And Where The Heck Is That Accent From Exactly?

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At Swiss border control at Geneva Airport yesterday, I ended up within earshot of a “middle aged” American woman as I heard her explaining herself to the border agent. Apparently he had questioned her as to why she was in Switzerland. She stumbled a bit over words as she replied that she was here for a week’s vacation and lived in London.

Before she even said “London,” I’d had a feeling that was her “home.” For years I’ve heard her “accent” on most Americans long-resident here. The exception seems to be if they hail from the Deep South: that American accent seems to take a little longer to “Anglicize.”

Corner of my UK driving licence. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Corner of my UK driving licence. [Photo by me, 2016.]

How would I describe it? I’d term it sort of a “mid-Atlantic” accent. When I hear it, I immediately think of northeastern NPR reporter coupled with a slightly south of England soft delivery. (Most Americans in the UK reside in London and its nearby suburban counties.)

The best example I can think of where you’d hear it is from American soccer players who’ve been playing in the English Premiership for a while. Listen to goalkeeper Tim Howard when he’s interviewed; he sounds increasingly that way. Now retired goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who played in England for it seemed like forever, has it too.

I recall a U.S. player who hadn’t played in England once taking a swipe at Friedel’s accent, joking something along the lines of, “What’s that accent on Friedel anyway? Where’s he from exactly?” Wikipedia says Friedel was born in Ohio, but presumably it’s not “Ohioan”:

I must have it to some extent, but like most people I rarely hear my own voice as listeners hear it. I’ve been told more than a few times in the States that I have an “English accent” – but that’s an overstatement. I know I sound nothing like my wife, but rather I suspect by now unsurprisingly I use phrasings that she regularly does and that being among “the English” so much for nearly twenty years has had an accent impact.

We don’t tend to think of Americans as “immigrants”; personally, I don’t really consider myself as having “left” the U.S. and much of my life is there. I do think one of the drivers of the “accent” is as an American here you quickly realize your native delivery is “louder” than heard from most of the British. The English, Welsh, Scots, and Northern Irish (and Republic Irish) tend to speak softer and less demonstrably. You quickly learn as an American to “tone it down” if you wish to fit in better. Eventually that habit becomes ingrained, with the end result being your accent and speaking style are altered somewhat.

Today, just outside of La Clusaz, France, today. Not as sunny as yesterday, but still spectacular. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Today, just outside of La Clusaz, France. Not as sunny as yesterday, but still spectacular. [Photo by me, 2016.]

And as that photo above taken outside La Clusaz earlier also indicates, I haven’t gotten much writing done since we arrived here yesterday (save for blog posts). I’m spending too much time wandering around enjoying myself. A writer’s greatest trouble: NOT writing. 😉

Hope you’ve had a good day….whatever your accent. 🙂

Further thoughts?

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