Please explain different UK accents to me.

It’s easy enough for me to identify what a British/English accent is supposed to sound like, versus an Irish or Scottish accent. But there are so many subtle and not-so-subtle variations that UK citizens are always identifying based on region or class, and I have no idea how it breaks down. If I cite some characters from movies and TV shows, could experts tell me what specific types of accents they use, where they come from, and what they signify about the characters?

The typical English “chimney sweep” (is this a “Cockney” accent, like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady?)
Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (educated librarian)
Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (much less refined-sounding)
Wesley Wyndham-Price from Angel (again, more on the educated side)
The narrator in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (a heavy accent)
Austin Powers (obviously exaggerated for comic effect)
Elizabeth Hurley in that first Austin Powers movie
Jason Statham as the narrator in Snatch
Hugh Grant as his usual foppish characters
Pierce Brosnan (an Irishman) playing James Bond
Sean Connery’s normal Scottish brogue vs. the heavy Scottish accents in Trainspotting
John Cleese in his typical roles
The different accents in The Office (David, Gareth, Tim, and Dawn)

Are there different types of Irish and Scottish accents as well, similar to all the regional variations in British accents?

Yep, that’s a Cockney. It’s worth noting that Dick Van Dyke’s accent in Mary Poppins is widely regarded as the Worst Cockney Accent Ever. And most attempts at Eliza are little better. However, there’s plenty of people with real Cockney accents (which merge into other London accents, and also the modern Essex accent), and elements of rhyming slang are part of mainstream vocabulary.

I don’t know the Angel one, but the other two have always struck me as slightly artificial - Spike’s is a vaguley tough-guy accent without a single specific geographic location, and Rupert’s is supposed to be an Oxbridgey-sound, but isn’t convincing.

I don’t think it’s possible to pin Austin’s down to anything in particular. It’s a melting pot of all sorts of cliches and references that dilute any particular accent he’s supposed to have. As for Liz Hurley, it’s a slightly-exaggerated upper-class accent. Note that geographical distinctions between accents disappear when you get into higher classes.

He actually speaks like this. If I meet someone with this type of accent, I immediately and unthinkingly assume “private-school buffoon who’s living off daddy’s money”. Perhaps :stuck_out_tongue:

Trainspotting was based in Edinburgh, and therefore featured local accents. There’s huge varieties across Scotland. Someone who knows about Sean Connery can explain more about his origins

Well-educated southerner. Not necessarily upper-class, but grammar school & Oxbridge education. (I think this is probably actually an accurate description of most of the Pythons’ backgrounds.)

David’s accent is that of Ricky Gervais - he’s from Reading, where the beginnings of the West Country accent are heard. Gareth’s is a much stronger West Country accent, which is almost a comedic cliche for ‘stupid rural idiot’. Tim and Dawn have very nondescript southern accents, which in reality are fairly typical of people in their situation, where families and upbringings have criss-crossed to a point where a distinct accent does not develop.

I assume you mean compared to the different English and Welsh accents? :wink: …but yes, even across small geographic distances there’s variations, although sometimes they’re so subtle that only local people can tell the difference. I can spot a Norfolk accent as being out of place, but nobody from outside of East Anglia could do the same.

Fascinating! This is exactly what I was curious about. OK… what about Ali G (again, probably an obvious exaggeration), the so-called “chavs,” the cliched snotty English punk rocker, and the various accents on Are You Being Served (with a cast that was already quite old in the '70s)?

Not, unfortunately, a very wide range of accents on your list, to an Englishman, at least. I’ll go through the ones I know.

If you’re thinking of Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”, that’s nothing remotely like any sort of English accent spoken anywhere in the world. :slight_smile: Eliza in “My Fair Lady” is a fairly reasonable Cockney, as is her father’s (Stanley Holloway).

A much more authentic Cockney/London accent.

This accent is best described as “Mid-Atlantic” - common among DJ’s 30 or 40 years ago. Someone from the south of England trying to sound American (rather than putting on an American accent).

Incidentally, Mike Meyers does a very good Scottish accent in “Shrek”.

Upper-class London - “Sloane” is the colloquial term.

Sean Connery’s voice is very distinctive - it’s not typical of any area of Scotland. The accents in “Trainspotting” are from Edinburgh - the Glasgow accent is heavier still.

Middle-class southern.

I personally (as a Northerner) would say that all four characters you mention have the same accent, perhaps with Dawn’s being slightly stronger - generic lower-middle-class south-east England, but not the full “Estuary” accent that Dawn’s boyfriend has.

Ali G - it’s a very tired satire on people who ‘acquire’ speech patterns & language which actually just makes them sound silly. While it’s boring due to Sasha Baren Cohen not being very funny, you can walk down any high street in Britain, or go into any school, and hear kids attempting to sound like 50 Cent.

Chavs…a home-grown monstrosity. This site is a good place to start. Again, find them on any high street.

The cliched punk rocker is, I guess, the Sex Pistols. John Lydon & Sid Viscious are certainly both Londoners, tying in with my earlier comment about all London accents merging into one another. Go into any unpleasant pub in a rough part of the capital, and you’ll quite likely hear voices not dissimilar to theirs.

