What Does Your Accent Say About You?

I was told once that I have a “posh” accent (I’m doing exaggerated finger air quotes). This was said to me by a colleague in a manner that I can only describe as slightly derisive. Before you picture me like this….

Air hair lair!

Air hair lair!

…rest assured, I am most decidedly not posh-I just licked marinara sauce off a paper plate soooo….My colleague’s comments were most likely due to the fact that we have quite different accents.

You see, I’m not local to the area that I live in. I currently live in the exact town that the actor Chris O’ Dowd hails from, whereas I’m originally from the area Paddy O’ Brien*, legendary sheep-shearing champion, is from. What do you mean you’ve never heard of him? *grumbles incoherently*
The south. I’m from the south.

For an island as small as Ireland, there is a fairly large diversity of accents. Unfortunately for us, these accents are grossly misrepresented in international cinema. I’m looking at you, Tom “ta bay shure, ta bay shure” Cruise. What many people outside of Ireland don’t know is that there are many different Irish accents, not just one generic “top o’ the mornin'” Oirish accent.

                                                dog

To understand this better, think of the actor Chris O’ Dowd’s accent. Now think of Colin Farrell’s. They’re both Irish yet have quite different accents. If you have ever seen the actor Cillian Murphy (Inception, Batman Begins) speaking with his real accent (he does so in the Irish film The Wind That Shakes The Barley) you will notice that his accent also differs from both O’ Dowd’s and Farrell’s.

O’ Dowd hails from the west of Ireland; a county called Roscommon to be precise (and my current location for all you stalkers out there). Farrell is from Dublin in the east and Murphy is from Cork, down south and not far from where I am originally from. I suppose the most famous celebrity closest to where I’m from is lead singer of The Cranberries, Dolores O’ Riordan. Although there are some similarities in our accents, her’s is much
thicker than mine. Michael Fassbender also has a similar accent to mine, except his is more refined whereas I sound like I might possibly know how to herd cattle (side-note: I do).

I had never really thought about my accent too much until my colleague pointed it out to me that day. My accent would not be hugely different from the local accent, but when I speak for long enough, it’s evident that I’m not local.
I suppose in some ways, it’s what marks me as “different.” When my colleague referred to my accent as “posh”, I had to laugh. That could not be further from the truth. When I get excited or angry, I tend to get very high-pitched and my accent becomes virtually unrecognisable. Jack gets a great kick out of this (he’s from Dublin and our accents differ quite substantially). My students used to get a great kick out of how I pronounce the word “forty.” While the locals here (and most of you, I would bet) pronounce it ‘four-ty’, I really enunciate the ‘r’, so it sounds kind of like ‘faaarrrr-ty’ . *allows you time to snigger*

It did lead me to realise that we really do form opinions on people based on their accents. For example, in Ireland, there is a widely pilloried accent called the “D4” accent which comes from an area of Dublin called Dublin 4. This is a wealthy and affluent area where the accent is notably different from other Dublin accents. It is definitely heavily influenced from both English and American accents and I suppose you could consider it the Irish equivalent to the Californian “Valley Girl” accent. It is hugely unpopular with many people outside of Dublin 4, who view it as pretentious and false.
I actually had a dear friend with this accent years ago. She was kind, caring and fun. Whenever she came to visit me though, it was clear that everyone we met viewed her with scorn and disdain. Actually, people hated her. She later got a job in Cork and told me that her boss frequently told her that her accent was awful and that he hated hearing her speak. He would also pass comments like “oh, did Daddy buy that for you?” even though she was as far from a spoiled princess as you could imagine. Despite the fact that she was one of the sweetest people I have ever know, many people had a prejudged stereotype of her as some shallow and selfish person and refused to get to know her on a personal level. That is utterly ridiculous to me, but I have known several people who have felt prejudged, based on their accent.We are all guilty of making false assumptions about someone based on their accent.

To be fair, we are all possibly a little guilty of making assumptions about a person based on the way they speak. Someone with a ‘posh’ accent may be judged as cold or aloof. Someone with a more ‘common’ accent may be judged as unsophisticated or ignorant. Of course these are ridiculous stereotypes, but they do exist.

Aw haw haw...sorry

Aw haw haw…sorry…and now I’m stuck mimicking a French accent..YUR MUZZAHR WUZ A ‘AMSTAR AND YUR FAHZER SMELLED OF ELDERBERRRIIIEEEES

Why don’t you come and tell me about your accent because when I read your comments, I usually put on a robot voice and it’s getting very old very fast. I’ll just sit here saying ‘potato’ over and over.

                                    pot

Psst! C’mere! If you happen to be on Twitter, you can follow me here. I once made Wil Wheaton laugh, which will be my claim to fame for a hundred years. I will totally follow you back too, because I’m so nice.

*… he probably exists, anyway.

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45 thoughts on “What Does Your Accent Say About You?

  1. The V-Pub says:

    The Queen of the Emerald Isle has an accent? This would have been a wonderful VLog post, so we could hear for ourselves! Well, truth be told, I have an accent as well. And, I might add, that my accent gets more pronounced with each glass of wine consumed. I think my friends call my slurry or slurred. Either way, I can be pretty difficult to understand!

