laughter] A-S-H-E-V-I-L-L-E.
JY: Asheville, North Carolina?
AP: North Carolina. That's in western North Carolina.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: [Cough] And before that I lived in Hendersonville. [Laughter]
AP: That's H-E-N-D-E-R-S-O-N-V-I-L-L-E, and before that, I was in Japan, for five years.
JY: For five years. Then you speak Japanese very well?
AP: I used to but that's been about like nine years ago. [Laugh] I haven't really used it since then.
JY: Oh? What did you do?
AP: I was in the Navy.
JY: \\ Oh, Navy? \\ Navy. Wow.
AP: \\ Navy.\\ [Laugh] I was in the Navy, stationed in Japan.
JY: Oh, you look weak.
AP: Do I look weak? [Laughter] It's probably because I'm so small.
JY: Oh, yeah you're so, I mean you're so skinny.
AP: Yeah.
AP: I'm a G I Jane.
AP: [Laugh] G I Jane. [Laugh]
JY: And now, what kind of job do you-?
AP: Oh, now? I'm a technical writer.
JY: Oh, what?
AP: Well, I've been a technical writer for computer software development, but I work for Bank of America now, and basically I document processes, procedures, as well as web applications, etc.
JY: [Laugh] I'm nervous.
AP: You're nervous? [Laugh] Don't be nervous. It's part of the training and development group
JY: And, uh, did you think about a story?
AP: Oh yeah, well, actually growing up, I read a lot, so I learned a lot of stories. So it's just basically narrowing down a story that I wanted to tell you. [Laugh] And actually there is a story that, um, I do remember. It's, it's like a, um, a legend and it takes place like in a far off country like in Africa where there's this little girl. It can also apply to here, too as well. But it has a moral to the story, too where this little girl, she was of African descent, and she had that very short, you know, nappy, dry hair, curly hair that a lot of blacks have. And all her life she had always wanted to have long, beautiful, silky, flowing hair. Well, she lived nearby a lake and there was this legend that, that in the middle of lake, on the stone that was in the middle of lake, there was this beautiful comb that if she swam out there and she combed her hair she will get beautiful, long hair. But it was really far away because it was a very big lake. So she went out there one night because she really wanted to have beautiful long hair because, you know, everybody thought that's what really pretty. And so, so she went out there one night to the lake and she, she got into the lake and started swimming and it was a long, long, long way off. And, um, she finally got to the rock, she was really tired. And, um, sure enough on the rock was this beautiful comb. She took this comb and she started combing it through her hair. And as she combed it through her hair, her hair started to grow and it grew longer and longer and became really silky and soft and beautiful. But unfortunately, what happened is that her hair didn't stop growing. It kept growing and growing and growing until it got so heavy that she, um, sank into the bottom of the lake and drowned.
JY: Oh.
AP: [Laugh] Yeah. And basically the moral of that story is, um, because what it's dealing with is really about images, like we have preconceived notions of what is beauty in this society where, you know, she was African American and a lot of African Americans have short and nappy hair. And actually really it's beautiful among the culture but because a lot of times cultures get immersed in another culture. For instance maybe they are in a culture where there are like Caucasians with long beautiful hair. And the society, especially the ruling society at the time, has basically said, you know, to be beautiful you need to look like this. And so she did not feel very beautiful with what God gave her. So instead she tried to reach for something that she didn't naturally have. And because she did, it kind of destroyed her, her spirit and in a way and her identity. And I can correlate this story to another story that I've read like last year by, um, do you know the author Toni Morrison?
JY: Um, no.
AP: She's a black writer and she's a very strong powerful writer. She talks, she writes a lot about you know, African ( ), you know, in times of slavery, you know and so forth where, um, the little story I told you actually relates to a story she wrote called The Bluest Eye. Where there was this girl who was [cough] they were, I think, in Georgia, which was very, very southern and blacks were very much enslaved at that time or very much looked down upon because I think this was around the time when blacks got freedom, but even though they got freedom they were still degraded and looked down upon. And this little girl grew up in a very abusive household where she was raped by her father and her mother rejected her because she, she looked too black, meaning she had like big lips, she had really dark skin, really short hair and so forth. And the idea of beauty was to look like, like the little white girl that her mother worked for. She, because her mother was like a maid of this house of, um, white people who were very rich and, um, the little girl had the long hair [break in audio] blue eyes and that, uh, she was thought to be very beautiful and so forth. And so this black little girl because she, she felt ugly all the time and rejected always wanted to have blue eyes. And eventually she became insane and she would wander around the street thinking that she had blue eyes or whatever which made her feel beautiful and so forth but it's a very sad story because she has bought in to the ideology of the society of what is beauty and when really a lot of time we need to look at the natural attributes that we have ourselves and just see the beauty within ourselves instead of comparing ourselves to what the media says, what the majority of society says and so forth because this is actually a very big problem for women growing up period, even in America, even American women. Because, you know, you have all these models and these beautiful TV actresses so they kind of set the gauge of what is beautiful in the world when really it is not realistic 'cause not every girl is, you know, born 5'10," this slim beautiful figure, or whatever, this perfect face, and a lot of times it's enhanced, anyway by like breast augmentation or false teeth and whatever and so forth. But too many women struggle to look that way and it's a shame. It really is. So, so I guess that's what, um, [cough] what I had thought I would share. Because it is a shame in lots of ways that we get compared to Barbie dolls. [Laugh] You know Barbie? That we're supposed to look like Barbie dolls and if we don't we feel inadequate.