Monday, March 10, 2008

21 accents

Fun listen, don't you think?

Sometime I'd enjoy studying British accents — first hand, of course. Because there isn't a British accent, but a variety of accents. I noticed similarly as my wife and I traveled through Scotland: there isn't a Scottish accent, but an array of variations, ranging from the very mild, British-sounding accent of our first hostess, to the more ba'-o'-th'-throa'y accent with which other Scots delighted us.

As I prepare to preach in Tennessee, I've been thinking of accents and cultures. Listening to a Southern professor teaching theology, I realized that Californian is an accent, though not much of a one. My wife and I have always said that we're Californians, we don't have accents, we just say words the way they're written. But that's not quite right.

For instance, take final "w's." We Californians pronounce raw as if it were spelled rah. A Southerner, though, will hit that w for all it's worth: raW. Ditto thaw (thah / thaW). In fact, Southerners love "w's" so much, they'll even say them if they're not there: where we say door as if it were dore, the Southerner sees and says that invisible "w" — hence, doe-wer.

Accents: we've all got 'em.

They even play a minorly pivotal role in a couple of Bible stories (Judges 12:6; Matthew 26:73).

(It's my blog, and I can make up adjectives if I want to. It's my blogial right.)


Kim from Hiraeth said...

That was fun!

We lived in KY for four years and after a while we were amazed at how different the southern accents really are! We Mid-Westerners (I'm from Ohio) tend to think all southern accents are the same.

I thought the last one was the most fun. I've heard that accent in old movies and sometimes women who read recorded books still use it, but I didn't know it had a name!

Libbie said...

Doesn't she do well going from each accent so quickly. I'm very impressed.

The first time I noticed I had an accent was when I visited Somerset. They speak in a very 'Oo-arr' sort of country-fied accent down there, and my sharper Kentish tones really stood out.

I don't actually sound nearly so sophisticated now - well, unless I'm doing my received pronunciation phone voice. Most of the time, it's vaguely estuary with a strong hint of Yorkshire and the Midlands.

My children are little Black Countray yim-yams, who ask wim yam gooin, and wither yow loik Jesus.


Daryl said...

Very cool, but I hope she did a better job on all those accents than she did on Toronto...

For starters, it's T'rahnah, not Toronto...

DJP said...

On my Longer List of Things to Do is to talk to you in person someday Libbie, and hear for myself. Maybe try to say hi in person next time my wife and I head thitherwards, though it's likelier our ultimate destination would be Scotland again.

Maybe I'll get famous and in-demand like Phil one day, and be called off to London on some urgent business, again like Phil.

(Hope our jet doesn't hit the flying pigs, that day.)

Andrew and Carolyn said...

Good stuff.

The Dublin accent was 'grand' (as they say). The Belfast accent was not quite 'dead on' (as we say).

But then again it's probably difficult to capture such a sophisticated way of speaking.

I may have been minorly (as you say) unfair though.


Stefan said...

That was brilliant. I liked the Transatlantic accent at the end.

Daryl: I dunno. She sounded just like a Tim Horton's-sipping Ontarian to me. (Sez the guy from BC.)

Like Libbie, I only noticed my accent the first time I travelled to the UK. Surrounded by people speaking a variety of accents—I heard everything from Oxbridge to Cockney (real Cockney: I'm not talking about the "Estuary English" that is the standard London accent)—I could discern my own 3rd-generation educated Anglo-Scottish-Jewish western Canadian accent quite clearly.

Dan: I left a couple of comments on your
Sweet Comfort Band post. I'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

Terry Rayburn said...


I never dreamed I had a Michigan accent, since like you, I assumed we just said it like it was written.

But after moving to Tennessee in 1986, my wife Michele, who is from Lawn Gighland, New York, would point out people with Michigan accents. Now 20-some years later, I can recognize them, too. Whereupon it's perfectly natural for me to ask, "Are y'all from Michigan by any chance?"

Anyway, where and when are you preaching in TN?

DJP said...

Stefan = pushy Canadian

DJP said...

Terry: Calvary Community Church

April 13 (Sunday School and main service) and 20 (main service)

Bracketing the T4G conference, which I plan to attend with my lovely wife.

Libbie said...

You'll have to use the phone when you're over here, Dan.

Like Inter-Continental Phil did ;-D

Mesa Mike said...

I wonder what accent she was using when she yelled at the person off set?

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Writing and Living said...

That was a lot of fun.

There is definitely a California accent. Occasionally when I'm listening to MacArthur it comes through loud and clear to me.

We're between St. Louis and Memphis, and I've always been amazed at the range of accents from St. Louis to Memphis to everywhere in between.

Enjoy T4G. I'm staying home with the kids, but my husband is going. He's promised to buy me lots of books to make it up to me. :)

Kim said...

Very nice.

But that Toronto accent?

Only people who are actors trying to do a "Toronto accent" sound like that.

Lived there and worked there.

The Texas was pretty weak.

But her "transatlantic" accent reminded me of Katharine Hepburn.

Connie said...

