Accent ettiquette

Now obviously someone like Madonna, who is a celebrity known for changing her image to suit her album sales, starting to use a British accent is somewhat obnoxious. But what about your average person who relocates to somewhere with a different local accent or dialect? Even within my home location I tend to pick up the speech peculiarities of my friends and associates. That’s got to be something that’s common within cliques as well. What’s considered normal speech pattern uptake, and what’s considered… offensive or distasteful? For example if I moved to England from America, saying “bloody” and “wanker” might not be noticed, but what about the enevitable creep towards mimicking the accent, especially if it was just a natural thing and not out of pretentiousness?

It’s a question of degree, and how long you’ve been in the new place. People who move across the U.S. (especially East to West) often lose most of their regionalism or accent. I don’t know that it’s a question of etiquette–it’s just being fake or pretentious. Besides, as you mentioned, everyone changes the way they talk on a daily basis, depending on the context.

I haven’t heard Madonna using a British accent, but if she does, it must be pretty funny. Like a six-year-old girl pretending to be the Queen.

She doesn’t do an actual British accent. She does an arch-sounding voice that wouldn’t be out of place on the MGM backlot circa 1937.

I can be in a place for two days and pick up the regionalisms (including any accent) and not even realize I am doing it until someone points it out to me.

It was interesting when I spent five days in Dallas for a convention and picked up the Texas twang the second day I was there. My co-workers thought I’d lost my mind.

On second thought, perhaps they were right…

Ditto. It just happens. A week in Oklahoma for Nationals and I sound like I’ve lived there for years. If I’m around the in-laws for awhile, Bostonian creeps into my language. I don’t try to do it, it just happens.

Some people are just accent sponges. I spent six weeks near Boston, and I was paahking the caah for months after I returned to Kentucky.

I think it’s cool to intentionally use regionalisms (as long as you’re doing it right), but not so cool to deliberately fake an accent. There’s nothing wrong with non-deliberate accent creep.

I have serious accent creep.
Comes of having a Zimbabwean mother in Northern ireland. I have a separate accent for talking to my parents and to my husband. I sound Zim(ish) to my folks, and norn irn to my husband (who has a Coleraine accent himself -think James Nesbitt). After 6 years living in Dublin I had a soft sourthern accent at work…now working in West Belfast I apparently sound like that most of the day. Not conscious, it just happens.

I literally sound like whomever I happen to be talking to at that particular moment. Which isn’t a problem except when I’m at dinner with my parents, my husband and my sisters (who have picked up London and Leeds accents from uni) or as often happened at uni, going to dinner with an Irish person, a Malaysian, a Canadian and an Aussie. At one of those dinners my accent is different depending on who I am addressing my comments to. Freaks people out and I can’t hear myself doing it, so I can’t really stop.

I’m a mess.

I don’t absorb other accents at all. I’ve lived in the US for almost 7 years now, and i sound just as Australian as i did when i arrived, much to my mother’s relief. She didn’t want me to end up with an American accent. I should add that i’ve made no conscious effort to retain my Aussie accent or to avoid getting an American accent; it’s just worked out that way.

I have, however, picked up quite a bit of American slang and idiom, and some of this has been part of a conscious effort to make it easier for Americans to understand me. If someone asks me for something, or thanks me for something, my natural response as an Australian would be “No worries.” But i now often say “Sure” or “You’re welcome.” Similarly, if i’m speculating about something, i now tend to say “I guess” instead of “I reckon.” Minor things, but they can reduce the number of times that i’m asked to explain myself.

I sometimes find that people who don’t know me have trouble understanding some of my words, especially over the telephone. In order to counter the problem, i sometimes deliberately accent my r’s to sound more like an American, rather than speaking in the typical Australian manner. It’s actually sort of like the Boston thing; i naturally say chowd-ah, not chowd-er.

I don’t think I am much of an accent absorber, although I will pick up regional phrases and terms pretty quickly. My best friend in grad school was Scottish, and I found myself saying queue and bin and reckon and “we should do” all the time. My own accent is American but non-region specific, although when I hang out with Southners I’ll find a bit of my old Southern twang creeping back in (I grew up in Georgia).

I’ve recently relocated from New Zealand to the Greater Manchester area of England. It actually look me a few months to be able to hear the vowel sounds and now I’m starting to be able to imitate them. I still speak in my broad Kiwi accent though. I’ve picked up a lot of new slang words but to me they don’t sounds weird in my New Zild accent.

Every now and then at work someone will decide to ‘teach me’ how to pronounce a word, usually with hilarious results! :wink:

That’s the nice thing about being an Australian in Boston. If anything, picking up the Boston ‘aaah’ makes my accent sound way more Australian now than when I left, as it was heavily English influenced by my grandmother in my childhood.

I knew a woman from Ohio who moved to Australia for 6 years when she was 18. I swear she’d bust out her ‘Aussie’ to impress me, it didn’t work. Still, I lived in England for a year and I find myself using English phrases and language quirks when talking to them (I love ‘owt’ though I never seem to say it right) Sometimes it’s unconscious and sometimes not, but I couldn’t do a Brummie accent even if I tried.

