The American Accent

Jun 3rd, 2001, 02:59 PM
Gerry K
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The American Accent

I love the British accent, and
judging by the number of Brits on
American infomercials, other
Americans do as well. But I've
often wondered what our American
accent sounds like to English
speaking Europeans, especially the
British. I mentioned this to a young
British woman whom I met in Holland
last week, and she said rather bluntly
that the English do not like our accent,
though she really couldn't articulate

If you're British, or an English-
speaking non-American, how would you
describe our accent?

Happy travels,

Gerry K

Jun 3rd, 2001, 03:04 PM
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Americans are much more "eglalitarian" toward accents than the British, as in most things compared to Europeans in general. There is a distinct accent for the "upper class" in Britain. Without it, Americans, along with most British, are doomed to be considered inferior, even by those deemed inferior on that score. 'Tis a funny society.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 03:13 PM
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Hi Gerry, that is a very interesting observation. Should be enlightening.
Judy ;-)
Jun 3rd, 2001, 03:44 PM
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Ed: I wish Americans WERE more egalitarian regarding accents here, but sadly, that's just not the case. If you notice in movies, TV, etc., when they want to portray someone as racist, backwards, etc., they often use a drawl (southern accent). If they are portraying mobsters, it's a NY accent, if they're upper-crust, it's Boston. People are stereotyped here, as well.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 03:55 PM
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Being Australian, what I find amusing is American attempts (or British too for that matter) to do an Aussie accent in movies - its universally awful! I know its not the most attractive accent in the world (& actually probably one of the worst ;-) ) but it seems to be impossible for an actor to do a plausible job of it & instead usually comes out sounding like a cross between cockney English & a donkey being painfully tortured in its nether regions!!! All that aside I love accents regardless of where they are from (but i must admit to finding Irish particularly sexy!!). I can't tell the difference between US & Canadian accents & am curious as to whether you can being form those respective countries?
Jun 3rd, 2001, 04:29 PM
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I think that English speaking Canadians and Americans sound very much the same. I suspect that Canadians in Nova Scotia have different accents from those in Alberta, for instance. The accents in Maine are certainly different from those in California. I can almost always detect a Canadian by the way he or she says out. Maybe accent in New Brunswick is more like Maine than Alberta. Interesting subject, to me.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 04:30 PM
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This is an interesting thread. While I was reading the replies, I was thinking *which* American accent are we talking about? There are SO many. I can definitely tell the difference between someone from the South, Midwest, New England, New York, Philadelphia (where I'm from) and even the difference between different areas of PA, like Pittsburgh and Scranton. I think the difference between the US and Canadian accents is usually noticeable also. However, I can't generally distinguish different types of British, Irish, Australian, and Scottish (I love them all though). Interesting
Jun 3rd, 2001, 04:32 PM
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There are subtle nuances between Canadian & American English --- for me (an American) what IMMEDIATELY gives a Canadian away is the use of the interjection, "eh".
Jun 3rd, 2001, 04:54 PM
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The only American accents I can distinguish are Southern & New York but as Mel mentioned that may be beacause they are exagegrated on TV etc. I don't think the Australian accent varies too much around the country apart from perhaps 'broader' vowels in the more rural areas where there is also a greater use of the stereotypical Aussie slang which incidentally isn't used that mauch in the cities at all.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 05:11 PM
Gerry K
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I have to respond to your mention of
Scranton, PA. I was born and raised
in Scranton, and, because there were
so many Irish-Americans there, I
actually spoke with an Irish brogue
when I went off to college in 1962.
(And suffered some ridicule for it, I
might add.) I can still recall
pronouncing the word "three" as "tree,"
as in, "I have tree dollars."

But getting back to my original post,
if you were an English-speaking,
non-American, watching an American
movie with no regional accents, how
would you describe the American accent?

To me, the British accent is both regal
and cutely affected, although those two descriptions are somewhat antithetical.

I find it difficult to hear the British
pronounce "privacy" and "zebra" without
smiling, and yet there is something
sophisticated about their pronunciations
of both of those words.


Gerry K
Jun 3rd, 2001, 05:12 PM
Beth Anderson
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On a different (but related) tangent:

what do Brits think of Americans attempting to appropriate their accent when visiting? (whether unconsciously, or affectedly, whatever).

I don't mean using the British slang terms, and I don't mean someone who has lived there for 5 years and just started evolving into that accent (although an opinion on that is fine too)... I mean someone who for whatever reason just tries to emulate the accent (with limited success).

