Accents

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Nuria spent three weeks in Bristol, UK, to further her study of English. She told me one of her teachers had an especially clear manner of speaking. Asked by a student if his accent was American, he replied vigorously in the negative. “God, no!” quoth he, leaving Nuria with the impression that he had low esteem for American-inflected palaver. “Do Americans disdain the English accent also?” she asked.

I told her many Yanks think an English accent conveys superior intelligence. I said there are many accents in the Sceptered Isles (as in the Colonies), and that I love them all, personally, but that I’m a square peg seeking a round hole, so not to be trusted. (I had to explain the metaphor.)

My experience in Europe, of old and of late, is that aspiring anglophones favor the English way of speaking as the model. In their shoes, so would I. To help Nuria along, I will tell her how her Bristol teacher would expect her to say “schedule.” I’ll also advise that her car has a “boot” and a “bonnet,” not a trunk and a hood, and runs on “petrol,” not gas. These are, of course, aspects of dialect, not accent. Nuria is well versed in this distinction.

(c) 2018 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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7 Responses to Accents

  1. Oh god, Now I don’t know how I’m meant to say schedule! I say both!

    • JMN says:

      I’m laughing! You say both! Let’s agree, you say “shedjool,” I’ll say “skedjool,” and our respective dialects are honored. 🙂 I must relate that on my overnight British Airways crossing in 1st class (a rare luxury), I had the most suave and charming male flight attendant I’ve ever seen. At one point, he asked me if I wanted something and I had to ask him to repeat the question. He apologized (!) and said, “I’m sorry, it’s my accent.” Dumbstruck, I said, “No, no, no, Brian! It’s my ear, not your accent.” He looked and spoke as if from central casting for the romantic lead of a major BBC series! His courtesy and accent were memorably British. I found such courtesy also notably in evidence during the security check at Heathrow. I was thanked repeatedly for cooperating. The same process in Houston, by comparison, had been brutish, impersonal, and demeaning. “There’ll always be an England,” one hopes! (I hope this Brexit thing gets sorted favorably.)

  2. I haven’t really got an accent anymore which is a shame although it suddenly bursts through now and then on the odd phrase which surprises people. But the dialect persists. I love accents, long may they live

    • JMN says:

      I second your hurrah for accents. I find them fascinating and endearing. That said, I’ve taken pains to disguise my Texas “drawl” during professional life with something more neutral. Accents can hide, but they never go away entirely, especially when I’m tired or talking to other Texans. I’d be interested in why yours is gone, what phrase might cause it to resurface, as you say, and what region your accent reflects.

      • I think it comes back when startled or when mildly exhortating someone. I’ve noticed recently (last year and a half) that I’ve started to pick up some of the local accent – I’ve only been here 25yrs!

  3. Eric Wayne says:

    I really like a sort of American equivalent of an English accent that came about in probably the 50’s. I call it “the voice of authority”. I can do an impersonation of it. It’s almost like we were trying to match them.

    • JMN says:

      The “voice of authority”: That’s a good characterization. You have a knack for the mot juste! I’d love to hear your impersonation of the accent.

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