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  #51  
Old 06-12-2019, 12:54 AM
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This has always intrigued me, actually. We're talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there's about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six 'so-called' American accents. It's like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It's bewildering to me.
What's hilarious is I've lived in a youth hostel and so met tons of Brits and Australians who see pretty much no difference in US accents, while complaining about how US people can't spot the differences in UK and Australian accents. Basically, we all sound like regular people on tv or cowboys on tv, and that's it. We had a long, drunken, spirited discussion about this at the end of "Love, Actually" when a character returns from Wisconsin with a cowgirl sporting an LA accent and the non-Americans were all "what?" when we Americans started groaning.

("Fargo" really threw them. I'll never forget a British girl turning to me with an accusing scowl saying "There are people in America that talk like that, really?").
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  #52  
Old 06-12-2019, 01:25 AM
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Game of Thrones accents are a mess, family members have completely different accents.
The winner in this category has to be Daphne Moon's family on Frasier. Each one has a completely different accent, and they all sound the same to Americans!
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  #53  
Old 06-12-2019, 04:24 AM
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Yeah. Game of Thrones accents are a mess, family members have completely different accents. One that I've seen praised is Liam Cunningham (Irish) doing what is effectively a Geordie accent.
Littlefinger's was a joke. He shifted between English, something different, Northern Irish and Irish (which he is) and back during not just the show, during a season and sometimes during an episode.

Non UK people wouldn't notice it, but sometimes you'd go "Eh? He's Northern Irish NOW?"
  #54  
Old 06-12-2019, 04:28 AM
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In one of the Sharpe's Rifles sequels, Sharpe meets a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars who had been a loyalist from Virginia. The guy was kind of young, maybe 30 (and the story took place maybe 25 years after the Revolutionary War had ended) and he talked like Elvis.

There was a crime drama called Dempsey and Makepeace in the 80s. He's a tough NYPD cop on special assignment in London, she's local and HOT, they're partners. The actor playing the NYPD cop, Michael Brandon, complained that they wanted him to "talk like a cowboy from Oklahoma."

It's fair to say that each of the two countries in question has limited fascination with details about the other country's history and culture. We eat hamburgers, they eat steak and kidney pies.
  #55  
Old 06-12-2019, 06:27 AM
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Daniel Davis, who played Niles the Butler in The Nanny, is from Arkansas.

Allegedly, his coworker, Charles Shaughnessy, who was actually born in London, received complaints about his English accent.
I never watched The Nanny, but Daniel Davis is the guy who played Moriarty in a couple of Star Trek: TNG episodes, right? I had no idea he was American.
  #56  
Old 06-12-2019, 07:16 AM
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The winner in this category has to be Daphne Moon's family on Frasier. Each one has a completely different accent, and they all sound the same to Americans!
The Weasley family was the same...
  #57  
Old 06-12-2019, 08:05 AM
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Recently I've been watching a lot of videos from the British program Mock the Week. These videos were all of the segment "Scenes We'd Like To See", where the comedians who were the guests on the program that week had to come up with clever lines for situations that the host proposed. As far as I knew, the comedians on the show were British with an occasional North American, but I didn't make any attempt to look up where any of them were from. I noticed that Ed Byrne, one of the more or less regulars on the program, had an odd accent. To me, it sounded like some mixture of a British and an American accent. I finally looked him up and discovered that he was Irish. Now, I should have been able to distinguish accents better. I'm American, but I lived in England for three years as an adult. I've been back to visit quite a few times. I've also visited Ireland twice for a total of three weeks. I wonder if it's typical for an American to hear an Irish person (if the American has no idea where the person comes from) as being sort of British and sort of American.
  #58  
Old 06-12-2019, 08:31 AM
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I wonder if it's typical for an American to hear an Irish person (if the American has no idea where the person comes from) as being sort of British and sort of American.
It can be the case. A lot of Irish accents have some features that stand out as American to Americans and probably to a lot of English people (like rhoticism), and some features that might stand out as English-sounding.

