Growing up in England, you get to know a thing or two about accents. In my case, from a relatively young age, I would secretly practice various incarnations of British English - often using the speech style and dialect of British celebrities.
I learned Cockney from Michael Caine, and channeled the cast of Brookside to sound more like a Scouser. In fact, soap operas - little though I cared for them - were actually an invaluable source of acquisition. Emmerdale taught me to speak like a Yorkie and Coronation Street like a Mancunian. I learned a Welsh variant by listening to interviews with former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes. Any attempts at Glaswegian were inspired by Billy Connolly, while my bastardization of Irish brogue was the unfortunate result of watching too much Father Ted.
And of course, because Britain is saturated with American television and film, I even picked up what I'd always believed to be a relatively decent American accent.
However, until I began interacting with Americans during my university days, I also legitimately believed that there existed only three accents in the United States: 1) that of the New Yorker 2) that of the deep south and 3) "general American".
What a revelation it was, then, to discover that not only does the deep south possess a variety of accents within itself, but that accents differ wildly up and down the entire country.
One of my favourites comes from far north: the adorable and elongated delivery of words like no (which becomes noo) in Minnesota. You may be familiar with this speech style from the film Fargo, though Minnesotans are quick to point out that the accents used in the movie are "over-stated". Anyway, it's a beautiful accent and I could listen to it all day.
Further down, in my former home state of Indiana, Hoosiers like to insist that they don't have an accent, that their brand of "American" is more in line with nightly news anchors. While this may be true in certain areas of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, there is actually a very pronounced Indiana drawl that at once seems to be a combination of northern and southern styles. Further, the Indiana dialect is marked by phrases such as "who all is going?", which would seem to have its roots in the South.
Speaking of the South, there are all kinds of subtle variations in accent and dialect beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Along the coast you have Virginia Piedmont, a non-rhotic dialect (meaning speakers don't pronounce the "R" in words like car), while in the state of Louisiana, there are several dialects from French, English and Creole. Meanwhile, from the Ohio River down to northern Texas, there is the South Midland dialect, which bears all the hallmarks of a southern drawl, save for the fact that it incorporates the rhotic R.
Perhaps my absolute favourite (sorry, Minnesota) would have to be a Bostonian accent, or - as it is known more broadly in linguistic circles - Eastern New England dialect. There is something so gratifying about hearing the word yard pronounced with both a broad A and a non-rhotic R, while Eastern New England is probably the only dialect in America in which the words father and bother don't rhyme.
Over to the west coast, you have the dialects of the Pacific South West and Pacific North West. The latter is characterized by Canadian-esque vowel shifts and the tendency to pronounce words like string as shtring. In California, most of us think of the accent and dialect used in films like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But the Golden State is home to some 38 million people (roughly the same as Poland) and speech patterns vary depending on where you are.
In truth, the United States is swarming with hundreds of subtle variations that it would be difficult to cover them all in one blog post. When you take into account the further influence the Hispanic and African American communities have on the language, you realize how complex American English is.
But maw on dat layda.
Laurence Brown is a British man writing his way through the truly bizarre world of America - a place he sometimes accidentally calls home and a place he still hasn't quite figured out after seven years. Thankfully, his journey is made 12% easier by the fact that his accent makes him sound much smarter than he is. For evidence of this, subscribe to his popular Lost in the Pond web series over on YouTube.