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acCENT on the wrONG sylLAble

Those who spend much time in my company soon come to learn that I do impressions, funny voices, and occasionally sound effects, like some sort of geek parrot. I imagine it's just a side effect of my verbally-oriented brain structure, that I am interested in the sound of words and patterns of speech.

It's also a well-known and popular fact that I'm a shameless anglophile, born and bred in Virginia but raised on ancient PBS reruns of the BBC — to the point where I have a British sense of humor and a tendency to drop phrases like "it's a fair cop" into everyday speech and then wonder why people are looking at me so strangely. I have in fact had people inquire if I was originally from Britain, presumably because I give off a general vibe of not being from 'round 'ere — although I can't imagine anyone really familiar with dialects asking that.

Thus, I found this item on the BBC news website to be interesting — it's a voice coach who teaches Yanks to talk like Brits, and Brits to talk like Yanks. :) Usually hearing Brits "doing American" ranges from "painful" to "hilarious," as they sound like they're pinching their noses and talking like Edward G. Robinson. Even Hugh Laurie (who overall does a very good American accent) occasionally succumbs to this, although Bob Hoskins manages to avoid it.

Since I've become more aware of such things, I've noticed however that I do sometimes unconsciously slide into a Beeb sort of accent, especially if I'm actually around anyone from the UK. Not "putting it on," it just comes out that way. When I realize I'm doing it, I usually get very self-conscious and wonder if I'm coming off as pretentious.

On the other hand, if I could choose any one voice in the world to have, it would be John Huston. :)

-The Gneech


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 8th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
One thing you should understand is that our understanding of how Americans talk from that era is from US TV... And specifically the 'generic transatlantic accent' of News Anchors adopting 'midatlantic' tones to sound authoritative. So a lot of people thought that was how Americans talk. Just like Americans thought that the British talked like Noel Coward and BBC Received.

(Yes, I know *I* speak like Noel Coward and BBC Received, but I'm a statistical outlier.)
(Deleted comment)
May. 9th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Now, yes, but prior to the Beatles and 'Swinging London', 'regional accents' in films and radio exported abroad were rare. To the rest of the world, we were the voice on the BBC World Service. And that's still somewhat the voice that American's think the British "Upper Class" have, when an Etonian 'Posh' Accent is something quite different.
May. 9th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
"Aaaiitem six on the agenderrr, the Mueeeaning of ulllLife."
May. 8th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
sorry, you sound a lot better than John Huston!
it's a mix of a lot of influences (although over the years the mid-south has become less pronounced)...and wonderfully unique...

May. 8th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
I do the same thing with accents... It's not just British, either. I'll pick up most any accent if I'm around it long enough.
May. 8th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Since I was born in Manchester, to an Irish immigrant mother and an Italian immigrant father who was brought up in Cornwall, then moved to Oxfordshire... I have a polymorphic generic British accent similar to BBC Received Pronunciation with a tendency to slowly assume the accent of the people I talk to. When I was at a worldcon, my accent became so mailable from talking to so many people from abroad that they had trouble identifying which country I was from.
May. 8th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)
Interestin wee article, tuh be honest wi' each countries opinion iv the other's accent largely based on film an' tv neithor is likely tuh be an' aaal accurate ;)

I'm born an' fadge in the neerth east, but fo' sum reason me Geordie accent is geet mild, tuh the point wheor a've occasionally been mistekn fo' welsh O_o

Though if I want to I can type Geordie pretty well ;)
May. 11th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
I used to adopt an English accent from time to time, until I began working with folks from Britain on a regular basis. Some of them were from London, some from Scotland, some from Manchester, some from Ireland, and all over the British Isles.

At that point, I started making a concerted effort to stop doing the accent, simply because I was afraid they thought I was making fun of them.

It would be weird speaking London one moment, and Geordie the next, and Scotish next, when all three of them were in the room.

Well, without that experience, I'd probably be exactly like The Gneech in this respect, happily going on with an adopted accent. One of my brothers does it all the time.

Oh well, after 14 years of living in Texas, I have to remind myself that not everyone says "Howdy".
May. 8th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
John Houston... the original Gandalf. :)
May. 8th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
There's nothing too much wrong with BBC English in the context of having your Britishness (assumed or real) recognised outside the UK. My own accent is fairly neutral -- there's a bit of a London twang to it, but certainly nothing like real Cockney levels -- and whenever I visit the US, at least one or two people assume I'm Australian. <:)
May. 9th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
very interesting links!

Accents/Dialects are things I used to love exploring in my younger days... I can still do quite a few.. *tailwags*
May. 10th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
I can understand that, I tend to consider myself similarly talented in the vocal ranges. I've been known to play up my southern accent, though I've been known to do the voice of a passed 'family' member that's been described as creepy. I've also done a faux British accent, though I tend to more often do a psuedo-Eastern European/Slavic/Russian (initially for some RPG characters of mine), that I've suddenly slipped into said "accent", and I don't think I can ever again sign "I will Survive" without it.

And the thing is, as far as I know, I don't have any Eastern-European/Slavic/Russian ancestry.
May. 11th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
Hey Mr. Anglophile!

A TV show you might be interested in, on the History International channel: "What the Victorains Did for us." Pretty neat exploration of Victorian contribution to culture, science and history.

May. 11th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
Hey! Mr. Anglophile!
Won't you please take me along!
I won't do anything wrong!
Hey! Mr. Anglophile!
Won't you please take me along for a ride?
May. 11th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the heads-up!

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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