1.21.2009

Fascinated with the British accent

I've noticed that Americans are fascinated with the British accent. I've heard of British people being told that their accent is "cool" or "pretty" or whatever when they visit or live in the US. And some Americans like the British accent so much, they'll adopt it, even if they're just spending a semester there.

But I have to admit that sometimes I am fascinated with it too--in the early morning when I go to work, I sometimes listen to BBC radio, and I will listen to an obscure expert talk about the financial markets or whatever, knowing that if it were an American, I wouldn't pay attention.

I think it's because I want to hear the different pronunciations of words that we both use, and learn new words as well.

So I'm guilty! But it's still something I notice in my fellow countrymen.

2 comments:

Robert said...

It's very true. The wife jokes that whenever we visit the States, no one's actually listening to what she's saying content-wise, but are listening instead to how she sounds. And she does indeed sound terrific.

The English unconsciously "size up" someone by the way he speaks. My wife immediately gets pegged as from "London" and possessing a certain upbringing. As an American, though, acquaintances here give you a pass because they have to: they get you are American, but your education or family background is not immediately evident to them due to how you speak.

It is pointless, or more likely embarrassing, to adopt their method of speaking. Unfortunately, an American newly here and trying to "sound English" often ends up merely sounding like an American trying to sound English. Or, put another way, like a Poirot episode.

The other side of the coin is that a general American accent is actually well-liked by many British. It is considered, believe it or not, "honest." And a former colleague had once told me that I was the most "deadpan" American he'd ever met.

That's because of how I had learned to "fit in". I've always found that it is just better to simply consciously lower your decibel level. In routine conservation, Americans tend to speak much louder, and far more animatedly, than people do here. Especially older people.

mj said...

Welcome! I love your blog--I've had it listed here for at least a couple years!

What "certain upbringing" are you talking about? I know people over there are caught up in those things.

And I hadn't thought about the decibel level, probably because I've never lived there, just visited in the late 80's and have met some other Brits in Asia and in the US.

Actually, your comment would make a good blog post here--do you mind?