Friday, March 7, 2014

Casual Friday: British Accents Explained

Friday, March 7, 2014

Loretta reports:

Accents have always fascinated me, often as a mystery to be solved.  Where is this person from?  In Florida, I had occasion to hear Midwestern U.S. accents frequently—but about the closest I could come to identification was “Midwestern,”  and this covered a large swath of territory, since I couldn’t distinguish Illinois from Wisconsin, let alone pinpoint cities.  Clearly, our language is not entirely homogenized yet.

Great Britain is a smaller place, yet the regional accents have managed to survive there, too, along with the mystery of their origin.  “Hmm.  Is that Cornwall or Devon?”  London I can identify fairly well, and I’ve a general sense of the north of England.  I can understand people in Glasgow, while in Edinburgh they might as well be speaking Ancient Egyptian.  It’s truly fun to hear the different ways English is spoken (another time, we can talk about regional usage and word choices) so I was delighted to come upon this short, canny sampling of accents.  This time I have to thank whoever posted it on Facebook, because due to a brain freeze, I failed to note the source.

Also, due to the technical limitations of my brain, I am offering a link rather than an embedded video.

You can listen here.

Illustration from Gray's New Book of Roads, 1824


Ana said...

Hahaha, great!
(And I went "Oooh, I know that one!" when it came to Downton Abbey :D .)

Sarah said...

I used to live in Birmingham (not the one in Alabam!) and teach in Walsall. I could tell there was a difference in the accents (just about) but my students could virtually pinpoint street by street where people came from between those two cities - Tipton was especially distinctive, for some reason.

There was a study a few years ago which showed that the majority of British people live within a couple of miles of where their Mums lived. We are not nearly as mobile as people in the US, so not surprisingly local accents are strong. This may also be increasing, as more young people stay in their home towns for further education, because of the cost of living away.

Joanna said...

I heard this item when it was originally broadcast. It does, howver, miss out my accent, and several others, in North East England.

I agree with Sarah's comments I can tell differences between different parts of my area. She also has a point about Tipton, my husband has some relatives from there.

Jacey Bedford said...

That's good as far as it goes but they missed out the north east altogether which is very distinctive. Regional accents vary not only by county but Yorkshire, for instance, varies almost by valley. In Barnsley you 'like y' wife' (with like and wife rhyming with eye), in the hills south of Huddersfield - barely 9 miles away - you 'lark y' warf'.

When we moved to this village my 4 year old daughter was nonplussed when asked by an elderly neighbour (upon starting school) "Dusta lark?" I had to translate for her. The literal translation would be "Does thou like [school]?" Yorkshire dialect still has remnants of thee and thou, which more often comes out as thaa.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I enjoyed hearing him shift from one accent to another. I've been to England a few times, and once, when my husband and I were in a Yorkshire restayrabt, I actually thought the people at the next table were from another country like Bulgaria. Being a writer, I'm an eavesdropper, and i couldn't understand anything they were saying. :-)

RomanceSlut said...

Oh dear. This really made me realize just how much I miss the wonderful variation of accents from my home country. The Midwest just can't compete..

Hels said...

After living in the UK for few years and then surviving on a tv diet of Morse and Frost, the ear becomes finely tuned to regional differences. I too cannot tell Herts from Kent, but I can certainly tell the Midlands from Newcastle from the Home Counties.

Sarah's students were far more skilled!

Still, it is a great game for us to play :)

Shelley Munro said...

When we were in our 20s hubby and I worked in London pubs, and a lot of Northern English people came down to work. It was really hard trying to understand what they wanted to drink!
And I think my Kiwi accent confused them too. :)

soinbhe said...

The 'English' of Edinburgh is Lowland Scots, a language that is not English but closely related to it, like, say, Flemish and Dutch. A dialect of Lowland Scots is also spoken in parts of N. Ireland where, under 'parity of esteem' rules, it is officially recognised, along with Gaelic, as Ulster Scots, a language separate and distinct from English. All official government announcements in N. Ireland must be made in three languages English, Ulster Scots and Gaelic. It shares grammar and some syntax with English but its vocabulary varies considerably, making the language somewhat impenetrable for regular speakers of English. You can test your understanding of Scots/Ulster Scots here:

Scrapiana said...

I had the impression that the average resident of Edinburgh would be much easier for a N.American to understand than the average resident of Glasgow. But perhaps I'm missing something.

Julie said...

Here is a slightly longer video with 17 different accents.

As an aside, I watched some of the Yes/No coverage from Scotland last night and there were definitely some people I couldn't understand if my life depended on it.

I happen to be originally from NYC and its suburbs, but I've never had any of the stereotypical Noo Yawk accents. But then, my father's family is from Michigan and my mother's family is from Philadelphia, so I was exposed to different accents from birth.

I live in Florida now, but I don't run into very many true Southerners. Most of the people I work with and socialize with are from somewhere else, just as I am.

LorettaChase said...

Julie, thank you! I'll steal this for a future Casual Friday. She's wonderful!

Kathy said...

That second video was much better! I couldn't believe that he missed the Geordie accent! (My mom is from Newcastle)

I also watched the YES/NO problems with accents but I do have issues understanding the thicker Welsh accents.

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