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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Accented Class

A friend of mine – I’ll call her Sarah - is getting married to a fellow in England. Listen in on some light-hearted girl-talk, punctuated by much laughter, among a bunch of friends:

Girl 1: “So tell me, does he have that to-die-for British accent?”
Sarah: “Yeah, he does.”
Girl 2:“But you’re able to understand him, right?”
Sarah: “Oh, yeah!”
Girl 2: “Because some of them are crazily hard to understand.
Girl 1: “Really?”
Girl 2: “Well, in elementary school, there was this one girl in my class with a British accent, and half the time we were asking her to slow down!”
Girl 1: “Was she from a specific part of England?”
Girl 2: “I don’t remember which part. It was a long time ago. But she sounded like she had a huge jawbreaker in her mouth and was trying to talk around it.”
Girl 1: “Doesn’t sound too pretty.”
Sarah: “Nah, his is not too weird…you know, I think he’s sort of proud of his accent.”
Girl 2: “Really? What do you mean?”
Sarah: “I heard it’s a class thing. Your accent sort of shows your standing in society.”

Question: Is one’s accent an indicator of one’s social class or standing? And if so, what’s the best (or worst) accent to have?


  • At 4/07/2005 08:41:00 a.m., Blogger ephphatha said…

    I have to admit that when I hear certain dialects I do immediately begin to form opinions about the people using them. For example, when somebody approaches me talking like Boomhauer, I begin to consider them an ignorant redneck. I would feel guilty about this habit of mine if I had any control over it. These opinions sort of enter my mind automatically without asking me first. Although there are exceptions, I think in general you can tell some things about people by the way they talk. Did you ever see that movie, My Faire Lady?

  • At 4/07/2005 10:27:00 a.m., Anonymous Yusuf Smith said…

    Well, British accents vary enormously and they reflect both area and social class. I wouldn't say there is a "best" accent to have, but some (notably from the north-east, Scotland and Northern Ireland) are difficult to understand for people outside those regions. I think it was Vaclav Havel (former Czech president and playwright) who said there are three types of English - the international English non-native speakers speak, US English, of which they understand 50%, and UK English, of which they understand about 10%.

    It used to be thought that "standard English" was south-eastern middle-class English, but I don't think this is the case so much now. This is the English of dropped Rs - which is definitely a dialect, even if it's that of the metropolitan middle-class. On the other hand, dropped H's and T's are definitely considered low-class inner-city talk.

  • At 4/07/2005 11:51:00 a.m., Blogger Mohop said…

    Isn't this what "My Fair Lady" is all about? Abso-bloomin-lutely.

  • At 4/13/2005 04:20:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    How would Tony Blair's accent compare?


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