Accents: Some Folks “Got” It, Some Folks Don’t

I have always been fascinated by accents. My parents were Midwesterners—which still mostly sounds like the least accent-y accent in the States (to me)—but my father was in the air force, so we moved around a lot. When we moved to the island of Newfoundland—with many of English and Irish ancestry—I heard real dialect for the first time. “Sit here, luv,” some friend of my mother would say. I’d never heard love used like that; Midwesterners use different endearments.

So I was delighted when I stumbled on a series of “How to do a [you name it] accent” videos done by Gareth Jameson, a voice coach. Here he does a Geordie accent. This link will take you to all sixteen of Jameson’s videos: Cockney, British, Russian, Spanish, South African, New York, Welsh, Geordie, South American, American, German, Australian, French, Scottish, Irish … and how to lose your native accent.

The key to any accent, Jameson says, is to identify the specific sounds that only occur in that accent, that can be identified as different from other sounds. Maybe so, but I have “accent blindness”—I can hear ’em, but I just can’t do ’em. I really envy people who can.

There are lots of accent videos on YouTube, including this one I saw a few years ago (language warning—it’s funny but profane, so sensitive ears should refrain). But the one I’ve really enjoyed isn’t about accents at all—it’s a commercial for (wait for it!) PooPourri. Filled with British scatological slang, it’s performed in a posh English accent, and it made me scream with laughter. Enjoy!

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