Culture and Entertainment

Accents and Language

How to tell accents apart

4 Amazing Things About Languages

I feel like I’ve linked all the Wired videos this guy has done. I wish he had his own channel with videos on all the different accents. It’s just so fascinating and lovely listening to an expert, everything I’d heard/read before was from the perspective of casual observer.

Anyone notice in older tv shows and maybe also movies, actors were allowed to keep their regional accent? I just noticed that last year when watching Monk and listening to Sharona’s strong Boston accent. And later hearing the accents in Clueless. You can tell when accents are real vs. oh, I don’t know maybe Daniel Craig’s awful accent in Knives Out.

I feel like now, everyone’s accent is “polished” out (Well, not Tommy Lee Jones, but then he is of the older generation of actors wait, those Texas actors in Supernatural still sound Texan too, I guess you can’t streamline Texans), actually everyone’s enunciated is polished out too, maybe because they don’t really hire people from the areas they are portraying. Are we all going to eventually sound Standard American, whatever that is? I hope not. How boring.

Midwest Translation. I found this on Fernway’s Call blog. This is very specific to the upper Midwest, and I didn’t even know this accent existed until the last few years (and it really can be that strong although he’s obviously exaggerating his own personally; I, um, thought someone at one of my jobs was from the Northeast, don’t kill me, turns out he was from Minnesota, both are super nasally).

By midwest, I was usually thinking Ohio Valley-Missouri and the flyover states. Needless, to say any Midwesterner I hear sounds NOTHING like that, it’s going to be “neutral,” country, or southern. I think the real American “neutral” (what newscasters are/were trained in) is the Salt Lake city/Utah area accent (per my favorite Albion’s Seed).

Canadian accents can have a slight resemblance to the upper Midwest accent. Also, I felt like more of this type of thing could’ve showed through on That 70’s Show! That would have made it much more authentic, so would’ve hiring people from that area. I mean a few people had a performed accent, but I mean, I wanted more regional stuff, just day to day differences. I feel like they thought adding in beer all the time was Wisconsin enough.

This pdf from the census bureau is the actual geographic regions of the U.S.



  • Catherine

    Interesting that you think accents are getting more polished on TV – could be something to do with stuff being broadcast to more countries? I always used to struggle with the accents in Gossip Girl – had to get the subtitles out for Dan sometimes. But I hope they don’t get lost, you’re right, it would be so boring if everyone spoke the same. I’d rather put the subtitles on than lose the regional accents, and it’s always nice to see your own accent represented.

    • Livia Rose

      Yes, I think there must be some training out of regional accents to some extent or people who go to LA lose them? And perhaps they are told to speak louder, slower, and clearer (something not the case in Sherlock, I think perhaps that was more normal speaking)? Which causes things to lose the flavor of accuracy. Even if it is global I’d rather hear all the different regional accents?

      I did have a hard time with Sherlock at first (I think that surprised me because I’d watched a lot of period dramas, but I think at first Sherlock didn’t attract a large global following) and Midsommer Murders I think I did put subtitles on. I think maybe smaller films or tv efforts less effort was made to have a “non-accent.” I do feel like a lot of British tv/movies I’ve seen show different accents even if the actors aren’t from the area. But a lot of those are period dramas.

      I also think that at least in the US, casting is not from the area as much anymore if it isn’t one of the “big areas” like New York. One thing I’m super happy about is that Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are both from Kentucky and while the Appalachian Eastern Ky/West Virginia accent/word usage is NOTHING like the areas they are from, it is a least a state that bears the brunt of the worst of coal mining and Appalachian culture just like District 12 where it is supposed to be generally set.

      Now I’m curious about Gossip Girl to see how strong the accents are. I’ve heard lots of strong North eastern accents, but I can understand them, but my sister went to Boston one time and couldn’t understand the voice on the train giving out information.

  • Catherine

    I’d never thought about the accents in Hunger Games, I suppose because it’s a dystopian world, I forget it’s based in a future US. I’m trying to think what the accents are in Sherlock now, in my head they’re all just RP – but I suppose you get the cockney London characters too and Moriarty is Irish? I’m due a re-watch I think!!

    • Livia Rose

      They probably are, but I think the first seasons seemed more made for those used to a British accent. I don’t know, I do remember reeallly struggling to catch things, everything was fast, low, and quick, and posh and maybe that altogether was too much for me? I know Americans get a bad rap for being loud (and seemingly needing loud to hear?), but I had thought my hearing was ultrasensitive. Of course, I kinda am like that anyway when watching many things, too many things coming at me.

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