    • janeybgood says:

      ROBERTO! How I have missed you. Ever since my phone (aka my life) broke, I haven’t been able to use this as much. I really would love to vlog…perhaps some day.
      Haha, I slur after wine especially. It’s funny because I think I’m making sooo much sense haha. I’ve always found an American accent (I know there’s a huge diversity too, so I mean a generic ‘TV’ one, I guess) to sound so clear and well-spoken! But wine makes incoherent dopes out of us all 😂

      • The V-Pub says:

        I’ve missed you as well! I think Vlogging would be wonderful! I hope that you consider it one day. In the meantime, I will try to keep my wine induced accent under control! 😀

  2. pensitivity101 says:

    Ah. accents. I was not allowed to take French at O level (even if I’d wanted to) as I spoke it with a Dorset accent. Hubby says this really comes out when I’m angry as my ORs come out as ARs. Now Dorset could be pronounced DOORset or DARset depending which side of Poole Harbour you were born on. Having been born in a council house to boot (no hospital for me and my Dad helped the district nurse bring me into the world) maybe my accent is rounder than most (ie more common?). One thing is certain though, listening to myself on someone’s answerphone was a wake up call as to exactly how BROAD my accent is!

    • janeybgood says:

      I had similar problems with French! It’s funny because even within a ten mile radius of my childhood home, there is a fairly sizable diversity of accents! My ORs come out as ARs also, to the amusement of the locals up here!
      Haha, there really is nothing worse than hearing a recording of your own voice/accent is there?! I love a broad accent though. I think that a lot of people today try to affect an accent. A broad accent seems much more genuine to me.

  3. NotAPunkRocker says:

    American South here…only I have been told I sound like I haven’t ever been to the South. Occasionally it may come out that I have a slight accent on certain words, but even when I say “y’all” (and I say it a lot) it sounds as generic as can be 😀

    • janeybgood says:

      Oh I love that accent. I know there’s lots of different southern accent, but a gentle one sounds very quaint! And I wasn’t sure whether anyone actually said y’all, know I know haha!

  4. Erika Kind says:

    I totally hear you with those accents. Imagine we are a country of only 37000 inhabitants and we have 11 dialects! Can you believe that. Then there is Switzerland and Austria. They all have different German dialects in regions… Germany itself of course too. It is funny and crazy at the same time!

    • janeybgood says:

      That is amazing Erika! Would those dialects be very different? In Ireland, there are four main areas, or provinces, and they all have their own dialects of the Irish language which can be quite different. I am always fascinated by language!

      • Erika Kind says:

        Yes, I am fascinated too! The dialects within the small Liechtenstein don’t differ that much except one who really stands out since the origin comes from Swiss settlers. But for example any Swiss dialect differs completely from any Austrian dialect. The Austrians don’t understand the Swiss at all if not used to the dialect.

      • janeybgood says:

        Really? Wow, that is amazing! Even Irish people speaking Gaelic would be able to understand a *little* of the Gaelic that Scottish people speak. I do remember that my brother ( a fluent German speaker) had difficulty communicating with someone in Zurich, who was speaking German. They were very different dialects. He managed better in Austria!

      • Erika Kind says:

        Yes, Austria is closer to High German. But all whether Swiss, German, or Austrian people they all are able to speak High German. So it is sad that this one from Zurich did not make the effort to do so. Most of all in the knowing he had someone in front doesn’t speak German as his first language. The Swiss dialect definitely is the most difficult to understand.

      • janeybgood says:

        I actually felt that too. I think she wanted to speak English instead, so pretended that she couldn’t understand him haha. My brother said that people loved speaking English to him, but he wanted to speak German, so it was frustrating at times. I wish I could speak another language as well as you speak English, Erika!

      • Erika Kind says:

        I think it is a reflex to make it easier for the other person to speak in their language…. but not of a use when you want to practice the other language… lol
        I am glad and thankful that I am able to speak another language well enough to communicate the way I do in English. I also speak French although I lost a lot of the grammar knowledge and words since I did not practiced it after my apprenticeship. A little Italian as well… very little… haha.
        But you know, when you speak English you actually can talk to the world… I wish we only had one language… and even then we wouldn’t all understand each other… lol

      • janeybgood says:

        Wow, you really are knowledgeable Erika! I absolutely love Italian. I love the language, the food, the wine. I would love to get married in Italy actually.
        It’s funny, because there are some dialects of English spoken in England that I find difficult to understand, not to mention Scotland. So even among those of us who speak English naturally, we still find it hard to communicate at times haha!

      • Erika Kind says:

        I remember that it was a little tough to understand the Scots at times, when we visited Scotland… lol
        Did I mention that I speak to German dialects on a daily base? My Viennese dialect with my mom, sisters, and kids, and the Liechtensteinian with my husband and the country I live in.

