ACCENTS – What do you hear?

Do you find yourself noticing when someone has an accent around you? Does an accent grab your attention and leave you wanting to hear more? You’re not alone. Those who have some sort of ‘specialness’ about their voice fascinate many of us. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a foreign accent; it can just be one from another part of the country.

We sometimes attribute characteristics to an accent whether there’s any validity to it or not. For instance, according to numerous references, a British accent tends to be linked to sophistication, elegance, and graciousness. As Piers Morgan stated, “There is a certain advantage to the British accent. I do notice that Americans love it; they think that we Brits are smarter than perhaps we are.” Is it any wonder that Eliza in My Fair Lady wanted to learn to speak ‘proper English’ so she could work in a shop. There are, as we know, many variations of the King’s English – the proper English, the Cockney accent that Eliza so wanted rid of, and then there’s Ozzie Osbourne. Someone shared that his voice is one of the choices for GPS directions. Oh, my – imagine trying to drive and understand what he’s mumbling. Even the movie currently in theaters, Darkest Hour, has Churchill muttering to the point his secretary could not follow his dictation.

And, lest we forget, ‘Bond. James Bond.’ Sean Connery with his gravelly Scottish brogue and Pierce Brosnan with the Irish lilt to his voice come to mind first. Whether Scottish or Irish, they both fall under Her Majesty’s Service as Bond. Scotty of the original Star Trek was forever fretting about those lithium crystals with his Scottish inflections.

Is a strong, commanding accent something that gets your attention? Perhaps a German, Austrian, Dutch, or South African accent grabs your ear. All have somewhat strong, authoritative enunciations. Could you envision anyone else as the Terminator other than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Who else could carry off lines like, ‘I’ll be baaack’ or ‘Hasta la vista, baby’ while emphasizing each and every letter.

What about an Australian accent? Who comes to mind immediately? Depending on your generation, it’s probably either Crocodile Dundee, Mel Gibson, or one of the Hemsworth brothers (Chris or Liam, aka Gale or Thor). Dundee’s line in the film as he confronts a mugger is classic, ‘That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.’ He’s the first character that comes to my mind when hearing an Australian accent.

How about the language of romance? Ah, the streets of Paris, the city of Rome, the Tuscan vineyards. Yes, French or Italian accents make most think of romance, perhaps mystery, or intrigue. Sophia Loren, Maurice Chevalier, or Charles Boyer come to mind.

Certainly, there are so many accents to explore. A Caribbean accent that evokes a laidback, ‘No problem, mon’ attitude, the lilting beauty of the Thai language in which tones are of such importance, and more.

Even more fascinating are those who can switch languages in midstream. I have several friends who switch from English to Spanish within a blink of an eye or from English to French or Italian in the same sentence.

And then there’s our accent – the Southern accent. According to Jessica Simpson, “I think anything sounds good with a southern accent.” On the other hand, Jeff Foxworthy shares, “I used to say that whenever people heard my Southern accent, they always wanted to deduct 100 IQ points.” He’s built quite a career using his Southern drawl so I’m not so sure about deducting those point. Do you find yourself talking slower than you normally do when you’re in other parts of the country where the speech pattern is much faster, as something of a counterbalance?

Catching a hint of an accent is a good icebreaker in a social setting. Enjoy the beauty of languages we run across every day; maybe consider taking a class to pick up some conversational knowledge.



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