Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Accent Does My Blog Have? (Seth)

This is a little item my big brother wrote which you can view here,.. paraphrases someone who I wouldn't normally even phrase, let alone with paras, GB Shaw, who said something to the effect that it's impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without another Englishman hating him...ah yes, we English really 'do' accents more than anyone in the anglosphere and probably beyond...I'm talking accents, not dialects, that are made much of in the region of Europe where I live, or these little minority languages ( which reminds me of a witty aphorism, which means you've probably heard it long before me, that a language is nothing but a dialect with an army). But accents, proper, absurd, comical-sounding accents of the type which suddenly disappear when you're beyond 20 miles in any direction and are replaced by something else.
It's puzzling to north americans how such a huge variation of accents can be found within such a, to them, piddling little area of land. I remember Aleksei Sayle on a show with, I think, Bill Bryson, pointing out that a scouse (Liverpool) accent suddenly fizzles out in some side street somewhere in St Helens only to be replaced by another, presumably Lancashire or Mancunian, accent. In my own experience, growing up where I did which was very middle England and therefore quite 'posh', if people had an accent at all it was a Coventrian one, a rather flat sounding but quite homely chatter that's quite distinct from the more well-known lilting brummie accent. In fact in the next village along to us, a commuter dormitory town in effect, you suddenly started hearing brummie accents, particularly amongst younger people whose social lives leaned more in that direction.
What's even greater about England is it's possible to have no accent, and still be English (I've never met an American without an American accent or a Scot below the age of 80 without a Scottish accent of some kind, and rightly so).
I fancy that I fall into this category. As noted, I was from near Coventry but definitely don't have that accent any more (and am often berated down south for not having a 'brummie' accent) but I don't think I'm especially posh either. Of course it's in the ears of the beholder, but if Shaw's right, someone, somewhere has to despise me on the grounds of the way I speak.
But in any event, accent-neutral it is, which leads me to ponder Seth's thoughts on the fact that blogs have 'accents' too - the tone, vocab, syntax and even punctuation can create a written accent that can put people off or attract them simulataneously. I'm acutely aware of the plethora of sarky attempts at pithiness that bloggers, journos and the like come up with, so I must apologise for adding to this already-crowded field. I suppose that makes the blog's accent something like, though it hurts me to say it, 'mockney'. Hmm, I think I need to go to elocution lessons...

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