The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, October 17, 2011

You talk funny

I am a lover of accents. Having spent my early years in a small town on Long Island, having a grandmother who pronounced "oil" as "erl" (which was even worse than what I later learned I did), and being blissfully unaware I had an accent, I was shocked to find that accents were rampant in America. I had thought only people from foreign countries had accents. But once I learned this, I embraced it.

Moving to Florida exposed me to a number of accents. There was the Florida "cracker" accent, the general "southern" accent, the New England accents, along with foreign accents like Cuban, German, British, the various Caribbean accents, and many more.

In my teens, I could determine what state a person was from by his accent. I could tell Georgia from South Carolina, New Jersey from New York, Boston from New Hampshire and Maine, and more. The differences are subtle in many of these cases but I had almost no trouble. Alas, over the years, I have lost that talent. I miss it. It was... useful.

We in the US are in love with certain accents. Jimmy Stewart's Texas drawl, for instance. That accent was faked, by the way. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, even went to Princeton in New Jersey. Where did that drawl come from? In the first few years of the 1960's, we had a president from Massachusetts who had a "funny" accent. The impressionists had a field day with it. But I think the public loved it. After the "British Invasion" by the Beatles, the public fell for the British accent. We still seem to love it. But we have had a love affair with it much further back than the 60's. If you watch the old movies from the 30's and 40's, as I do, you will hear it a lot.

The upper class accent seems so reserved, so in control. I imagined a conversation something like this:

Gent A: I say! You appear to have a problem with your arm, sir.
Gent B: Yes, it would appear to be broken. A minor mishap.
Gent A: Shouldn't you have that looked at?

Gent B: Perhaps I should. Tea?

I know a few Brits, expatriates living here in the former colonies, and they aren't that reserved. Not by a long shot. And I met a few in the Navy on a stopover in Hong Kong, they certainly weren't reserved (I have the tattoo and the memory of a world class hangover to prove it) so it's a just a bit of stereotype.

Accents define us, limit us, and enhance us. Some make us sound more intelligent while others are associated with backwardness. Some suggest carefree risk taking, others no nonsense seriousness.

I have my favorites, I am sure you have yours.


Gravelfarm said...

I enjoy placing accents as well, and think I'm quite good at it. Makes me  glad I live in a multi-cultural society.

The Chubby Chatterbox said...

My wife has always been in love with Cary Grant. Every time I see a Cary Grant movie I wonder where the guy is from. I'm told England, but I've been to the UK several times and I never heard anyone talk like that...
Kevin Costner was recently awarded the dubious distinction of worst accent ever recorded on film---for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Well deserved.

Douglas4517 said...

I assume you have a gentrified British accent... or one of the Liverpudlian (is that what it's called?) types. Please tell me you aren't Welsh.

Douglas4517 said...

I always think back to Marlon Brando as Marc Antony...

As I understand it, Grant started with what's called the "Cockney" accent; dropping "H's and adding them where they don't belong. "`Ey Guv, ow's `anging? Hi'm (pronounced "hime") doin' fine." and then there's something with "f's"

If you are (or were) a Star Trek fan and watched Star Trek: The New Generation, "Diana Troi" (played by British actress Marina Sirtis) spoke with the strangest accent I have ever heard. Her character's mother, however, did not have an accent even close to it so it couldn't have been a Betazoid.

Steven Scott said...

I thought she was Greek? At least...genetically Greek. I guess that's the right term. Of course that doesn't stop her from being British. Now I'm curious.

Steven Scott said...

Ah, born and raised in England by Greek parents. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Douglas4517 said...

That's right, born of Greek immigrant parents. She's as Greek as my father was Irish.  I doubt she had a Greek accent though she might have had a strong Greek identity.

Gravelfarm said...

Nah, the midlands of England, which is a bit like a Manchester accent only we move our lips when we talk.

Steven Scott said...

That explains her accent on the show being so british. Doesn't explain the casting of Patrick Stewart as a French guy...but perhaps in the 24th century we'll all speak the Queen's English.

Douglas4517 said...

I didn't think her accent was in any way British. It was a quite strange accent to me. I think casting Stewart as a French captain (raised in France's wine country, to boot) was a kind of running joke.  See episode 76 "Family" where all of his family in France speaks with a British accent. I also seem to recall (but cannot find a reference to) an episode where a British woman from Picard's past shows up with a French accent. I could be wrong about that, the only episode I could find that seemed like that is "We'll always have Paris" from season 1.