In the recent words of Inspector Jacques Clouseau (aka: Steve Martin), "I find your accent very fuh-neeeee", and "You need to work on your accent!" :-)

I find accents very fascinating, and am especially enjoying watching our two Russians adopting an Okie accent--they're not quite so amused by it. :-)

Stefan said...

I'm amazed at how well British and Australian actors (Sean Bean, Hugh Laurie; Kidman, Gibson, Crowe) are able to emulate American accents: not perfectly, but convincingly.

Compare that to the "Waldorf Salad" epsiode of Fawlty Towers with some underpaid BBC character actor in a ridiculously broad, somewhere-between-Carolina-and-Texas drawl playing the boisterous American business traveller.

DJP said...

Yep; I was absolutely amazed to find that Hugh Laurie was British, not American; as I was amazed to find that Alexis Denisof and (especially) James Marsters were American, and not British.

Stefan said...

Yeah, it took me quite a while to realize that House, M.D. had been that annoying fop and the bane of Blackadder's existence in several previous lives.

Stefan said...

Sorry, Dan: I had to delete a couple of comments. I was musing on my own accent, and it reminded me of the intellectual elitism I grew up surrounded by: the kind of pride that keeps a man away from God.

threegirldad said...

"Howdy! Mah namez Amy Walker. Ah'm twinny-fav yeerz old an' ah wuz borned ratcheer plum in thuh heart o' thuh Ozarks. Ah'm purty shore it wuz durin' tumaytu-pickin' season."


Kim said...

The first time I ever saw Hugh Laurie was in the movie Sense and Sensibility, where he played the very funny, very British Mr. Palmer.

Rileysowner said...

That was great. That required a great deal of control. However, her Toronto accent sounded more like a mix of Toronto and Newfoundland. Sort of an Atlantic end of Canada accent.

Nixter said...

Very cool. I am losing my British accent after being in Oz for 4 years, must go home to get it back!

You could do a whole clip like this just on British accents as there are so many. Maybe I should have a go ;)

DJP said...


1. If you do, give me a heads-up.

2. I've worked on a British accent, but have never had the nerve to unveil it in public. When I read Hagrid's parts aloud, though, I do approach Robbie Coltrane's accent.

3. So, how would you describe the difference between a British and an Australian accent? I have my "take," but you go first.

bugblaster said...

Toronto did sound more like Newfie for sure. Or maybe Ottawa valley. I think she got her Toronto accent from listening to Marg Delahunty.

Our kids love the Michigan accent. Whenever we drive through they mimic the radio commercials.

DJP said...

Canadians, making fun of any American accent.

Soe-ree a-boat that, but that's just funny. Eh?

Strong Tower said...

That was rather amazing. But now, I can never trust another foreign accent as an indicator that the person knows what they're talking about. As James White would say, if you speak with an English accent, you have to be right.

Ya see, ie liv erein whoamin. Weev got myeLsev rode bahtueen towens, sawee tryen tok wuith lotseh shoret wirds. Cuz weev got lotseh tymm. (Said at leisure with something in yure mouth)

We distrust any man who speaks in more than two syllables, unless its a last name. Or a funeral. Very solemn up class things they are with prachers and all. Dip thongs are the sounds that chew make if your aim is good or something you avoid if you're trying to get out of a DUI arrest. Beside that, we can't spell, and it makes it soooo much easier to pass a check. You might say kite, but here the wind never ceases and so you pull nothing out of your pocket til the last moment. Or, you're likely to find it in Nebraska. No one says whoosh for fear of triggering a post climatic stress reaction.

In reality the accents here are all over the map being as we are a cross roads of sorts. Mixed mannur one might say. Some like their paper plain, some printed, but most would think that sheet roles are a joke. Any tahoots. We do have one particularly curious thing that happens with the conjugation of verbs, we don't. It's considered lude behavior. Then again, this is whoamin.

Carlo said...

She failed the Italian accent badly. Italians (and also Portuguese) talk with their hands and she didn't use her hands. She gets an F.

Justin said...

I would like to have heard her have a go at African variations on the English language.

(As to actors playing roles outside of their own accents: I've found it ironic that the two main characters in "The Patriot" where Australian.)

Stefan said...

If Fozzie Bear could type, this is what it would look like:

"Ya see, ie liv erein whoamin. Weev got myeLsev rode bahtueen towens, sawee tryen tok wuith lotseh shoret wirds. Cuz weev got lotseh tymm."

(Strong Tower, I do love you as a godly Christian brother. And yeah, let's stay away from those diphthongs. Now, I'm going to go and row aboot in my boot while eating some Canadian bacon slathered with maple syrup, eh?)

Carlo said...

My favorite British accents were the actors that played in Dr. Who (my favorite Doctor Who was Tom Baker). Of course, they were British Actors so they didn't have to act any accent guess...But I don't care, they were great accents!!

Libbie said...

Random accent and Doctor Who related fact. David Tennant, the current Doctor, is Scottish (from Paisley, in fact). He does a very good estuary English accent, but the writer, Russell T Davies, likes the make things difficult for him by putting in lines that sound very, very different in Scots.

