snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Language

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 24 January 2013, 08:21 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,881
United Kingdom American vs. British accents

Comment: "at what point in history do you think americans stopped having
british accents"

"Actually, Americans still have the original British accent. We kept it
over time and Britain didnít. What we currently coin as a British accent
developed in England during the 19th century among the upper class as a
symbol of status. Historians often claim that Shakespeare sounds better in
an American accent."
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 24 January 2013, 08:51 AM
Skeptic's Avatar
Skeptic Skeptic is offline
 
Join Date: 16 July 2005
Location: Logan, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,537
Default

What is a British accent?. My Yorkshire brother in law sounds nothing like my north London cousins, nor like my aunt in Devon. London alone has a few distinct accents. Similar in Ireland. Dublin has at least three distinct accents, same for Cork city. Each county could boast a few recognisable differences.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 24 January 2013, 08:52 AM
Richard W's Avatar
Richard W Richard W is offline
 
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 23,203
Default

I don't think there's such a thing as "the" original British accent...

A "typical" American newsreader-style accent sounds like some combination of an Irish accent with various rural English accents to me. My uncle is convinced that rural Suffolk accents sound American; I'm not sure I see it myself, but then it was rare to hear a strong rural Suffolk accent even living in Ipswich. You usually had to go out into the countryside for that, and my aunt and uncle used to holiday out there.

Accents certainly change over time, and persist in funny places. My granny was born in Perth in Scotland, but didn't, to me, have any identifiably Scottish traces in her accent - more the old-fashioned RP English. You don't hear that accent any more, and the person that I currently know whose accent matches hers most closely comes from Zimbabwe...
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 24 January 2013, 09:04 AM
Esprise Me's Avatar
Esprise Me Esprise Me is offline
 
Join Date: 02 October 2005
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 5,582
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skeptic View Post
What is a British accent?. My Yorkshire brother in law sounds nothing like my north London cousins, nor like my aunt in Devon. London alone has a few distinct accents. Similar in Ireland. Dublin has at least three distinct accents, same for Cork city. Each county could boast a few recognisable differences.
And yet, while I couldn't necessarily pinpoint their city of origin, I could probably tell you they all sounded British to me, and I could almost certainly tell you they weren't American.

The only foreign accents that ever fool me are Canadian, and even then only for about five minutes.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 24 January 2013, 09:07 AM
kitap's Avatar
kitap kitap is offline
 
Join Date: 20 January 2001
Location: Tucson, AZ
Posts: 8,716
Whalephant

Which American accent are they talking about? We do have more than one.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 24 January 2013, 11:11 AM
Dasla's Avatar
Dasla Dasla is online now
 
Join Date: 15 April 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 1,962
Default

I proberly couldn't id them on listening to them, but even I can tell the difference between a northen English accent and a London accent. And between an upper class accent, middle class and a working class accent (I can id that). Ditto different Americian accents (ie southern accents, Boston accents and New York accent) Same with Candians (don't they say "hey" )

Australian and New Zealand have different accents. And I think (I may be fooling myself) I can tell the difference between the different island in New Zealand. As for the different regions of Australia? well apparently there is more difference in some word meanings then in accent. But there is a difference in class.

So, as Kitap asks, which American accent? And it is true, why is the current accent consider the "true" english accent and not just the accent of England of the time America was settled, if accents change over time. In the same vein why isn't ours (Australian) considered to be closer to the orginal English accent.

Shakespeare sounds better with an english accent, imho.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 24 January 2013, 12:09 PM
Blatherskite's Avatar
Blatherskite Blatherskite is offline
 
Join Date: 06 February 2006
Location: Salford, UK
Posts: 3,465
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
What we currently coin as a British accent
developed in England during the 19th century among the upper class as a
symbol of status.
Which is why people in England who aren't upper class speak with such distinct American accents...
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 24 January 2013, 01:30 PM
Scout's Avatar
Scout Scout is offline
 
Join Date: 27 January 2003
Location: Cumbria, UK
Posts: 1,215
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esprise Me View Post
And yet, while I couldn't necessarily pinpoint their city of origin, I could probably tell you they all sounded British to me, and I could almost certainly tell you they weren't American.

The only foreign accents that ever fool me are Canadian, and even then only for about five minutes.
exactly, and likewise, I couldn't tell you where in America someone speaking with an "American" accent came from, but I could tell you they were American, so there are obviously some traits within both UK and USA speech patterns that identify people as coming from one or the other.

Scout.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 24 January 2013, 01:59 PM
Brad from Georgia's Avatar
Brad from Georgia Brad from Georgia is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2000
Location: Oakwood, GA
Posts: 12,660
Default

I've seen a list somewhere of 24 American dialects. In Georgia, we have four: Standard American (which is Midwestern with some differences in most vowels and especially in the letter r); Piedmont (spoken in the northern rural areas and reminiscent of Andy Griffith's way of speaking); Plantation (spoken roughly below the fall line and recognizable as the "Southern" accent actors try for and fail to accomplish); Coastal (influenced by Gitchee and Gullah dialects). Each of these has some ethnic variant as well, so there are also sub-dialects.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 24 January 2013, 06:46 PM
Andrew of Ware's Avatar
Andrew of Ware Andrew of Ware is offline
 
Join Date: 22 April 2003
Location: Ware, Hertfordshire, England
Posts: 7,564
Default

At uni I had a friend who studied English Language and his dissertation was on the dialects of York (where we were). He later worked for a project looking at the dialects of north-east England and he became such an expert on his area that he could sometimes narrow down where someone came from to within a street or two. These were usually archive recordings before television began wielding its influence.