It reminds me about past discussions about Alistair Cooke, an English writer and broadcaster who lived in America for many decades. English people thought his accent had turned American and Americans thought he had never stopped sounding English.
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  #59  
Old 06-12-2019, 09:22 AM
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Littlefinger's was a joke. He shifted between English, something different, Northern Irish and Irish (which he is) and back during not just the show, during a season and sometimes during an episode.



Non UK people wouldn't notice it, but sometimes you'd go "Eh? He's Northern Irish NOW?"
Complete fanwanking, but it fits that character, being a nouveau riche social striver who tries to fit in with royalty and isn't as successful doing so as he thinks he is. But it's probably not intentional.
  #60  
Old 06-12-2019, 09:54 AM
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(snip)
Yeah. Game of Thrones accents are a mess, family members have completely different accents. One that I've seen praised is Liam Cunningham (Irish) doing what is effectively a Geordie accent.
That’s not necessarily inaccurate. I knew a family who all had different accents; the man was from New Zealand and the woman from Australia, each having the appropriate accent. They raised their daughter in England, though, so she had an Estuary accent.
  #61  
Old 06-12-2019, 01:28 PM
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Lake Bell did a pretty good job in Man Up with Simon Pegg. Here's a quote from IMDB.

"Simon Pegg revealed that American actress Lake Bell stayed in character with her English accent during filming, even when not before the camera. It wasn't until photography was done and she thanked the assembled crew that they realized she wasn't English."

I'd say that counts as a pass.
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  #62  
Old 06-12-2019, 02:03 PM
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In "Good Omens", on Amazon, Michael McKean (Jimmie's brother Chuck, "Better Call Saul") does a wonderful job as the crusty old Witchfinder Sergeant. Yanqui here, so I'd like to be told, as gently as you can, just how wonderful a real live Brit might have found his accent. Considering that there are accents and dialects galore over across.
I'd ask my brother-in-law, but he's been here since 1970, and on visits back "home" he's been pegged as Rhodesian or, most recently, an American.

Dan

Last edited by Dandan; 06-12-2019 at 02:05 PM. Reason: sp
  #63  
Old 06-12-2019, 02:16 PM
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Irish actor Jason O'Mara, when he played an American agent in The Agency, had to go undercover as an IRA activist, and people complained that his Irish accent was bad.
  #64  
Old 06-12-2019, 03:24 PM
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That’s not necessarily inaccurate. I knew a family who all had different accents; the man was from New Zealand and the woman from Australia, each having the appropriate accent. They raised their daughter in England, though, so she had an Estuary accent.
Then Ned Stark must've got on a plane and done a huge adoption frenzy. I'm okay with the accents, it's just funny.
  #65  
Old 06-12-2019, 03:57 PM
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How about a Canadian doing an English accent? I like Mike Myers's accents in the Austin Powers movies, and in Bohemian Rhapsody. But I can't say if they're authentic or not. Can our UK Dopers weigh in and tell us what they think?
  #66  
Old 06-12-2019, 04:19 PM
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Irish actor Jason O'Mara, when he played an American agent in The Agency, had to go undercover as an IRA activist, and people complained that his Irish accent was bad.
There are different Irish accents; was he maybe doing an accent from a part of Ireland he's not from? Even Americans can hear the difference between a Dublin and a Belfast accent.
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:32 PM
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How about a Canadian doing an English accent?
Also Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black. She's Canadian but played a bunch of different characters with different accents on the show. Because it aired on BBC America, I've found a lot of people mistakenly think her English accent is the "real" one (also because that's her "primary" character) but nope. The guy that played her gay bestie/brother, also not English.
  #68  
Old 06-13-2019, 03:41 AM
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Irish actor Jason O'Mara, when he played an American agent in The Agency, had to go undercover as an IRA activist, and people complained that his Irish accent was bad.
Obvious question: which Irish accent? There is more than one.
  #69  
Old 06-13-2019, 03:44 AM
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Oh, the poor Canucks


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How about a Canadian doing an English accent? I like Mike Myers's accents in the Austin Powers movies, and in Bohemian Rhapsody. But I can't say if they're authentic or not. Can our UK Dopers weigh in and tell us what they think?
The Canadians often sound somewhat British and are hard to tell apart, it could be just a somewhat generic accent from southern England with no regional variations. And there are plenty in southern England, within London itself, for one thing. In short, the poor Canucks have a perpetual identity crisis. But they're nice people.
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:53 AM
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It's the same with dialects and languages in general. Land area is not the important factor. Important factors are a stable population over time and relative isolation from surrounding areas.
Part of it might also have had to do with the range of ethnic origins of the population in different parts of the country - Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Jutes and Danes, and so on. More recently, the development of recorded and broadcast sound has had some interestingly contradictory effects, although it's only been about 3-4 generations.

