Saturday, November 13, 2010


Frequent fliers and those who move to the UK frequently pick up a slight British accent.  It happened to Madonna and Gwyneth.  I find it charming myself.  I actually write with a British accent sometimes... you just can't tell.

Over the years I've noted how students who have studied abroad, or spent a lot of time with Mother Teresa and people from India have a little foreign lilt to their voice.

I had a religious priest-friend who pretty much imitated Missionary of Charity speak all the time - a slight British/Indo accent.  When I was younger, I adopted it myself for awhile.  Everyone knew I must have just come from Europe and must be pretty well educated and maybe even holy.  I pretended not to notice their admiration and kept repeating, "Jesus meek and humble...." in order to stave off becoming full of pride.

Once while I was doing the first reading for Mass at a friar's first profession outside of Boston, I used that voice - raising my eyes on occasion, I caught a glimpse of a priest friend I knew watching me.  It was almost as if I could read his thought, "Who the hell are you performing for?" 

He knew I was a phony.


  1. Oh, the humour of recognition!

    When, years ago, I presented financial seminars, I found a slight Scottish tinge to the voice did wonders for sales.

    Caledonian probity, ye ken...

  2. "- a slight British/Indo accent"..
    Wonder if I will pick that up. My new boss is from India originally.
    I'd better not though, my co-workers will say, "You're such a suck-up!"

  3. +JMJ+

    Some accents are harder to pick up than others. I lived in New Zealand for two years and picked up absolutely nothing.

    I tutored an Iranian boy for two hours (during our very first meeting), and I had his nanny in stitches when I bid goodbye to her. Apparently, I sounded exactly like her six year old charge.

    And I write with an accent, too, Terry. I just won't tell you which one.


    I love you, Terry!

  5. I've always found Madonna's British accent both irritating and highly pretentious. I think I may have detected Paltrow's accent on a previous occasion, but I don't recall it being as disturbing as Madonna's. Oh, and Gillian Anderson is another one who who acquired a British accent as well.

    Do British folks who move to the US lose their accent after a while? I've never seen that happen.

  6. Austringer1:21 PM


    I think many do lose their accent, unless they hang around other Brits.

    I recently met a man from Ireland whose accent was barely detectable -- my husband was surprised when I asked the man if he was from Ireland, and more surprised when he responded that he was.

    I think this is an individual thing: if I'm talking with someone who has a strong accent, I will start to pick it up -- it's quite unconscious on my part. That never happens to my husband. So, maybe the Brits who haven't lost their accent simply are not inclined to pick up an accent.

  7. When I was at University in Wales in the 1960s we had a Professor, originally from Cornwall, who had spent several years at MIT. He had most definitely acquired an American accent.

  8. Oh so random! Where did this thought spring from??

    Once while working for a corporation I was heading up a mrkt research project for a chemical product group whose Mrktg VP was of Eastern Indian origin. Upon the completion of the research and presentation of the results, this gentleman (and he was) approached expressing in rapid speech his delight in the study's findings. I was quite amused by his visible enthusiasm, listening closely to understand what he was saying because of the accent, that afterwards I gave a big smile and said reflecting his accent, "vedy, vedy, good!"

    Oy!! My words just issued out that way ...

  9. I'm trying to figure out why you didn't read it with a Boston accent?


  10. ok so maybe this makes me pretentious, but i've always had an ear for languages. in fact, when i took the vocational test for the armed forces, i tested off the charts for linguistics. anyway, whenever i'm around someone with an accent, i start to pick it up. i can't help it and i start doing it without even noticing. so i can totally believe some folks pick up accents & others don't. i think it's interesting.

  11. Us women are suckers for accents....and the marketers have it all figured out...I am especially mesmerized by Aussie, Irish, and Southern could read to me out of Playboy and I would be sitting there with the dreamy eyes going "mmmmmm...keep reading.." :)
    I never daydream during Mass if there's a good Irish priest :)

    Whenever I go down to the Deep South I pick up the accent....I was speaking real Southern after spending 7 months in Mississippi in Air Force technical school...

    My coworker from Texas (Dallas) still has his drawl even after being in Utah 30+ years...

    I'm from accent here.. :)


  12. I write with a Midwestern twang. But I read with a southern drawl. I can't figure out why, either.

    My kids say I speak in "Dad" - high volume, mad face.

  13. Carol - no matter how much I faked it - they always knew I was from the midwest.

    Larry - I sound exactly like James Taylor when I sing. When I'm imitating old people, I mean.

  14. I sometimes try to cultivate my own native New Orleans "Yat" dialect, but I apparently never really picked it up :(

    Isn't it funny how Americans fall for British accents, but Brits never talk like Americans to sound pretentious?

    The only thing I can think of is Mick Jagger's overexaggerated twang in of the Stones' more country-esque songs. And you can REALLY hear it when he sings backup on Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"

    And by the way, Aussies do lose their accents, even if Brits don't. Try listening to Mel Gibson or Nicole Kidman (Russel Crowe too?).

  15. Your story of getting caught was quite funny! So cute!

  16. Thanks SF!

    pml - actually this post isn't all that random. There is a blogger in the UK right now bloffing in a British accent - for example, rather than writing the American 'behavior', he is writing the English 'behaviour'. Now I couldn't very well let the old chap get away with that, could I.

    Au resevoir!

  17. +JMJ+

    "Bloffing," aye? So that is what it's called.

    I'm glad to know the word for it, because I've been doing it for several years.

    And if I could get away with writing the British "judgement" rather than the American "judgment," I'd do it more often.

    Really, Terry, you blog about it as if it's a bad thing!

  18. ... it's Norwegian ..."bløffing"

  19. +JMJ+

    And here I thought it was one of those made up/mashed up words, like "blegging"! A combination of "blog" and "bluff." Ah, well . . .

    Thanks, Pml. =)


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