Now Accents?

Great Cicero’s bleeding adenoids, have we come to this?

Linguist Dr Rob Drummond, who works at Manchester Met University, argued using accents for comedic effect in sitcoms like Fawlty Towers, where Andrew Sachs famously portrayed a clumsy Spanish waiter called Manuel, promotes ‘lazy stereotypes’ and can be ‘pretty damaging’.

Damaging to whom, exactly?

While my native accent is pure Johannesburg WASP (often mistaken for British in America, but never in Britishland), I love doing accents.  While some are not so good (my Texas twang fools absolutely nobody), my Indian-, French- and even German-accented English are all pretty good.  (Afrikaans-flavored English, of course, is second nature.)  My Scottish accent is passable outside the U.K., but nothing beats my Australian — I’ve fooled even native Aussies into thinking I was pure Ocker, and having armed myself with some Strine slang, it’s unbeatable.

And if I live somewhere for any lengthy period of time, the native accent is easy — when I lived in north Jersey, even some of my NJ buddies could be fooled when I called them up and asked in my best Hoboken Nasal, “Yo, howya dooin’?”

So now I can’t do accents anymore, in case someone is “damaged”?

Fuck that.

14 comments

  1. Yet another university professor looking for new and creative ways to be offended is certainly promoting a stuffed shirt academic stereotype.

  2. I may have mentioned before, but when my friend’s hospital wanted to give lessons in speaking English for the Indian and Pakistani doctors that patients had trouble understanding it was protested that such lessons were an example of “cultural imperialism”.
    No mention, of course, that understanding what the doctor told you had any importance.

    1. Not for the veterinary-level medicine the nationalized healthcare proponents have in store for us. In fact, having the patient explain any of the nuances and less-than obvious symptoms might interfere with the doctor’s quota of patient thru-put for the day.

  3. Some of the finest examples of humor on the stage (specifically including vaudeville) required the misinterpretation of lines by actors with heavy, but highly differing accents.
    OTOH, I’ve rarely found any degree of “low” humor in high academe

  4. When I hear a person speaking English and their accent sounds like some sort of Brit stuff, I have no idea where but it is not USA English I just ask them a simple question, what I say is, “What part of Texas are you from?” I usually get a laugh and then they tell me their country of origin or else they say, “Houston, Dallas” or something like that we have a lot of funny talk’n folks who have moved to Texas from all over.

    My Texas accent places me between Wichita Falls and Amarillo with the panhandle, nasal, twang that sounds kind of like extras in old Gene Autry movies.

    1. I like that inquiry, as it is an innocent way of finding out more about someone. I am pretty good at figuring out US regional accents, but the way someone talks is a part of who that person is. Why not appreciate the differences and value them?
      I have received compliments on my French even in Paris where two very nice ladies asked if I were Belgian. I was very flattered, but maybe that was an insult?! Who knows, but I was beaming.

  5. Not the accent so much, but I love how those from the subcontinent put English phrases together. I still remember from forty-five years ago when an Indian co-worker wanted to give me a compliment and wanted to demonstrate sincerity by prefacing it with the following: “Now Larry, I am not putting butter on you.” It cracks me up every time I remember it.

    As for the Professor, he can pound sand.

    1. Which reminds me of a friend who had a colleague from the subcontinent who referred to something that was exceedingly easy as a “piece of bread”.

  6. Some things to note.
    First, he’s not a professor, noting that in British parlance that would be a head of department. The title he goes by is “Dr.” which is lower down the totem pole; he might be a lecturer or thereabouts.
    Second, Manchester Met is not much of a university, being a former polytechnic and before that, the Manchester Mechanics Institute*. There’s what probably thinks of itself as “the real” Manchester University elsewhere. (By the way, check out the available courses on Manchester Met’s website if you want to see full on lefty posturing.)
    So this is a wannabe professor at a just-barely university, parading his and the institution’s lefty credentials in the hope of being taken seriously by the actual academic elite.

    * Not running down Mechanics’ Institutes of course. Successive Governments, trying to expand higher education back in the last century, took every vaguely academic institution going and promoted them to ‘polytechnic’ and then university status. First rate technical colleges stopped doing what they were good at and became third rate universities instead.

  7. Even after years together, my wife is still taken by surprise with my occasional lapses into South Philly dialect. It’s not Rocky Balboa-level impenetrable, just a word or phrase here and there. As a f’rinstance, my late Father used to say ‘greazy’ for greasy, and ‘zink’ for sink. The zink, by the way, is the thing with the spickets that dispense wooder.
    One of my party tricks is to describe the inflection dependent multiple meanings of the word ‘Yo’. One can also do that with the expression abbreviated ‘wtf’. It’s fun, and serves to remind people of who they are dealing with.
    Stay safe.

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