So, in the first episode of the most recent series, Tennant had to say 'Judoon platoon upon the Moon' which is a vowel digraph nightmare if you're trying to move your mouth in the more pronounced southern English way :-)

Fun sport is watching the RTD penned episodes, and working out which lines are there to make life difficult for Mr Tennant!

Kim said...

Canadians, making fun of any American accent.

Soe-ree a-boat that, but that's just funny. Eh?

I think I'm offended now.

I can assure you I do not use the word "eh."

DJP said...

You don't, eh?


bugblaster said...

Dan, you would understand if you ever heard an ad for Michigan Carrots, full of anti-oxidants.

I say eh. It's a good word.

DJP said...

(Actually, I say it enough that people have asked whether I'm Canadian. Tell no one.)

Kim said...

You should be sorry. :-)

I had a hissy fit, you know. It wasn't pretty.

DJP said...

So, photos later at your blog?

Kim said...

Photos wouldn't do it justice; you'd need a video :-)

Writing and Living said...

A lot of British actors can do an American accent very well. But I once saw a movie where Colin Firth played a native Iowan. I was not impressed.

The pastor who started our church was Canadian. I've been told that in Canada Psalms is pronounced "sams." He would ask the congregation to open their Bibles to the book of "sams" and the congregation would laugh.

Carlo said...

Canadians also pronounce Isaiah incorrectly. I heard DA Carson say book of Isi-ya (with the long "i" pronounciation) instead of how the rest of us normal people pronounce it as Isaiah.

Writing and Living said...

He also pronounced Haggai "hag-ee," but I don't know anybody who's certain of the correct pronunciation of Haggai.

And Kim? I love you like a sister. Some of my favorite people in the world are Canadians. So please, don't have another hissy fit. (c:

And, after about fifty years in the US, our pastor and his wife sounded pretty much like native Missourians.

bugblaster said...

w&l: my pastor's from tennesee via texas. One day he wore a mauve shirt. He told us it was mawv, and didn't understand theuproarious laughter. Because it's correctly pronounced mohv you see.

carlo: "ai" makes the long "i" sound en français, and DA was just speaking in a more cosmopolitan manner than many Americans understand.

secret canadiantalker djp: To you the same admonishment I gave my pappy when he through a bunch of trash into the foundation of the new church building... Mark 4:22.

oh by the way I did a profound post today. Accio Dan.

Mesa Mike said...

So, how do we all pronounce, "shibboleth?"

Writing and Living said...

Mohv? Sounds pretentious.

Around here, we try very hard not to appear as if we're putting on airs. That's why we completely ignore the past participle of verbs: "I've drove a lot of people crazy by playing Neil Diamond in my dorm room." We also like to use adjectives as adverbs: "It was real funny when the pastor said "mohv" instead of "mawv." So, you know, if you want to know how to talk good, move to Missouri.

DJP said...

Mesa MikeSo, how do we all pronounce, "shibboleth?"


Now, an aside to all: I can never predict feedback. i would have thought for sure the earlier post "Not the man of her dreams..." would have kicked up a cloud of dust, particularly given my closing couplet. But it only got four comments, of which three were the Shays and me.

But this little thing on accents? BOOM!

Go figure.


Kim said...

That post was just too profound, DJP. People didn't know how to respond.

I loved the closing couplet.

DJP said...

Well, thanks.

That's one.

(But still a Shay!)

Strong Tower said...

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Folding words causes accentdents.

Har tis eh g'd wey t'voiuhd'm:

Now, brothers, [1] if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

Level the mountains make straight the way- speak Word in Truth, make the Gospel plain- the sharper axe rests sooner against the stump, so more quickly is the house built.

Ai- tis goood!

But I thought she had triplets.

Libbie said...

No use grousing about comment count. If you'd wanted a really big one on any given post, you could have said something derogatory about a specific modern worship song.

Writing and Living said...

Sorry I didn't comment on your couplet, Dan.

So, do you think you could apply the same couplet to men? I mean, King Lemuel's mother took several lines to spell out exactly what he needed. (c:

DJP said...



Stefan said...

That other post...somehow, I felt like I'd be an interloper by commenting on it. Well, marriage is a blessed institution, graced by the providence of God. For some of us, it's our primary mission field as well.

threegirldad said...

I thought the "Not the man of her dreams" post was fabulous. But since I couldn't think of anything over than "Bravo!," I just said it to myself. Sorry...

Kim said...


No use grousing about comment count. If you'd wanted a really big one on any given post, you could have said something derogatory about a specific modern worship song.

You crack me up. This is exactly why I like you so much!

DJP said...

As this one from 2006 did.

ajlin said...

Re: Southerners love "w's" so much, they'll even say them if they're not there: where we say door as if it were dore, the Southerner sees and says that invisible "w" — hence, doe-wer.

-The key to a redneck accent is that we tend to make every word into two syllables. So instead of "Hey Jeremiah!" you get "He-ey Jer-mI!" with vowels being lengthened or softened.