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Tennessee lab's accent reduction class nixed after community reaction

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory planned a Southern Accent Reduction Training class in August that would assist workers in get rid of their southern twang. The class did not go over well with locals, and was cancelled in under 24 hours of its announcement. 2 / 2

Oak Ridge, TN (CNN) - If you have a southern accent, would you consider saying "Goodbye" to "Howdy, y'all"? The Oak Ridge National Laboratory was going to offer a speech class for its workers next month to do just that. But enough people complained at the lab to get it canceled for good.


"They're going to come help me in the tobacco today."

"Tire or tired."

These are words and phrases all true southerners know how to say, but a new training class at the Oak Ridge National Lab was trying to help some employees get rid of their southern twang.

Late last Monday, ORNLs human resources department announced the optional Southern Accent Reduction Training would begin August 13th. But after a number of complaints from employees, the class was shut down within 24 hours.

David Keim - ORNL Spokesman: "It wasn't the appropriate way to communicate this and we've learned a lesson from that. There was certainly no offense intended and it certainly wasn't the intent to imply there's anything wrong with a southern accent."

ORNL employs more than 4,000 people from nearly 90 different countries. The accent reduction classes are nothing new, but targeting southern accents is something the company hasn't done before. The training was supposed to go for 6 weeks at the ORNL campus, but folks say their accent hasn't affected their professional lives so far.

Rick Rogers - Knoxville Resident: "It does set you a part a little bit, but no more so than having a northern accent would."

And for some, they aren't willing to give up a piece of their southern pride.

Cathy Marcum - Knoxville Resident: "We aren't going to quit being who we are. Do you go anywhere else and tell people to quit being who they are?"

Lab officials say they are working with an outside company to offer the class to anyone who wants it.