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Because it really plays on our self- esteem as women. And really, it shouldn't be a condition that is imposed on us or whatever. If anything it should be acceptable that we come in all shapes and sizes, different colors and so forth, without having to adhere to this idea of beauty like a Barbie doll. So, and the reason that I think about these types of stories is because, um, I have an interest in like a lot of women's issues and so forth and, um, especially my, my interest right now, when I get out of college, I'm probably going to become like a activist of women's and children's issues, especially like in human trafficking, of slavery and prostitutions because what concerns me a lot is the, um, status that women have around the world where a lot of these countries women are considered just second, well you should know being in an Asian country especially too, and it's not just the Asian countries but it's the Middle East, it's Africa, it's the Latin American countries, and it's even in some places in Europe where women have a very secondary position. And because of that, a lot of them are denied opportunities for education, economic welfare, a lot of times they end up no better than slaves to their husbands, they're like property for their husbands, they get abused, or, like with this human rights violation of trafficking which is actually the fastest growing human rights violation now globally, is the fact that these women that get duped into going to a different country because they got promised, uh, um, a better job or something or whatever and a lot of times they'll end up in a country where they can't speak the language and they end up being like a maid or a prostitute and things like that. And, um, those are the types of stories that I learn a lot, are women's issues stories and so forth. That and probably about heroism, you know, where there is a hero who fights good and evil because I used to read lots of stories about that as well and fantasy and science fiction and so forth. Did you record all that?
JY: [Laugh] Uh, maybe. [Laugh] [Break]
AP: Yeah because in the Midwest they don't have that really harsh Northern accent or that really, um, slow Southern accent. The Midwest accent is actually the most sought after for like radio broadcasters and TV broadcasters-.
JY: Yeah, I've heard that.
AP: Because it's the most general type of accent and it's the most distinguishable and well understood and, um, I grew up in Michigan-.
JY: Where is it?
AP: Which, which is where they have that general Midwestern accent. So-.
JY: How did you acquire, I mean, your English is Standard English.
AP: It's what?
JY: It's standard.
AP: Standard English?
JY: Yes, it's Standard English. [Laugh]
AP: It is true. It is true. Because I, yeah I don't have any real pronounced like slang or accent from a region but you could tell I'm from the Midwest.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: That is how people can distinguish other people 'cause they come like from the New England area like Boston and New York and they have a very pronounced accent as compared to the South.
JY: Hmm.
AP: So even, even in the Asian countries you can tell the, um, the regions because they have their own dialects. Like when I was in Japan, uh-.
JY: [Laugh]
AP: Tokyo, somebody from Tokyo or somebody from like, um, maybe south Japan would not necessarily understand the dialect of somebody from Tokyo or North Japan because they have a completely different regional dialect.
JY: Hmm. You mean the intonation or tempo?
AP: Yeah, like maybe different slang terms that they use and a different accent because like, if you were to go up to Boston, for example, you know, they have that weird accent where like "bah," and they don't really pronounce their r's or whatever, but they have different slangs within that region, like, for instance, a slang term for like your butt, they call it a bum.
JY: [Laugh]
AP: B-U-M. Yeah, that's a bum. A butt is a bum in Boston, whereas you come down to the South which it can be your butt or your rear end or whatever.
JY: Your bootie.
AP: Or your bootie, there you go. Or it could even be racial, too. The, um, dialects can be racial because if, it's like Asians, Africans, and even some Irish or whatever have their own dialects within their own race-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Too. But since I was brought up in a caucasian family-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: In the Midwest, I have a Midwest accent with my family's slang terms or regional dialect or whatever.
JY: Hmm.
AP: But, however, when people move around though to different regions, they can pick up different slang terms and sometimes they pick up the accent as well.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: I, however, have not picked up the Southern accent that much and I have lived in the South for, um, let's see, I moved down here when I was 13, was out five years and now I'm 33 so, um, that's 10 years, five years, no six years, 20, so that's like 15 years. I've been in the South for 15 years, but I still have not picked up the dialect-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Because ( ) that's interesting.
JY: Do you think you would live there again?
AP: No, well I lived, I still lived with, and it might be because of the period that I was still with my family because I came down here when I was 13. So even though I went to school with southern kids or whatever, I still spoke midwestern dialect of my parents since I was 13 all the way up to when I graduated high school and that might have been enough to help me retain my accent, whereas maybe if they had moved down here, although, I don't know, I think though, if you have the accent long enough in your earlier years when you grew up with most of it, you still retain it despite the region that you go to. I mean, you know, because people from New York, you can still tell, eventually what happens though if there is a homogenization of the accent where it slightly gets blurred from the New York accent that region's accent and they come up with this hybrid accent-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: That is a combination of their region's accent that they came from and the region that they live in right now.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Because I can actually do a Southern accent if I wanted to because I've heard it enough times and I know how each word sounds.