Are You Being Served - hah, someone else can explain that one :stuck_out_tongue:

Hah, just Googling the backgrounds of the actors in The Office…didn’t realise that Dawn’s real-life father is Jasper Carrott, a rather lame comedian who brings a Brummie accent into the periphery

It’s importan to note that often people from towns right next to each other have different accents. I’m from the north west of England. People from the next town in one direction (Bolton) have a slightly different accent to mine (Wigan) and so do people from the town in the other direction (St. Helens, who have a slight Scouse twang to their accent).

It’s also important to note that accents can also differ across generations. Go into a club that’s a regular of ex-miners, for instance, and you’ll hear a radically different accent in some cases to that of what you would hear on a schoolyard.

There’s a great resource of local accents here:

I’ll make a stab at “Are You Being Served”. :slight_smile: Remember this is more of a farce than a sitcom, so everything is deliberately exaggerated for comic effect.

Captain Peacock - Formal RP / “BBC English”
Mrs Slocombe - Lancastrian who has taught herself to speak RP.
Miss Brahms - “Mockney” - exaggerated London/Essex.
Mr Humprheys - Completely over-the-top “camp” accent - Northern rather than Southern English, though. :slight_smile:
Don’t remember Mr Lucas’ accent well enough to characterize it.
The maintenance man who appears in a lot of episodes is a more authentic Londoner.

There are several groups of accents in England that just aren’t heard much in the sort of films and TV shows you’ll see in the US. Your examples don’t include any accents from the North East, Cumbria, Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Hull, Stoke, the West Midlands, the East Midlands, or East Anglia, which are all quite distinct accent groups to my ears. Some people would break them down further. And that’s only England.

It’s hard to come up with examples of any of these that you are likely to have heard. Sean Bean has a South Yorkshire accent, but he often tones it down to something approaching RP (the “newsreader” accent). The Beatles had only mild Liverpool accents, Ringo’s perhaps being the strongest. Robbie Williams has a mild Stoke accent. The Gallagher brothers of Oasis have pretty much retained their Manchester accents.

An accent you may be familiar with is that of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit - this is a stereotypical “Northern” accent.

Personally I can’t place Wallace’s accent but would suggest either Lancashire or Yorkshire (or some mixture thereof).

Oh be fair, Pete Postlthwaite will crop up sooner or later :stuck_out_tongue:

As I already suggested :slight_smile:

True. If only Daphne had a real Manc accent in Frasier, things could’ve been different (trivia quiz: which Frasier actor was actually born in Manchester? no Googling)

Well, since you’re asking, I’d assume it was the only character who didn’t have some sort of affected speech - the dad?

You presumably mean John Mahoney, but he was actually born in Blackpool, though then brought up in Manchester.

Of course, you’ve got members of Daphne’s family hailing from Romford, Dundee and Rutherglen, amongst others, so it’s possibly no surprise that the prevailing Moon family accent is hardly pure Manchester.

Arse, I’ve been out-trivia-ed. Grrrrr.

The new (before he quit) Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston is a wonderful example of a northern accent, and the Dr. aired in the US. He sounds just like my hubby ('cept hubby gets narky when you tell him he sounds like a Lancastrian, coz of he’s from Yorkshire and all).

IMO, the Yorkshire/Lancashire accent is my favourite. And sexy as hell to boot.

bonzer writes:

> Of course, you’ve got members of Daphne’s family hailing from Romford, Dundee
> and Rutherglen, amongst others, so it’s possibly no surprise that the prevailing
> Moon family accent is hardly pure Manchester.

And Anthony LaPaglia, who plays another member of the family, actually comes from Adelaide, Australia. Why anyone would cast him as British is beyond me. He’s well known for his Italian-American New Yorker accents.

Small nitpick, but “British” includes Scottish and Welsh, as well as English.

There are most certainly very strong regional differences of accent around Scotland (and Ireland, but I can speak first-hand of Scotland). Some people have already given examples of Glasgow and Edinburgh accents. Unfortunately I can’t think of any popular examples from the region where I lived (Aberdeen). Quite a strong accent, there, though.

On my husband’s last ship (in the merchant navy) the crew came from all over the British Isles, as well as Newfoundland and the Faroe Islands. They nicknamed one man “Swahili John” because his accent was thoroughly incomprehensible. IIRC he was from Peterhead, just up the road from Aberdeen.

Aberdeen has a dialect called ‘Doric’ that makes things that way. ‘Wh’ comes out as ‘F’, so ‘What’ = ‘Fit’

It’s a great place to live.

And Sean Connery is in a little accent boat aaaalllll to himself.

There are a lot of regional accents in Ireland. There are several in Dublin alone based on area and class. Outside Dublin each county basically has it’s own accent and there are even regional variations within them.

Colin Farrell talks with quite a strong Dublin Accent(South side of Dublin slightly posh but purposely made to sound more working class)

Gabriel Byrne talks with a more working class inner city Dublin accent.