Episode Information

CMS: Accents and American English
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In this episode:

Colin hones his vocal chops with an accent coach and explores the divergent speech patterns of language in the U.S.


Episode Audio

49:33 minutes (23.78 MB)
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People who would never tolerate any other obvious form of prejudice often make an exception for accents. Something sounds smart in a British accent and dumb in a Southern accent, right?

On the other hand, there's something genuinely funny about accents. And the more you know about them, the funnier it gets. Until Monty Python came along with their dazzling kaleidoscope of Yorkshiremen, Cockney gangsters, upper class twits and drunken Australian philosophy professors, I didn't appreciate how many British-derived accents and dialects there are. To this day I think some of their routines would be even funnier to me if I had a keen appreciation of how people from Rutland sound. 

Here in America, the Northern accent versus the Southern may actually be the sharpest reminder of how some of us still can't quite believe this is all one country.

So, today, accents. We'll get serious about them. Except when we're fooling around.

You can join the conversation. Leave comments below or e-mail colin@wnpr.org.

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Listener E-mail from CLS

I was really looking forward to this "accent" show.  But it really turned out to be disappointing.  The British woman you have on the show, well, I don't understand why you have her. Yes she's British, but that's all she can do accent wise.  Her American accent was just terrible, even her British accent sounds clumsy.  You should have gotten any of the British actors, they switch in a heart beat and you can never tell.  And I thought you were going to have someone showcase a variety of accents. 

Anyways, I like your show, but next time, really get guests who are good at what they do.

Listener E-mail from Lee

A whole show on accents? Really? This is almost as bad as the whole hour devoted to tea. Or my personal favorite train wreck, the one when you were getting voice lessons. I understand there is a place for light fluffy stuff, rare and strange hobbies, and with - I would venture to guess - fairly little interest in the majority of the WNPR community, but  perhaps you can consolidate into like a 10-15 minute segments and have a fluff show. But really, a whole hour devoted to accents? Once again I'm bored and am forced to turn off the radio.

I'm confused as to what the purpose or theme of your show? Your blog has an interesting commentary on Connecticut politics, which would be certainly more interesting to hear about than accents and tea. What is your goal in your show?
May I make some suggestions? Why don't you incorporate more of your commentary on Connecticut politics. Or you have a lot of moms listening to your show at this hour, why not incorporate some shows that would appeal to the parenting community? Like the new advancements in education, understanding teens or the growth of a homeschooling community in Connecticut.
Please - more substance, less fluff that would be better suited for a private cocktail party conversation, rather than the public radio forum.

Listener E-mail from Martha

Love today's topic ....
My husband came here in the early 60s.  He was a great guy - but people made wild assumptions about his background - He is from greater Manchester ... lived in Liverpool for a time and he describes his own accent as from (as he calls it)  "the grimy industrial northwest").  I took a philosophy course with him and our Lithuanian professor told him that he loved hearing him speak because " .... you speak the perfect BBC English."
When we met my friends used to say, "Don't you love listening to him talk?"  To which I would reply "The garbage he spews is the same garbage your boyfriend spews ... it just sound pretty."
My mother fell in love with his accent, although she would tell me that she had a hard time understanding his "strong" accent ... then, of course, when we'd visit his mum in England she grimace and tell his he sounded so "American" that she could no longer understand him.
The really funny part about his accent is that it gets stronger whenever we're watching BBC America or watching the "Brit-coms" on PBS.

Listener E-mail from Paul


Having been an actor (who learned a number of dialects) I am a HUGE fan of dialects. The show today was the very best!

Last week tubas, this week dialects. I've died and gone to WNPR.

Listener E-mail from Joyce

The tendency to adopt the manner of speech of those surrounding you is a natural one.  After all, that is how one learns a language and its accent.

Listener E-mail from Molly

I was just wondering if there's a reason that English accents are so attractive to Americans.  I have a dream of marrying an Englishman just so I can hear him talk all the time; most females I know similarly swoon over the English.  However I have a feeling that American accents are not considered "sexy" in England.  Is there a cultural or linguistic explanation for this?