  5. markbialczak says:

    Born in Brooklyn, which gave me a head start on the stereotypical Dese Dem and Doses accent. Grew up on Long Island, where they taught me how to pronounce the “th” sound, but did nothing to rob the Big Apple roughness of the rest of it. Now I’ve been living in upstate New York for 32 years, and I’m told my accent has flattened out to be somewhat like the Syracuse natives. But, Janey, let me tell you, it takes just a second or two of talking with my sisters, who still live down there on Long Island, for the edge to return to my accent. Hey, I love the way Dolores O’Riordan talks. Sort of lingers nicely on my ear. Haha.

    • janeybgood says:

      Haha, I see what you did there Mark! I have always loved the Brooklyn accent. I actually had to get extensive speech lessons as a child, to stop me say ‘dese, dem, dose’ and also ‘turty tree’! My mother hated it, but as I’ve grown older, I love an authentic accent that hasn’t been tampered with, even if the pronunciation is off.
      It’s funny how an accent can come back, isn’t it? You would think after 32 years, it would be gone. My fiancé has all but lost his Colin Farrell-esque Dublin accent, although, like you, it comes back when he’s with friends!

  6. Jessie Reyna says:

    It’s funny how people pick up on certain things when you speak. When I moved from the east coast of the U.S. to California, I accidentally let my New England lingo slip and said “It’s wicked hot out today.” Everyone proceeded to laugh at me and I couldn’t figure out why.

    • janeybgood says:

      That’s actually something you would hear in Ireland too! That is a huge move, from east to west! I’m sure there’s lots of differences in the accents but I would struggle to differentiate a soft New England accent from a generic west coast accent. Obviously I know there are strong New England accents, but I met two tourists a few years back who were from opposite sides of the US and their accents sounded similar to me, although they pointed out that an American would be able to tell the difference!

      • Jessie Reyna says:

        Haha yep! My mom has a pretty strong New England accent…although I have to say it’s more of a Massachusetts accent. I’m from New Hampshire and I didn’t end up with one like my moms!

  7. BHIB and Tom says:

    Here in Canada we don’t need accents. We are always recognized for our constant apologizing. “Oops sorry I was in the way when you bumped into me” or “Oh ya, sorry our country gets at bit chilly in the winter.” and “We’re reeeely sorry about Justin Beeber, we did raise him better then that.”
    Oh…sorry, I’m monopolizing the comments section…sorry…bye. 😉

    • janeybgood says:

      I have loved every Canadian I have ever met! You guys are ridiculously polite, it’s lovely. I actually met a Canadian tourist recently who was delighted that I was able to differentiate their accent from an American one. I was laughing because they said ‘sow-ry’ and it seemed such a heavy accent. It’s very charming!

      • BHIB and Tom says:

        See! I bet the tourist was apologizing for being Canadian! Or “Sow-ry, is it OK I’m in your country?” But we can drink anyone under the table with beer. Then while you’re on the ground in a stupor, we’ll apologize for doing it. 😀

      • janeybgood says:

        I actually drank beer with a Canadian relative once, it was a crazy experience. We actually had Canadian beer. I thought us Irish were good drinkers but woah….although I’m not a good beer drinker. Maybe we need to make this an Olympic sport!

    • janeybgood says:

      Like I said above, I adore the Canadian accent, and the Canadians in general! I think you guys are actually very similar to us Irish. The Oz accent is very heavy, so I’m surprised you haven’t picked it up. I’ve known Irish people to come home after five years with a hint of one. Although the heaviness of the Canadian accent probably cancels it out for you!

  8. marsnplato says:

    Hah! I love this piece, as I do all of your writing. My dad and stepmom just returned from Ireland a few weeks ago and they were trying to tell me just how diverse Ireland is. Now.I. Get. It. 🙂 Thank you!

    • janeybgood says:

      Aw thank you very much! Oh did they? It’s a lovely time of year to visit. It really is diverse, for such a small place. I hope they had a great time. One negative is that it’s hugely over-priced.

  9. Shauna841505 says:

    My accent is probably a standard American accent, although, I do hail from the Midwest, where we have very long ooooooo’s. As in, “doncha knooooow.” When I moved to California, I took a voice and diction class, in order to lose most of my accent. My accent in the USA is mostly considered a joke. 😦

    • janeybgood says:

      Aww 😦 I know what you mean. I think people are judged by their accents, mostly because of stereotypes based around the location the accent is from. It’s silly, of course, but it’s inevitable at the same time. I think it’s a reflection on the people who judge though, not on you. I have come to love my accent, as it represents who I am, and where I’ve come from. It’s a link between me and my ancestors. I also took classes, because I felt that it was hard to be taken seriously, but I realised that my actions are what matters, not the way I speak….although I loathe my voice more than my accent!
      And if it’s any consolation, I’ve heard the Midwest accent, and I think it’s lovely 🙂

      • Shauna841505 says:

        You’re amazing. I completely agree with you about the judging. I wish that I had my accent more now, the older I get. When I start to appreciate my life and where I’m from. When I was younger I just always wanted to be from somewhere else. Now I realize it’s a great place to be from and I’m lucky to have the connection. 🙂

  10. Spence's Girl says:

    I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and those like me feel we have no accent. But people from the south, Boston, New York, Minnesota and out west, think Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma etc have distinct regional accents. But not Michigan. 😊

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