"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

A Farthingsworth of Tall Tales from Blighty's Fameless Blog
Newsflash from New York (no, not that one!) |  Are the British better drivers? |  The Story of the Telephone Kiosk |  Drinking Nelson's Blood |  Screaming Jelly Babies |  Flying to the UK is very dangerous! |  Brits to drive on the right |  Who hung the monkey? |  Upper class virgins |  Double, double trouble |  What a Lovely Morning for a War

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

I don't have an accent!

An elderly English gentleman was walking along the road one day. He looked rather weary and leaned heavily on his cane as he struggled along in the summer heat. The local vicar was returning home in his car along the same road. When he saw the old man he pulled over and wound down his car window.

"I say" called the vicar to the old man; "can I give you a lift?"

"No thanks" the man replied, "I live in a bungalow".

It's okay to wince; it really wasn't a good joke and it would have been entirely lost on citizens of the Excited States to whom a building lift is an "elevator".

Several years ago I visited New Orleans on business (long before Katrina the wicked wind goddess of the Atlantic destroyed the city). One morning I found myself inside the hotel lift/elevator with a gentleman and his wife. The gentleman gestured towards the buttons on the wall and inquired as to which floor I wanted.

"Fourth floor please" I responded.

The gentleman's wife's face lit up as she turned towards me and loudly proclaimed - in a broad southern drawl - "Oh! you have an accent!!!!"

Had I been thinking quickly I might have replied "and I presume that you, madam, speak standard English". But I missed the moment.

Being of a cockney persuasion myself, I was given to teasing my Manchester born wife about her accent. "I don't have an accent" she would protest in a broad Lancashire dialect. I still tease today but she no longer denies it - she drives a Hyundai Accent.

Anywhere in Canada except the Maritimes, you can drive two thousand miles without hearing any significant change in dialect. In Britain you can sometimes drive as much as a hundred miles before the dialect changes so completely that you need a translator to communicate.

It certainly hasn't escaped the attention of the folks at George Mason University in the Excited States that English is spoken around the world with a huge variety of local dialects. In fact they have a database that currently has 1290 variations. You can listen to them all by visiting the university's Speech Accent Archive. I say, th'can listen t'them all b'visiting the university's Speech Accent Archive th'knows.

No comments:

Post a Comment