JY: Do you think that there is an accent, uh, a special accent in Charlotte?
AP: Yeah, well, Charlotte is interesting because there is southern accents. There are a lot of people who have more what would be maybe a Midwestern accent and plus Charlotte is a growing so much and there are so many transients coming from all over the US, that a lot of it has been mixed up. There is yes, a southern dialect among the natives and the ones that live maybe more in the southern regions or, um, what you might term as, ah, maybe, um, rednecks maybe? [Laugh]
JY: Yeah.
AP: If you want to stereotype or whatever because they seem to maintain that southern accent, that's for sure because it's still the South and they're still here but, you know, there's a running joke about it's very hard to find a native Charlottean because there are so many different people coming from all over the world and all, you know.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Because it's growing so fast but not a lot of the natives are here. [Laugh] So I think eventually the southern dialect might eventually change to where the other will be just general English because now we're also getting like huge populations of racial or ethnic populations living here.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Because the biggest one is Hispanics because there is a lot of Spanish and Mexicans here.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: And, um, there's a growing population of Asians, too, and Greeks. Greeks and Germans, there are a lot of Germans here, too.
JY: Uh-huh. [Static]
AP: Scottish and English, and with all the mixture, eventually, that, the pure southern dialect that was here will be "hybrided" out eventually. That's what my theory is.
JY: [Laugh] Um, ah, um, ah, um, oh, in different class, different professor said, I mean our professor explain about free variation?
AP: Uh-huh.
JY: And that, uh, um, people, um, how people pronounce differently, even though it is same word.
AP: Like tomato or tomato.
JY: Yes, yes, sure, yes. See, um, can you explain some words? [Laugh]
AP: Either or either? Well, that depends really. It can depend on like your schooling.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Like, um, or how your parents pronounced it 'cause a lot of my words come from pronunciation of my parents, how they taught me because when they came to the States, they spoke Korean. My, my parents taught me English. So a lot of their English words I got from them and, um, I think with a lot of children growing up they'll get it from perhaps a family member or a relative, their environment,-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: Of how they pronounce a word. And maybe when they get to school and they come across it and the teacher pronounces it in a different way, they might actually try to make a conscious effort to pronounce it her way, but more times probably not.
JY: Hmm.
AP: It's probably going to be more of the home dialect than the school dialect and so forth, so. And really too, it, it does kind of vary 'cause it can also stem from how, um, how a person interprets the grammatical morphemes or the rules-.
JY: Hmm.
AP: The grammatical rules like, um, how, you know, when we learn pronunciation of vowels and consonants and so forth, somebody might have misinterpreted that when you see "ei" together I think it's technically supposed to be an "e" sound-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: But someone might misinterpret it and thinks it's an "i" sound or whatever and that, you know, from can be that from that or even like a tomato or a potato, the spellings are different, too because I believe the tomato with an "oe" is the more proper English form, that the English use.
JY: Uh-huh. You pronounced tomato?
AP: Tomato.
JY: And you pronounce it either or either?
AP: Well now I have to think about it.
JY: [Laugh]
JY: Either or either? Either or-?
AP: You know, if I have to speak it out loud to somebody I will pronounce it correctly [laugh] but when I am saying it to myself sometimes I don't care. // I'll say either or either.//
JY: // Sometimes we say either or either. //
AP: Yeah. That's just a weird thing with me, OK? [Laugh] My idiosyncrasy.
JY: Um, uh, the professor said uh, uh, in, um, northern people-?
AP: Say, like Northern people.
JY: Yeah. Curi-, curi-, greasy, greasy people?
AP: Greasy?
JY: Yeah. A lot of people are greasy.
AP: Greasy. Greasy?
JY: But you pronounce greasy?
AP: Pronounce it with a z.
JY: Uh.
AP: Yeah. Yeah, but that's a probably Northern dialect then, that's a true. Greasy because, um, I think the Midwestern, we enunciate our words. Meaning we pronounce our words-.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: More clearly.
JY: Uh-huh.
AP: So, because when I look at a word I usually look at the literal pronunciation of it. So if it has an 's' in here I would probably apply the 's' sound, greasy. So-.
JY: Hmm.
AP: Unless of course I knew that it was an irregular word, and it's supposed to have a 'z' pronunciation and I would apply that but it's not, it's a normal word with the 's' pronunciation.
JY: Hmm.
AP: See, it's a very complex thing, isn't it? [Laugh]
JY: Yeah, right.
AP: I know, I know because I'm like, I'm just learning English for heaven's sake.
JY: Yeah, I think it's weird. I'm not native speaker.
AP: Uh-huh.
JY: So we cannot, we cannot distinguish, um, to, um, the difference between sounds.
AP: Yeah. Well, English is like a very difficult language anyway because it's, it's got all these different languages within it, and spellings can be really weird.
JY: [Laugh] Thank you to be here. Thank you for your stories and thank you for your gift of knowledge and ideas from your. Very good. ( ). Your, uh, I'm getting idea from your ( ).
AP: Well good.
JY: [Laugh]
AP: 'Cause yeah, it's very complex but much more complex than not.