The U.K.’s Independent newspaper reports a poll of “11,000 people” surveyed in “24 cities around the world” found that “a British accent is the most attractive accent in the world”:
More than a quarter of respondents preferred a UK accent with people in Paris, New York and Sydney the most keen, The Time Out Global Dating Survey found.
My wife has regularly joked to me that when we are in the U.S., she gets the feeling many people are not actually listening to the content of what she is saying, but are instead just listening to her saying it. 😉
The Independent also points out regionalisms among British accents were unaddressed. Yet there is a huge difference in accents heard in this small country of course. I suspect when foreigners think of the generic “British accent” they are referring mostly to a “Home Counties” / “Received Pronunciation” accent.
What’s that? Although fictionally set in Yorkshire, the Downton Abbey daughters – Lady Mary and Lady Edith – are essentially doing one of those. The real-life current Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) is probably another reasonable example. Other speakers include the naturalist David Attenborough.
The Independent went on to note that our American accent is second (uh, dare we ask about the regional New York and Long Island?), followed closely by the Irish and the Australian. Metro.co.uk adds that Italian is up there too (the Independent didn’t mention Italian), but says nothing about the Australian.
U.S. tourists’ accents evoke few reactions in “tourist areas” in the U.K. However, a generally American accent can get curious responses in “hum-drum” situations such as work. One personal example I had noted on here previously: in a London university office I’d shared with a couple of English colleagues, this once happened when I answered one of my colleagues’ phones in her absence:
I chatted with the caller briefly, took a message (we always did that for each other), and thought nothing of it. When my colleague returned, I told her, and she proceeded to return the call. Perfectly routine.
After they’d exchanged greetings, from the other side of the room I heard several “uh, huhs” out of my officemate. I glanced at her. Grinning while speaking, she looked back at me as she remarked, “Oh, yes, he’s American.” There was a pause from her end of the conversation, followed by a renewed smile my way. She added, “Yes, he is. Sorry.”
When my officemate got off the phone moments later, she said, “She asked who was that who answered the phone? I told her, and she said she thought you had the sexiest accent and asked if you are married. I told her you are.”
We had a good laugh right afterward.
Interestingly, which accent is missing from that top bunch? Both the Independent and Metro noted French is only fifth.
Fifth? Oh, la, la.
Reading of this poll caused me also to recall the good-natured “debate” I’d witnessed in a U.S. college’s foreign languages department between an Italian professor and a French grad student who was tutoring in the language lab. I refashioned it into fiction in Passports:
Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, I get a real kick out of this stuff. Indeed, I kinda suspect most of us do. 🙂
Hmm, by the way: British, American, Irish, Australian, Italian, French. That’s six.
So how is French fifth? Was there a tie? Oh, well, nevermind.
Have a good Tuesday wherever you are in the world, and regardless of whatever accent in which you happen to be speaking English. 😉