Author Topic: Divided by a common language...  (Read 2199 times)

Offline Peter B

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Divided by a common language...
« on: June 09, 2020, 09:06:20 PM »
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A fair point. Honestly, the way you colonials mangle the mother tongue... ;)

That's freedom for ya!

All seriousness aside, my penance as an actor is often having to perform English stage literature using the proper vocabulary and pronunciation.  Pygmalion doesn't really work with an American accent.  Conversely I have friends and acquaintances who are notable actors in or from England, who have also at times done American characters quite well in film and television.  According to them, the hardest word to say in properly rhotic English is "rural."  I proposed also "juror," and got no disagreement.  I'm told that prior to Received Pronunciation, the present Cornish accent is closer to what English used to sound like.  This may explain American.

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this is why 'Brahms and Liszt' is the cockney rhyming slang phrase for drunk, Liszt rhyming with pissed...

Ah, Cockney rhyming slang: the last bastion of utter incomprehensibility to anyone who's not from London.  Or Fred Dibnah to anyone not from Yorkshire.

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We say 'pissed off' to mean what I gather from TV shows most Americans mean when they say 'pissed'.

We use both interchangeably to mean angry.  In American in never means drunken.

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'Fanny' is another one to be very careful with....

Yes.  Most Americans have no idea why a fanny pack is worn in the front.

I thought this exchange worth preserving in a thread of its own, especially as there are so many different ways of speaking English.

Regarding the pre-RP pronunciation of English, I've read that David Prowse's West Country accent was the reason his voice was overdubbed with that of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, with Prowse being labelled Darth Farmer on the set.

From an Australian perspective there's long been a fear of American slang overtaking Australian English. But British TV shows provide a ready supply of English idiom as well, and in any case we Australians continue to be creative when it comes to idiom. (I'm pretty sure I've met the guy who's generally credited as being the first to put the word "selfie" into written form, thanks to Dr Karl's Self-Service Science Forum.)

To follow up on Jay's comment about rhyming slang, it's something which has a place in Australian idiom too, though probably not as much now as a few decades ago. It's also impenetrably local - the examples which came to mind would all need to be explained more than is worth the hassle.

What I understand is our most noticeable contribution to English is our contractions. Back in the 1990s the American magician-comedian The Amazing Johnathan had an act about eating a biscuit (Aussie/English version) at an Australian breakfast barbecue, or an Aussie barbie brekky biccie, after which he had to get treatment for a speech impediment...boom-tish.

But the interesting thing about the Australian accent is how niche it seems to be. On the one hand, many Australians living overseas quickly pick up an overlay of the local accent. But on the other hand non-Australians find it really hard to fake an Aussie accent - most American attempts sound appalling to Australian ears and most English attempts sound more South African than Aussie. The couple of seconds of Tom Hanks's effort from SNL I heard recently weren't bad, but I don't know how much more he attempted on the show.

So here's your thread for any comments or observations about the various versions of English as it's spoken and written around the world, and the traps the unwary might stumble into.

Offline smartcooky

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2020, 04:10:48 AM »
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A fair point. Honestly, the way you colonials mangle the mother tongue... ;)

That's freedom for ya!

All seriousness aside, my penance as an actor is often having to perform English stage literature using the proper vocabulary and pronunciation.  Pygmalion doesn't really work with an American accent.  Conversely I have friends and acquaintances who are notable actors in or from England, who have also at times done American characters quite well in film and television.  According to them, the hardest word to say in properly rhotic English is "rural."  I proposed also "juror," and got no disagreement.  I'm told that prior to Received Pronunciation, the present Cornish accent is closer to what English used to sound like.  This may explain American.

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this is why 'Brahms and Liszt' is the cockney rhyming slang phrase for drunk, Liszt rhyming with pissed...

Ah, Cockney rhyming slang: the last bastion of utter incomprehensibility to anyone who's not from London.  Or Fred Dibnah to anyone not from Yorkshire.

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We say 'pissed off' to mean what I gather from TV shows most Americans mean when they say 'pissed'.

We use both interchangeably to mean angry.  In American in never means drunken.

Quote
'Fanny' is another one to be very careful with....

Yes.  Most Americans have no idea why a fanny pack is worn in the front.

I thought this exchange worth preserving in a thread of its own, especially as there are so many different ways of speaking English.

Regarding the pre-RP pronunciation of English, I've read that David Prowse's West Country accent was the reason his voice was overdubbed with that of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, with Prowse being labelled Darth Farmer on the set.

From an Australian perspective there's long been a fear of American slang overtaking Australian English. But British TV shows provide a ready supply of English idiom as well, and in any case we Australians continue to be creative when it comes to idiom. (I'm pretty sure I've met the guy who's generally credited as being the first to put the word "selfie" into written form, thanks to Dr Karl's Self-Service Science Forum.)