There was a fascinating TV documentary about a recorded archive of accents, collected by a German language researcher from British POWs in WW1 (so before broadcasting and sound movies). The different variations were played and discussed,so that they could hear their relative's recording.

But when the BBC was set up, its initial local stations soon standardised on the middle-to-upper class "educated" (RP) accent, to the point that when in WW2 the news was read by Wilfred Pickles with a (to today's ears) barely noticeable Yorkshire twang in the voice, there were complaints.

But when commercial television was set up as competition to BBC TV, it was on regional franchises, so it became important to them to portray a distinctive regional identity, which necessarily favoured people speaking regional accents (though these tended perhaps to consolidate into something a bit more generic than had prevailed before recorded sound).

And nowadays, accents are still changing, with street language picking up intonations and slang from more recent immigration communities, and accents around London merging into a more generic "estuary" mixture, as RP-speakers adopt some sounds once considered "common" and downmarket (diphthong vowels and glottal stops, for example), and people whose ancestors would once have been "Gorblimey guvnor" cockneys adopt RP grammar and turns of phrase.
  #71  
Old 06-13-2019, 08:06 AM
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One thing I've noted on scripted and unscripted British TV shows is that the English have adapted the American word "Guys" while almost completely abandoning the classical English equivalents like "chaps" or "blokes". It's interesting.
  #72  
Old 06-13-2019, 08:14 AM
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Part of it might also have had to do with the range of ethnic origins of the population in different parts of the country - Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Jutes and Danes, and so on.
Right, it's not that America is less diverse in a genetic or ethnic sense than England, but that there has been a certain degree of isolation and a history of limited movement, plus, much more time for the stew to simmer.

North America also has dialects and accents, even developing before our eyes, like the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. But because of communication and transportation patterns, they aren't necessarily limited to individual cities.

North American dialects map --
https://aschmann.net/AmEng/#LargeMap
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  #73  
Old 06-13-2019, 08:46 AM
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The Canadians often sound somewhat British and are hard to tell apart, it could be just a somewhat generic accent from southern England with no regional variations. And there are plenty in southern England, within London itself, for one thing. In short, the poor Canucks have a perpetual identity crisis. But they're nice people.
In what part of Canada do they sound British? I've admittedly not lived there long or toured a lot, but I've yet to hear any British accents, except from people who actually came from the UK (and most of those are Scottish.)
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  #74  
Old 06-13-2019, 03:23 PM
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One thing I've noted on scripted and unscripted British TV shows is that the English have adapted the American word "Guys" while almost completely abandoning the classical English equivalents like "chaps" or "blokes". It's interesting.
'Guy' has been used in Scotland since the 1930s. I think it's been used in England for at least 50 years.
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Old 06-13-2019, 03:32 PM
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Yes, my pick too. I have rediscovered her works and am smitten with her acting. Especially as Mrs Castaway in Crimson Petal and the White. Good series that.
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:35 PM
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By and large, American audiences don't notice or care if an Aussie or Brit mangles an American accent. In Britain, it's an entirely different story. If a middle class actor doesn't nail a posh accent or a Geordie isn't convincing as Liverpudlian or, heaven forfend, an English actor can't imitate a Scot, there will be gnashing of teeth and an agonized, nationwide debate. And if a foreigner fails at it...armageddon.
  #77  
Old 06-13-2019, 09:15 PM
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Littlefinger's was a joke. He shifted between English, something different, Northern Irish and Irish (which he is) and back during not just the show, during a season and sometimes during an episode.

Non UK people wouldn't notice it, but sometimes you'd go "Eh? He's Northern Irish NOW?"
I noticed he'd talk differently in different scenes (don't ask me to identify the accents, though) but thought it was part of the whole "chameleon" thing. Switching accent/dialect/register when you talk to different people, or even within a single conversation, is a negotiation/ingratiation technique. To me one of the difficulties of working in an Nth language is that I can't do that; in one of my primaries, I do it all the time.

