• Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Gee, I just love your accent...

    I've never been to the US. I've visited many countries, close on twenty I think, but never the US. There's no particular reason for this except I just haven't managed to get around to it yet. There's so many American programs on TV and American films in the cinema that I guess it feels like there's no need to go there as there's a permanent window in to the US in the form of TV and films. And sadly there's rarely anything I see that inspires me to go jump on a plane and check-out the US.

    But what really fascinates me is stories of Americans going all gooey over the British accent. It's a common thing we Brits here about and most Brits I know who have either visited the US or made it their home have experienced it at some point.

    Recently there was something on the BBC website about all this, triggered by Stephen Fry noting that: .."..a British accent can fool unsuspecting Americans into detecting a brilliance that is not there."

    The piece went on to discuss attitudes in the US towards the British accent and Brits in general, generally portrayed on screen as either plummy upper class buffoons or just simply the bad guy. But it seems that Americans have this feeling of the British accent somehow sounding, "better than any American accent - more educated, more genteel," to quote Rosina Lippi-Green, a US academic.

    Apparently one of the reasons for Americans associating Brits with high intelligence and a brain the size of Boston is that many actually assume that Brits speak English as a second language and are thereby super-smart for having managed to master the English language so well. Grrr! Whilst hiring a car in Florida a friend of mine was complimented by the woman dealing with the transaction for being from England but being able to speak English so well, "how did you learn to speak English so well?" Any connection between "England" and "English" was simply missed altogether by her.

    Then there are those who say that getting a girl in the US is simple if you have an English accent. Is this really true? Certainly I have many friends who have visited the US either for work or pleasure and most have engaged in some kind of relationship with American women, though if it was an accent thing is not known.

    Personally I've met many Americans and generally they seem to have a pretty good grasp of British history and certainly understand where their language comes from. Though I guess the average American I meet is probably not reflective of the average American on the street in the US: educated to high level, working abroad. And I've never experienced American women throwing themselves at me or drooling over every uttered syllable, though I guess that could just be a me thing.

    Diverging slightly, the only American I've met that I didn't like was a well known blogger who is a dangerously self-opinionated, ultra conservative, extremely right wing Christian and proudly homophobic. He also has trouble stringing a coherent sentence together and thinks Bush is the most visionary leader in the world today.

    Having read about this and spoken to many people I wonder if maybe it's just simply an accent thing. People like the sound of accents other than their own. I personally find women with a French, Italian or Japanese accent a big turn-on. And closer to home a woman with a Geordie (from Newcastle) accent does something for me too. So maybe it's not just that it's a British accent but just the fact that it is an accent that Americans find attractive, if in fact they do. Or could there be some deeper more historical explanation to this attraction.

    Gee, I just love your accent....



    Blogger Liza said...

    Ahem... As an American (and as an American with a thing for accents), I can definitely vouch for the fact that Americans love British accents. Personally, I prefer South African or Irish accents, and I'm also rather partial to English spoken with a Dutch accent...

    As for Americans not knowing that English is spoken in England, sadly, it doesn't surprise me too much.

    7:38 pm  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    No, can't agree on the South African and Irish accents. American accent on women is quite nice, as long as it's not to Texan sounding (apologies to any Texans reading).

    I thought the US education system was good, don't they teach history and geography? That said, I'm sure similar questions asked to the average Brit would prove equally embarrassing.

    11:07 am  
    Blogger Stephen said...

    I enjoy your blog; I stumbled across it yesterday looking for info on military coups in Thailand.
    Too bad you are leaving - I liked your insights on BKK and Thailand in general.
    I'm American. Visited Thailand since '90; moved to SEA (HK for 1 year then Singapore) for 7 years, and finally made it to live in Phuket with my Thai wife and kids (so I relate to the sick-kid posts).
    About the British accent; yes American girls go ga-ga over it; it's also because of how Brits are usually portrayed in movies and TV as sophisticated and charming. Hell, even Madonna tried to adopt one :-)
    Yep, a large part of Americans are ignorant and oblivious of what's going on in the rest of the world. But, so what? They are happy (like my family of farmers in the Midwest) and mostly have very good normal day-to-day lives. It's their choice. When I go back (I avoid it whenever I can), I notice how nice Americans are - it still strikes me.
    And, as you point out, it certainly makes a difference if you meet Americans in the US or Americans in SE Asia. Most of the Brits that I've met in Thailand live here, and because of that, have money, and for most of them it's mommy and daddy's money, and they're stuckup snobby spoilt schoolboy types :-(

    Good luck with the travel back to the UK.


    10:46 am  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    Stephen: Hey, don't get me wrong I'm not having a pop at Americans (only the one idiot I mentioned). Incidentally I come from a farming family too.
    Sad to be leaving in some ways. I know nowhere is perfect but always seems that many of the problems here are completely avoidable, just there's always a financial reason not to avoid them.
    We're heading to the UK but to be honest as much as I love my country I've lost the desire to live there so I don't think we'll be there for long. I like Asia but not keen on living in Thailand at the moment. Ho-hum, life goes on. Your link didn't seem to go anywhere btw.

    10:33 pm  

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