To follow up on Jay's comment about rhyming slang, it's something which has a place in Australian idiom too, though probably not as much now as a few decades ago. It's also impenetrably local - the examples which came to mind would all need to be explained more than is worth the hassle.

What I understand is our most noticeable contribution to English is our contractions. Back in the 1990s the American magician-comedian The Amazing Johnathan had an act about eating a biscuit (Aussie/English version) at an Australian breakfast barbecue, or an Aussie barbie brekky biccie, after which he had to get treatment for a speech impediment...boom-tish.

But the interesting thing about the Australian accent is how niche it seems to be. On the one hand, many Australians living overseas quickly pick up an overlay of the local accent. But on the other hand non-Australians find it really hard to fake an Aussie accent - most American attempts sound appalling to Australian ears and most English attempts sound more South African than Aussie. The couple of seconds of Tom Hanks's effort from SNL I heard recently weren't bad, but I don't know how much more he attempted on the show.

So here's your thread for any comments or observations about the various versions of English as it's spoken and written around the world, and the traps the unwary might stumble into.

Many years ago, when I was still in the mob, I used to work in a place called EECC (known as "eeky squeeky"), the Electronic Equipment Calibration Centre, with a civilian tech called Jeff. He was from Seed Knee (that's Sydney for anyone not from Oz or NZ).

One day, after the pair of us had spent a particularly frustrating day trying to run down an obscure fault on a spectrum analyser (an HP8566B IIRC), Jeff invited me to go down to the (sgts) mess for a "schooner and rind o' peel".

Care to guess what this meant?
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Offline BertieSlack

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2020, 10:14:05 AM »
"Or Fred Dibnah to anyone not from Yorkshire."

Dear old Fred was from Lancashire.

Offline JayUtah

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2020, 11:52:14 AM »
"Or Fred Dibnah to anyone not from Yorkshire."

Dear old Fred was from Lancashire.

Oh, that's right.  I looked that up once and forgot it.  I have a hard time distinguishing a Yorkshire accent from a Lancashire accent.
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Offline Zakalwe

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2020, 11:55:01 AM »
A conversation between two Cumbrians that I overheard has always stuck in my head:

Fred: 'ow's thee?
Jack: Fran, thissen?
Fred: Gran and gradley


Translation:

Fred: How are you?
Jack: I'm fine. And how are you?
Fred: Absolutely great
 :o
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Offline Obviousman

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2020, 04:08:17 PM »
I still retain a fair bit of "Jackspeak" - the slang of sailors. Plenty of occasions where I have said "Oi! Grab a quick tubs, get shifted and we'll step".

Offline BertieSlack

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2020, 04:31:18 PM »
Oh, that's right.  I looked that up once and forgot it.  I have a hard time distinguishing a Yorkshire accent from a Lancashire accent.

I lived in Yorkshire for a few years and I could definitely tell the difference between them, but now I've been back down south for a while they seem to have merged together again. Would a Bostonian be able to differentiate a Texan from a Tennessean?

Offline JayUtah

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2020, 06:10:25 PM »
I lived in Yorkshire for a few years and I could definitely tell the difference between them, but now I've been back down south for a while they seem to have merged together again. Would a Bostonian be able to differentiate a Texan from a Tennessean?

Quite possibly.  Obviously it depends on the particular Bostonian's ability to listen carefully.  But what I think you mean to ask is whether there are differences in the speech that would allow someone who isn't from either region to decide if the subjects are speaking the same accent.  The Texan accent is distinctive among other Southern states.  In Texan, for example, the intended diphthong in "die" or "flight" is pronounced as a flat "ah."    Conversely, single-syllable words like "flap" are dipthonged as "flay-up."  You don't near that in Tennessee.  Tennesseean is not particularly rhotic, as are a few other regional Southern accents.  "Your brother" in Texan would come out, "yer brutherr," but in Tennesseean sounds more like, "Yo' brothah."

But as I'm sure you'll agree, there are so many variables that it's hard to draw bright lines.  Someone from Utah would recognize a Boston accent, and an astute one could probably distinguish it from a New Hampshire accent.  A Bostonian, on the other hand, would be able to distinguish a Roxbury accent from a Dorcester accent, whereas I can't.
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Offline Ranb

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2020, 10:24:02 PM »
Jeff invited me to go down to the (sgts) mess for a "schooner and rind o' peel".

Care to guess what this meant?
Ale with a citrus slice on the rim?

Offline Peter B

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2020, 02:55:25 AM »
Many years ago, when I was still in the mob, I used to work in a place called EECC (known as "eeky squeeky"), the Electronic Equipment Calibration Centre, with a civilian tech called Jeff. He was from Seed Knee (that's Sydney for anyone not from Oz or NZ).

What is this 'Seed Knee'? I've never heard that one before. The correct pronunciation is 'Sinney'. :-)

(Of course, I can't say anything - lazy pronunciation of 'Canberra' can sound like 'Cambra'.)