Not an accent sponge here, either, and I have to admit I find those who are a little odd. Not the people, just the practice. I know that for those who come by it naturally, it’s totally not intentional, but it does strike me as an affectation. Apologies if I’ve offended - I don’t mean to. I’m just totally not one, so I guess I don’t get it.

I lived in Australia for six months back in college, and people back home were asking me if I was going to “lose” my accent and “gain” the Aussie one. Um, no. Yes, I’m much better at mimicking it now after hearing it for half a year, but no - I’m probably going to speak with my upper US Midwest accent 'till the day I die. I did pick up slang and such, but nope, no accent.

I noticed it happening to me in England when I tried to order a tomato sandwich. Everyone giggled every time I said “dumaydo” so I very quickly learned to say “toMAHto.” My Canadian friend tried to order “wader” in an English restaurant and got nothing but blank looks until he said “woh-ta.” So you unconsciously adjust, to avoid the giggles and blank looks.

In fact, in Bristol, I often had occasion to say “Toronto.” (Note that people (like me) from Toronto pronounce it something like “Teronna.”) But when I said it like that in Bristol I got the blankest of blank looks, so I had to (pretentiously, I felt) say “TorOnTo” in what was for me a most unnatural way.

It just happens. I generally give the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judgments of pretentiousness. The reason humans are so good at language is because we are so quickly able to incorporate new uses of it.

I’m an accent sponge to the point where I’ll pick up bits of accent over the course of a conversation. I worry about this because I don’t want the person with whom I’m speaking to think I’m mocking them.
I once spoke to a co-worker of my husband’s who was from Belgium (I think) and had a fairly heavy accent. I was sharing an office with a German coworker at the time, my boss was Indian, and most of the rest of my wing at work was Chinese. The co-worker asked me where I had grown up, and I told her I was local, born and raised and always lived around Pittsburgh. She said I had an accent. I assumed she meant a Pittsburgh accent, but she assured me it wasn’t local - definitely foreign- but she couldn’t place it.
I was embarrassed - I didn’t want her to think I was putting one on. I was picking up odd speech patterns from talking to her, as well as all the other accents I was surrounded by daily.

“No worries” has caught on somewhat around the world. I say it fairly often, but not usually in the context of “you’re welcome”, though, I admit.

I grew up in Northern California, but my last four years in the US were in the Midwest. A friend of mine in Chicago teased me before I left about how I’m going to teach all the Bulgarians to speak English with a broad California accent, but my parents love to tease me about my Midwestern accent. (My dad particularly thinks it’s hilarious when I call him “dee-yad”.)

Sometimes you can’t win.

I’m an American who’s partial to Australian manner of speech, especially the use of “cheers” as a thanks. I, of course, would sound dumb using it (especially here in America), but I think it’s cool to be the Aussie who says “no worries” (my friend and I even had a running joke, when we went off to college, that we would adopt an Australian accent once we got there, so as to woo the ladies; since they wouldn’t know how we were supposed to sound, it would seem authentic).

The only time I think adopting an accent is offensive is when a person is talking to someone who speaks in broken English, and they begin to adopt broken English, too! It seems demeaning, IMHO.

Another accent/regionalism sponge here. :slight_smile: I actually make an effort to be aware of that tendency in myself, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m making fun of them.

I have to be particularly wary if I’m talking with someone British: I lived in England for 2 years as a teenager and came back to the States with the ability to do a spot-on Yorkshire accent (which, 22 years later, I can’t do anymore :(), and to this day when I talk with someone from any part of England I’ll unconsciously slip into those speech patterns and slang – moreso than an actual accent, which I think actually makes it seem more like I’m mocking someone or being pretentious (and some British words/phrases just don’t work with an American accent!).

It’s funny, the things that stick with you: I still unconsciously use the British spelling of “-or” words (like “colour”), and sometimes when someone does something for me or gives me something I have to fight the urge to say “Ta!” instead of “Thanks!” One of my favorite shows of all time was All Creatures Great and Small, which is set in Yorkshire: I own the series on videotape and watch an episode or two every now and then, and whenever I’ve been watching it I’m always extra careful with the first person I talk to. :slight_smile:

Why on earth would it be rude to absorb an accent? Unless you’re mocking the folks with the accent, at worst I can see it as being kind of silly. But not a violation of etiquette.


I always think I have no accent at all, being on the west coast. I’ve lived in Washington all my life, but apparently I sound like I’m from away to some folks. And they’ll ask my what part of the South or Midwest I’m from, as if I have any idea who I’m currently sounding like…I don’t notice my accent changes or regionalisms from away.

My speech is peppered with such contradictory things as “Dude!” and “I’m fixin’ to…” and I guess it confuses people. Also, I don’t say Warshington, which is pretty prevalent in my area and marks me as some kind of outsider I guess.

I guess I don’t consider it rude to pick up and display other accents, because those of us who do it apparently can’t help it!