I don't, I should point out - I couldn't do it effectively if I tried and I sure wouldn't want to be laughed at!!

for example - does it sound as awful (and as derisive) as someone who is not American, trying out our accent? (I have a Kiwi friend who does that - to be funny - it makes me laugh.)
Jun 3rd, 2001, 05:14 PM
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Mel, Hollywood isn't the US.

In fact there are a number of accents which many Americans might find off-putting. For the most part, though, 90% (to pick a large but somewhat arbitrary number) of accents don't have any significant affect on the way most of us perceive others. Few Americans, in fact, can distinguish an eastern Ohio accent from a northern Indiana accent.

On the contrary, from my experience watching Brits interact with Brits, they are able to pretty accurately tell where others are from, certainly by general area, usually by county (shire), quite often by locality within the shire. It's uncanny. And I've even seen folks identify from just a few words, first, place of growing up, then where they went to college. It really has no counterpart in America.

Jun 3rd, 2001, 05:17 PM
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There are just as many American accents , as British, Austalian, or french, etc. everything is regional! we have several English friends here, they all have different accents and they all can tell their class from them. From plummy to almost unintelligible! I don;t think we can identify American "class" so much here as regions. In UK "upper class ", tells whether from North , South,east or west. We recently saw Stones in his pockets, took me at least half the show till my ears picked up all the words!
Of course now almost everyone is learning to speak "BBC English"!!!

we have lived all over the US , thanks to corporate America, and it has always taken me some time to get the rythms of speech of each area. A lot depends on your upbringing also, no one ever believes I was born in pittsburgh. My mother would have smacked me if I said younse! MDH"s mother was English and you'd nevr believe he was from New jersey! or at least what most people think of as Pgh. or NJ acents. As some one mentioned this is all exaggerated on TV and movies, etc!
Just enjoy the differences!
Jun 3rd, 2001, 05:47 PM
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Sorry Jody, but I don't understand whose pockets you saw Stones in. I have heard of people sticking them in their mouths to speak a certain way.

KC, I fail to see how you can't differentiate b/w the Aussie and Scottish accents - SO different! Aussie and Cockney perhaps I could understand.

Jun 3rd, 2001, 06:06 PM
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Hi Joanna,
I copied this from LONDONTOWN.COM so hope it helps. I didn't understand a word before interval. Friends of ours left before then, should have listened to them when they said it was too hard.
Irish writer Marie Jones' comedy examines what happens when a Hollywood film company arrives in a remote part of County Kerry in Ireland. The play has won Best Production at the Irish Theatre Awards with Conleth Hill scooping the Best Actor prize. Jones' previous plays include 'Women on the Verge of HRT'. The production transfers to The Duke of Yorks Theatre on August 21 from the New Ambassadors Theatre. Nearest
Women on the verge of HRT I can understand that even if I haven't seen the play!!!!!!!!!
The play is called
Stones in His Pockets
Jun 3rd, 2001, 06:13 PM
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I can't always tell the difference between a Canadian accent and an accent from Minnesota or North Dakota. I have a friend from Vancouver and he sounds just like Jesse the Govenor to me.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 07:18 PM
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I have developed a theory re dialects. There are different dialects in various parts of America but before they could develop to the point that we could not understand each other, we had coast to coast train travel, where in England, Europe etc for centuries people would live in villages and maybe never leave them their entire lives, so you have a German from Hamburg and one from Munchen that can not understand each other when they use their local dialects. India for example has a different language (dialect) for each of 16 states.
Jun 3rd, 2001, 07:30 PM
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Interesting question Beth - I'm not British so I can't answer your specific query but as an aside I found when I visted the US I automatically started using a bit of an American accent subconsciously - for eg, pronouncing my R's where I wouldn't normally like at the end of water & also 'A' in a word like 'bath'I'd pronounce a bit closer to the sound in cat rather than cart like I normally would.
I must admit I find this topic fascinating!!
Jun 3rd, 2001, 07:55 PM
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Everyones' thoughts are interesting, BUT it would be nice if someone addressed the original question!
Jun 3rd, 2001, 08:06 PM
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Very interesting topic.
English is not my mother tongue,after been living in several parts of North America for so long, it seems to me American English is a litter more flat than Canadian English. The most difficult English to understand to me is those spoken in West Highland,It always takes me more than one day to get used to it.
Art: about dialect,try to go to China, there are more than 300 different dialects, each one is like foreign language to the other.

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