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By and large, American audiences don't notice or care if an Aussie or Brit mangles an American accent.
That would depend on which American accent we're talking about: "somewhere in the US" can be mangled no problem; something more narrowly identified such as "Brooklyn" or "Louisiana", you'll have so much gnashing of teeth dentists will be lining up.
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  #78  
Old 06-14-2019, 11:05 AM
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Am I the only one who never notices accent errors? Like, ever?

Heck, I barely hear any difference among the various non-coastal, non-Southern accents in the U.S.


Powers &8^]
  #79  
Old 06-14-2019, 11:37 AM
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The cast of This Is Spinal Tap all got critical praise for nailing a Squatney accent perfectly.
Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:36 PM
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Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
He hasn't been in there since 1999, after they got a lot more serious about membership. He's still a lord, of course, but very few of them are in the House anymore. He doesn't speak with an English accent, but sure, it probably helps him affect one.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:03 PM
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Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
How the hell did I not know he's married to Jamie Lee Curtis, and because of that Jamie Lee is an actual Baroness? Heh, that's pretty cool. (He's not a member of the House of Lords though, but he was up until 1999)
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:16 PM
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How about Cary Elwes?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrFmuiF2ENY
  #83  
Old 06-14-2019, 02:47 PM
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In one of the Sharpe's Rifles sequels, Sharpe meets a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars who had been a loyalist from Virginia. The guy was kind of young, maybe 30 (and the story took place maybe 25 years after the Revolutionary War had ended) and he talked like Elvis.
That was Gavan O’Herlihy. Although he was born in Ireland he speaks with an American accent in interviews I’ve seen. He was also the disappearing Chuck Cunningham in Happy Days.
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Old 06-14-2019, 03:39 PM
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My family lived in Yorkshire from '83-'85 and my accent -- "regular" Yorkshire; I never got the hang of Broad Yorkshire -- was impeccable when we left, but I stopped being able to do it at least 20 years ago. I'd love to spend some time around Dales folk and see if it would come back, but I can't imagine any scenario where it wouldn't seem like I was mocking them.

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There was a crime drama called Dempsey and Makepeace in the 80s.
I loved that show!

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  #85  
Old 06-14-2019, 11:56 PM
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Area is not the thing here, it's history, tradition and population size. Texas has half the population than the UK, and has only been sizeably populated for about a century. By a vast and diverse set of immigrants who's common connection was Texas.

The UK is twice the population size and has 400 more years of modern age population, and limited transport meant that the fiercest rivalries and wars were often with the town down the road, with different speaking sorts... Accent distinction being a source of pride.
"In America, a hundred years is a long time. In Europe, a hundred miles is a long way." - Mark Twain

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'Guy' has been used in Scotland since the 1930s. I think it's been used in England for at least 50 years.
Even earlier, actually: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes
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Old 06-15-2019, 01:57 AM
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There was a crime drama called Dempsey and Makepeace in the 80s. He's a tough NYPD cop on special assignment in London, she's local and HOT, they're partners.
Glynis Barber, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
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  #87  
Old 06-15-2019, 02:02 AM
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Aha! But is that "Guy," as you and I would probably pronounce it, or "Guy," like the ski instructor on Frasier?
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Old 06-15-2019, 04:45 PM
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Aha! But is that "Guy," as you and I would probably pronounce it, or "Guy," like the ski instructor on Frasier?
"Guy", as in "Guido", actually.
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:08 PM
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"Guy", as in "Guido", actually.
His name was Guy. Guido is the Italian version he used while in Spain. Wikipedia also says: "Guy was an uncommon name in England, but may have been popular in York on account of a local notable, Sir Guy Fairfax of Steeton."
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:37 PM
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Amy Poehler was pretty good in this SNL sketch.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:49 AM
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His name was Guy. Guido is the Italian version he used while in Spain.
It's also how he signed his own name. In England. On his own confessions.

