Sunday, July 27, 2008

Are Time Lords British?

The article Are Time Lords British? on the BBC site today is more about accents than the question of whether Time Lords are really British.
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.


Bluestreak said...

very interesting. It´s fascinating that we can change the way we speak just like we change our attitudes with different roles we assume. I tend to pick up on other peoples ways of speaking easily, more so than other people I think. If I hang around a person that says something a certain way, I end up mimicking it. I know if I were to move to another English speaking country my accent would change quite a lot. That´s just how I am. But I wonder why certain people have a tendency to do it and what it means (that your more easily influenced? that you have a stronger facility with language?).

Mmm said...

It's not really fair is it? I can relate to this too? But here, everyone puts any unique personailty trait of mine as "must be" English type of thing but no, it may just be me at times. I amazed by Christian Bale--his American accent is so good. It fooled me.

emjay said...

Roughly remembered Jeremy Clarkson quote from todays Sunday Times....
They say that on a drive across the U.S.A, one will hear four accents. In the U.K. on a daily commute, one will hear three at petrol stations... Punjabi in the morning, Hindi at lunchtime and tamil in the evening. If you can stand his style it is worth checking out Sunday Times, News Review Page 4 Jeremy Clarkson " By eck, our funny accents are the envy of the world."

emjay said...

Almost American may recall her parents watching T.V and calling out as they heard various accents...comments like "South American , Irish University;"
and " Middle European , New York ."
We thought we were very clever identifying mixed background comments.
We were usually right.
Emjay had a Glaswegian mother who was identified as a
' professional Scot' because despite long sojourns in Cambridge ( U.K.) and South Africa and Cheshire (U.K.) she never lost her Scottish accent...T.P. believed she developed it deliberately.
In fact she agreed, as she was convinced that folk 'trusted' the Scottish accent. Despite this, she sent emjay to elocution lessons so that she would speak ' received English'

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