Accents clearly matter to the way we see people because we think they tell us something about their upbringing and influences. Geographical accident of birth seems less influential than the values and social background we interpret from the way they speak.The author is surprised that John Barrowman's American accent disappears when he is talking to his parents, to be replaced by the Glaswegian accent of his childhood. DH wouldn't be at all surprised by that as he's often heard my accent change. The author comments:
We all do it a bit, I suspect. Chameleon-like, we change our tone slightly to fit in with our surroundings.Of course, if your British accent is changing to another British accent and you're still in the UK, it's not particularly noticeable. Change your accent to a 'foreign' accent, and it stands out like a sore thumb.
as Barrowman's voice changed to broad Glaswegian, I couldn't help myself seeing the actor in a different way. Even though he describes himself quite correctly as a British actor, his Illinois intonation is perplexing. Despite the illogicality of the argument, something inside me suggests he can't be properly "British" with a voice like that.By that standard, despite their British passports, I doubt anyone in the UK will ever consider my children 'properly' British. I don't think I am anymore either . . .
Commenter Emjay mentioned Jeremy Clarkson's article from today's Sunday Times on exactly this topic of accents.
According to the scholars, you can zigzag across America for a year and encounter only four different accents (I find that a bit hard to believe, but whatever). In Britain you can drive for just one day and each time you stop for petrol, the cashier will sound different. It’s Punjabi in the morning, Hindi at lunchtime and Tamil in the evening.He's far more entertaining than I am on the subject!
. . . when the world finally realises French, German and, yes, even Mandarin Chinese have no place in a modern English-speaking world, we can continue to have our national, and indeed regional, differences highlighted every time we open our mouths to order a McDonald’s.