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Old 06-16-2019, 10:19 AM
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It's also how he signed his own name. In England. On his own confessions.
Right, but the name Guy wasn't based on Guido.
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Old 06-16-2019, 10:36 AM
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Right, but the name Guy wasn't based on Guido.
But the name he used up until death might give a clue as to how he, himself, would have pronounced it. I'm willing to bet it wasn't /ɡaɪ/
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Old 06-16-2019, 07:39 PM
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This has always intrigued me, actually. We’re talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there’s about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six ‘so-called’ American accents. It’s like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It’s bewildering to me.
Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on sociolinguistics:

Quote:
[Sociolinguistics] also studies how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social variables (e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, age, etc.) and how creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social or socioeconomic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place, language usage also varies among social classes, and it is these sociolects that sociolinguistics studies.
And some of the questions/example problems at the bottom of this ThoughtCo. article for some insight into why there are so many dialects in such a relatively small area. It’s probably a good idea to follow links that talk about the difference between accent and dialect.

The TLDR version is, dialects develop when there are divisions between groups of people. These could be physical (mountains and rivers, oceans, plain old distance), ideological (borders between countries, in-group/out-group), or social (class, prestige, peer group).

It takes time for an identifiable dialect to form. In the UK, there have been groups of people with really different linguistic influences living in more or less the same place for a very long time compared to the US (literally thousands of years in some areas of Great Britian, less than 200 in many cases for the predominantly European groups that took over in the Western and Central US states).

***

About variations in the way individuals speak: The divisions between dialects are always somewhat fluid, and often people will “code-switch” or change the way they speak according to the situation and the listener. Dialects become less fluid when speakers identify more strongly with a group, and more fluid when there are benefits/penalties for fitting in or standing out from a group.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:04 PM
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I know the thread is about accurate use of British accents by American actors, but had to mention my favorite bad example - that of Robert Duvall, who played Dr. Watson in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. His British accent was somewhere between pathetic and laughable.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:12 PM
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It's ENGLISH accents, btw. British would include Northern Irish (such as James Nesbitt), welsh (I can't name anyone using strong Welsh accent) and Scottish (countless but Ewan Macgregor (occasionally), Robert Carlyle (mostly) and, oh, yes Sean Connery).
Mostly right, except while Northern Ireland is in the UK, it isn’t in Britain. Your main point is entirely correct though, and I think when most Americans think “English accent” they mean RP, or maybe Cockney.

Even within the realm of “English accent” there’s no shortage - West Country, Jordie, Yorkshire, Brummie, etc., all very different.
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Old 06-16-2019, 10:11 PM
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The Canadians often sound somewhat British and are hard to tell apart, it could be just a somewhat generic accent from southern England with no regional variations.
Uuuuuuuuh...................wut?

Anyway, the Canadian Dave Thomas doing Uncle Trevor in "Arrested Development" could've used some...polish. And I don't mean that language, either.
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Old 06-16-2019, 10:29 PM
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By and large, American audiences don't notice or care if an Aussie or Brit mangles an American accent. In Britain, it's an entirely different story. If a middle class actor doesn't nail a posh accent or a Geordie isn't convincing as Liverpudlian or, heaven forfend, an English actor can't imitate a Scot, there will be gnashing of teeth and an agonized, nationwide debate. And if a foreigner fails at it...armageddon.
The actor who played Cora in Downton Abbey had a terrible American accent. I didn't realize that she was supposed to be American for several episodes.
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Old 06-16-2019, 11:47 PM
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hajario, you're talking about Elizabeth McGovern. She is American. When she was 30 or 31, she married a British man, and apparently she's lived in the U.K. since then. Her character Cora Crawley is supposed to have married a British aristocrat when she was 22 and lived in the U.K. ever since then. So she was exactly the right casting - an American who's lived most of her adult life in the U.K.
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Old 06-17-2019, 01:05 AM
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hajario, you're talking about Elizabeth McGovern. She is American. When she was 30 or 31, she married a British man, and apparently she's lived in the U.K. since then. Her character Cora Crawley is supposed to have married a British aristocrat when she was 22 and lived in the U.K. ever since then. So she was exactly the right casting - an American who's lived most of her adult life in the U.K.
That’s funny. I thought she was a Brit doing a terrible American accent. Thanks.
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