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One day, after the pair of us had spent a particularly frustrating day trying to run down an obscure fault on a spectrum analyser (an HP8566B IIRC), Jeff invited me to go down to the (sgts) mess for a "schooner and rind o' peel".

Care to guess what this meant?

Yes, well I know what a schooey is, but you've got me on rind o' peel. Is it a reference to that great Australian drink, the lemon lime and bitters?

Offline smartcooky

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2020, 08:18:00 AM »
As it turned out a "schooner and a rind o' peel" was a "beer and a round of pool."

Go figure!
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2020, 10:29:46 AM »
Oh, heavens, there are two accents that always stump me when I have to produce them:  Scottish and Australian.

Bit of a diversion:  It, Chapter Two features two actors I know.  Taylor, who plays Don Hagarty, the boyfriend of the young gay man thrown off the bridge in the opening sequence, comes from my theatre company here in Utah.  We were in shows together when he was a teenager.  And Nic, who plays Henry Bowers, lives part-time in a Salt Lake City suburb and moves in some of the same social circles as I.  Also, I was in the 1990s television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand (oddly and newly relevant now), so we share a bit of that too.  Most of "Denver" was shot in my neighborhood.  Nic is Australian, and he nails the American accent perfectly in the movie.  And he's been very patient with me when I try to grasp the physiology of Australian speech.

I've been trying to teach him the finer points of Utah's accent.  Sydney as "seed knee" makes so much more sense now, because one feature of the Utah accent is to reverse that.  We broaden and slacken the eccentric vowels.  "Well" (as an interjection) is pronounced "wuhl."  And "feel" is pronounced "fill."  "My" is "muh."  "To" is "tuh."  The one thing he takes to effortlessly is our glottals, which are common in, well, the Commonwealth, but fairly rare in American.  In Utah, the city name Layton is said "Lay'un."  Those things jutting up all around us are "mou'ins."

If you find video of our former governor, Michael Leavitt, you can hear a mild, genteel Utah accent.  He served in national administrations as well, so there's plenty of video of him.  Pay special attention to the subtle shapes of some of the vowels.  That's hard for non-natives to grasp, but it's very distinctive to the attuned ear.  But the real treat is if you can find audio of his wife, Jackie.  (Yes, Utah had a First Lady named Jackie.)  She has a strong northern Utah accent, which is both highly localized and almost comical in the same sort of lingual strictures that I hear in some Australian accents.

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Offline gillianren

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2020, 11:54:00 AM »
Okay, now you have to tell me where in The Stand I can find you--for after this is over, because there is no way I'm going to watch it right now.  I've been resisting a reread for months, because for some reason I always read it when I'm sick.  King himself has said that this is nothing like The Stand (and of course was promptly asked if he'd even read the book), but still.

It's also worth noting, as far as our hypothetical people from Yorkshire and Lancashire compared to our theoretical people from Texas and Tennessee, that the former live less than a hundred miles apart.  Our accents haven't had as long to develop, but they've had space
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2020, 12:37:29 PM »
Okay, now you have to tell me where in The Stand I can find you--for after this is over, because there is no way I'm going to watch it right now.

In a few of the large-scale scenes showing lots of diseased and deceased victims.  You won't recognize me, first because I was quite a bit younger.  And second, because I'm made-up to look like a super-flu victim.  I'm in the crowd-running scenes at "Area 51" in Independence Day too, but damned if I can find myself in it.  We're all just running specks.  I don't presently have a copy of the miniseries, and it's been nearly 30 years.  So I'm not sure where to direct you.  But I know it's been remade as a feature, so maybe there will be renewed interest in the miniseries and I can see where to look.

However, I will let you laugh at a scene that doesn't include me.  It's the establishment shot for the "Denver" train station.  It's our Rio Grande depot, and they tilt down from the murals on the walls to discover the characters.  The murals featuring Brigham Young and Mormon pioneers, an iconic Utah scene.

Fun fact:  the same airport (the former Wendover air force base, on the Utah-Nevada border) was used in Con Air.  And in real life it's the base where Col. Tibbitts and Enola Gay trained to drop the atomic bomb.

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King himself has said that this is nothing like The Stand (and of course was promptly asked if he'd even read the book), but still.

I've seen that particular tweet.  I agree that COVID-19 and the "super flu" aren't equivalent, but I still feel it's trying to portend something.

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Our accents haven't had as long to develop, but they've had space.

And now that space has been contracted by mass media, accents are starting to homogenize.  To be clear, I don't speak with a Utah accent.  I grew up in the Midwest, which has long been home to the "generic" American accent.  About the time radio was being nationalized, all the on-air voices were sent to schools in the Midwest to lose their regional accents.
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Offline Bryanpoprobson

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Re: Divided by a common language...
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2020, 04:38:35 PM »
I did 2 weeks of factory release testing at Wiltron (a part of Amritsu) in Morgan Hill California. I spent the whole 2 weeks explaining that I was English and not Australian.
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