This thought and post came to me as I was commenting on a friends Facebook photo of his girls and he on a lake in their canoe. I made a "quest for the White Whale" joke and then remembered a situation in High School where accent played a key role in a situation. I was on Academic Team (yup, was a geek then and still am except now it pays the bills) and competing in a meet one evening. The teacher reading the questions for our meet was a native southerner and I'd never noticed the accent before until she got to a question for me. The question was something along the lines of "What literary story revolves around a white well?". I had never heard of a story focused on a well much less a white one so I asked her to repeat the question. She read it again and put some emphasis on the word WELL. She probably shouldn't have but she did. She had a look on her face like I should know this and was shocked that I didn't. I asked for a repeat of the question again and once again she said the same thing. What literary story revolves around a white WELL? After my time expired and the question deemed unanswered, therefore wrong, I was told by others who had been twitching in their seats that the word was WHALE. She butchered the pronunciation of WHALE so bad that to me, and many others, it came out WELL and caused me to miss an easy question. During the repeatings I even repeated the question back to her as I heard it and she didn't catch that I wasn't interpreting her correctly.
That's just one of the reasons I don't have a southern accent. There are others but that is one of the biggest that still hangs about the ol noggin randomly popping up when I least expect it.