As regards American accents I think most British people could only recognise about three. I can tell what is usually called southern drawl, maybe a western accent and everything else is just, er, American.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 24 January 2013, 06:53 PM
Richard W's Avatar
Richard W Richard W is offline
 
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 23,203
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scout View Post
exactly, and likewise, I couldn't tell you where in America someone speaking with an "American" accent came from, but I could tell you they were American, so there are obviously some traits within both UK and USA speech patterns that identify people as coming from one or the other.
I don't think there's a generic "British" accent in the same way that there's a generic "American" accent. There are generic "English", "Scottish", "Welsh" and "(Northern) Irish" accents, but no common mix of those, unless you mean the modern sort of RP, which is really English rather than the others.

A generic British accent would probably sound something like Embra, and nobody sounds like that.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 24 January 2013, 07:23 PM
Beachlife!'s Avatar
Beachlife! Beachlife! is offline
 
Join Date: 23 June 2001
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 25,834
Jolly Roger

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew of Ware View Post
...maybe a western accent and everything else is just, er, American.
A western accent?
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 24 January 2013, 07:31 PM
fitz1980 fitz1980 is offline
 
Join Date: 27 May 2009
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 4,283
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
A western accent?
I would imagine he's probably talking about the Texas type accent often used by movie cowboys.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 24 January 2013, 08:21 PM
RocMills RocMills is offline
 
Join Date: 29 October 2012
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 34
Default

Where is Henry Higgins when we need him!?!
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 24 January 2013, 08:45 PM
ParaDiddle's Avatar
ParaDiddle ParaDiddle is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 3,137
Default

Quote:
Did you know if you said "beer can" in a British accent, you also just said "bacon" in a Jamaican accent?!
Stolen from a FB friend who admits to stealing it from somebody else.

- P
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 24 January 2013, 09:21 PM
Embra's Avatar
Embra Embra is offline
 
Join Date: 01 June 2000
Location: Surrey, UK
Posts: 7,747
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post

A generic British accent would probably sound something like Embra, and nobody sounds like that.


Tomorrow I will be doing my best Scots for the haggis.

Today I have been mostly poshing it on the phone for work, dontcha know!
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 24 January 2013, 09:52 PM
Moku's Avatar
Moku Moku is offline
 
Join Date: 20 October 2008
Location: Nowheresville UK
Posts: 1,420
Bacon

Quote:
Originally Posted by ParaDiddle View Post
Stolen from a FB friend who admits to stealing it from somebody else.

- P
I think that 'someone else' in this case was '1982', which was when I reckon I first heard that. Doesn't work in my accent.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 24 January 2013, 10:10 PM
ULTRAGOTHA ULTRAGOTHA is offline
 
Join Date: 06 October 2000
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 3,996
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
My uncle is convinced that rural Suffolk accents sound American; I'm not sure I see it myself, but then it was rare to hear a strong rural Suffolk accent even living in Ipswich.
There are words and phrases in Sussex dialect, for example, that are quite common over here but rare over there--fall for autum for example.

Lots of immigrants to certain parts of the US came from rural Sussex and Suffolk and their accents froze or went in a different direction over here. There are parts of rural areas in the US that have accents very close to rural accents in various parts of Britian 200 years ago.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 24 January 2013, 11:12 PM
ParaDiddle's Avatar
ParaDiddle ParaDiddle is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 3,137
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moku View Post
I think that 'someone else' in this case was '1982', which was when I reckon I first heard that. Doesn't work in my accent.
Thirty years makes it a historical piece by our standards; a timeless classic. It also doesn't work in a Jamaican accent but I'd have to be some kind of wanker to analyze a joke.

- P
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 25 January 2013, 07:12 PM
Horse Chestnut's Avatar
Horse Chestnut Horse Chestnut is offline
 
Join Date: 11 August 2004
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 4,607
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Embra View Post


Tomorrow I will be doing my best Scots for the haggis.

Today I have been mostly poshing it on the phone for work, dontcha know!
I did phone work for years and developed a "posh" generic phone voice, which kind of sounded like a newscaster's voice. But I was working in L.A. so I also copied the pronunciation of Spanish street names and places from my co-workers, and was good enough that I fooled some native Spanglish speakers. Then my usual Midwest/Appalachian accent would pop up again after work, especially if I had a few.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Major League Baseball told: Your sport is British, not American snopes Sports 19 29 October 2009 10:16 AM
Foreign Accents, Alien Hands and Other Medical Oddities snopes Medical 0 31 December 2008 06:27 AM
British cataract patients in WW2 AdmiralSirJohn Medical 6 30 January 2008 09:02 PM
Boston accents snopes Language 71 18 January 2008 02:41 AM
British Voice Flubs? UEL Questionable Quotes 16 28 March 2007 06:52 PM


All times are GMT. The time now is 03:23 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.