My friends are circulating this great online test to figure out what kind of American accent you have. Check it out at http://www.youthink.com/quiz.asp?action=take&quiz_id=9827.
I was excited to take it, sure that it would not reveal my Michigan origins, but rather my culture, breeding, and education. Yeaaaahhh, um, no. It totally outed my Midwest roots.
"You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for."
Back in college, I tried hard to mimic newscasters' voices and inflections. For a few weeks during my sophomore year I sounded vaguely like Tom Brokaw. I can still go into newscaster speak or sound like the guy from Moviefone: "WHY don't you just TELL me the name of the movie you'd like to see?" During regular conversation, however, I couldn't shake the flat sound of my accent, so I tried instead to become more animated while talking, using jazz hands and facial expressions to make up for my deadened vowels.
My judgments have extended beyond myself. It took me a long time living in Philadelphia to hear a South Philly or thick Jersey or Longheyeland accent and not think, "Man, she should really do something about that." Back in the 80s, Valley Girl accents drove me nuts. Due to some choice Patrick Swayze movies and The Dukes of Hazzard, I drew some conclusions about folks with a Southern accent. I've since gotten to know people from all over the country and know better than to draw a conclusion between their regional peculiarities and their wit and intelligence. In fact, I've been downright charmed by a honeyed Southern voice and laughed until my sides hurt because of a New Yawk accent intentionally used to full effect.
I'm still waiting to be won over by my own voice, but I'm working on it.