Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear America, Not All British People Speak The Queen's English

Dear America,

I am writing to let you (and a certain number of your population) know that, contrary to popular belief, not all British people speak the Queen's English.

While TV shows such as Downton Abbey do depict the British people (a small, wealthy minority of the British people, I might add) as adopting what is known linguistically as received pronunciation, the great majority of Brits don't, and never did, speak this way.

In fact, Great Britain is blessed with an extensive network of wildly contrasting accents - and indeed dialects - from the most southern tip of Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. Among constant repeats of various Hugh Grant films, I am not altogether surprised that Britain's accentual versatility is lost on many of your people.

Indeed, I have noted that many of these same people, from time to time, like to "impersonate" a British person by adopting the Queen's English—or some under-rehearsed interpretation of it. While I am truly in favour of sampling another country's brogue, it would not harm your countrymen to attempt West Country or Glaswegian from time to time.

When I think of British accents, I think of Scouse (regional to Liverpool), Mancunian (Manchester) and  Geordie (Newcastle). I think of Brummie (Birmingham), Broad Yorkshire (Yorkshire, obviously) and Cardiffian (my way of saying Cardiff-speak).

In fact, I pretty much think of anything but the Queen's English.

Now I know what you're thinking: Brits are often pretty lousy at American accents too. Believe me, I aim to raise this matter with Britain in due course.

But I must conclude this by saying that, and I'm mainly talking to 8th grade performing arts students here, raising your intonation at the end of a statement does not make you sound British. In any way. So stop.

Sincerely,
A British expat

P.S. Dick van Dyke is not a good role model when learning Cockney.
This article was written by Laurence Brown. Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a contributor for BBC America and has written for Anglotopia. He is Editor-in-chief of Lost in the Pond and loves nothing more than to share these articles with anglophiles, expats, and other interested parties on social media. Follow Lost in the Pond on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

6 comments:

Melissa S. said...

And not every American has a southern accent - thank goodness.

Esgaroth said...

I dunno - there are some very famous American characters that were actually played by a British actor. Vivien Leigh comes to mind and she turned Scarlett O'Hara, the epitome of Southern womanhood, into one of America's most iconic characters.

Anonymous said...

As a Southerner, I take exception to Melissa S. stating "thank goodness". The prejudiced ideas that most non-Southerners have are mostly wrong as well. As far as TV and film, it is usually the worst done accent by most actors (thinking of "Steel Magnolias".

Anonymous said...

Dear Great Britain, There are more than the two American accents I generally see spoken in your television shows and films. We have a plethora of accents and dialects, just as you do. When you portray us, something other than New York City or Deep South would be preferred.

LifeBeyondBorders Blog said...

And there are some great British actors depicting Americans on TV: Andrew Lincoln in "Walking Dead," about half the cast of "Homeland," to name but a few. And apparently, British actors are better to work with - less egotistical. Yaaahh!

jim hanbury said...

I have a Minnesota accent.

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