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Author Topic: British v. American accent in foreign languages
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
quote:
Originally posted by Zorro:
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
I often visit historic churches and I can usually tell American entries in the visitors' books. Their handwriting style is very distinctive.

Just curious: How so?
It's the style. The handwriting often has loops and is a lot more cursive than British.
I don't understand. How do you know that your method is correct?
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The Amazing Rando
Deck the Malls


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quote:
It's the style. The handwriting often has loops and is a lot more cursive than British.
I can understand that.

At least for the schools anyone I know have gone too, cursive writing is normally taught in lower elementary school. I recall in 3rd or 4th grade (I don't know the non-American equivalent) we were made to only write in cursive. After that, though, teachers don't really care, so the result is that most people seem to write in a sort of half-cursive.

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Andrew of Ware, England
A-Ware in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Ganzfeld:
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
quote:
Originally posted by Zorro:
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
I often visit historic churches and I can usually tell American entries in the visitors' books. Their handwriting style is very distinctive.

Just curious: How so?
It's the style. The handwriting often has loops and is a lot more cursive than British.
I don't understand. How do you know that your method is correct?
Most visitor books have sections to put in your address and/or nationality. Writing 'American' is a giveaway. [Wink]

I also like American comments. Most are along the lines 'My ancestors lived here in the thirteenth century', but one I saw yesterday said, 'Roman bricks? Nice touch.' (Most mediaeval churches where I live use some Roman bricks.)

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Andrew, Ware, England

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Zorro
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:I also like American comments. Most are along the lines 'My ancestors lived here in the thirteenth century', but one I saw yesterday said, 'Roman bricks? Nice touch.' (Most mediaeval churches where I live use some Roman bricks.)
I'm so proud to be an American. [Roll Eyes]

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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One of my Korean students taught me a few words of her native language once, and when I repeated them to her a day or two later, she laughed and said, "My God! You have a Chinese accent!"

Brad "and here I thought it was Southern" from Georgia

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NeeCD
Happy Holly Days


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When I was in Austria years ago, I was actually complemented on my accent while I was reading something. It's just unfortunate that, while I guess I pronounce things properly, I have no idea what I'm actually saying! I speak just barely enough to call a cab and order food. Most people would answer my attempts at speaking German by responding in English. [Embarrassed]

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Dactyl:
I find it quite weird the way Americans refer to a British Accent, it's a term you'll never hear on this side of the pond. While I appreicate there are regional differences in every country the Scots accent is hardly comaparible to Welsh, Irish or Estuary.

Nor will you ever hear someone on THIS side of the pond make reference to an "American" accent. To me, the difference between a Bostonian and a Texan, or between a Californian nad a Georgean, or between a Coloradian and a Kentuckian, is at least as distinctive as the difference between the London accent (which is what Americans are referring to when they say "British," by the way) and a Scottish accent, or between the "American" accent (whatever that is) and the "British" accent.
Here's my theory. Most people are pretty familiar with the accents of the regions surrounding them. Unless you have a really good ear, it's extremely difficult to distinguish native speakers from far away. Hence, Americans lump Britons together, sometimes with Australians, and Britons lump Americans together, often with Canadians. It pisses me off to no end that Europeans assume I'm Canadian because I behave myself abroad--not because I expect them to recognize my accent, but because it reflects their belief in a hypocritical stereotype of the "ugly American."

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"If God wrote it, the grammar must be infallible. Perhaps it is we who are mistaken." -MapleLeaf

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mnotr2
Jingle Bell Hock


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While attending a two-week Russian course at Moscow State University I studied with a professor who claimed she could tell whether a student speaking Russian in the next room was from the US or Britain. She was quite well known for her work in Russian phonetics and diction, so maybe she could. I'm sure there are subtle differences between the way Americans and Britons speak foreign languages, so someone with a good ear could pick them out I believe. Not as easily as differentiating an American from a German or Chinese, but possible.

American vs. "British" accent. I have seen interviews with British actors who are able to do an amazing southern US accent. They say the accent is very close to English as spoken in England. I also remember hearing somewhere that a US southern accent is simply a mutation of 17th and 18th century British English. Regional American accents are more a result of the predominant immigrant population than anything else. Except for Texas, nobody can explain Texas.

Edited to correct spelling.

ETA Esprise Me, while I agree that the stereotype of the "ugly American" is over-applied, when watching some of my fellow service members here I can understand why it's still alive.

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Esprise Me said:
It pisses me off to no end that Europeans assume I'm Canadian because I behave myself abroad--not because I expect them to recognize my accent, but because it reflects their belief in a hypocritical stereotype of the "ugly American."

It's normally just that Canadians tend to get more pissed off at being called American than vice versa, so if you're in a situation where you have to guess it's better to go with Canadian. (Same with guessing New Zealand over Australia if you aren't sure.) And it makes you look more perceptive if you're right...!

I suppose that does suggest that a lot of people think it's insulting to be called American, though.

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Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
quote:
Originally posted by Ganzfeld:
I don't understand. How do you know that your method is correct?

Most visitor books have sections to put in your address and/or nationality. Writing 'American' is a giveaway.
Oh. [dunce] I never sign those things. But I was thinking that you wouldn't have written "I can tell..." if there was some easy way to tell that you may be seeing, either consciously or not, and then saying to yourself, "Yup, that loopy Yank script again." But I'm sure it's possible since it seems there are many subtle differences.
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Deansinger
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by mnotr2:

American vs. "British" accent. I have seen interviews with British actors who are able to do an amazing southern US accent. They say the accent is very close to English as spoken in England. I also remember hearing somewhere that a US southern accent is simply a mutation of 17th and 18th century British English. Regional American accents are more a result of the predominant immigrant population than anything else. Except for Texas, nobody can explain Texas.


My dad is from deep in the hills of Northern Kentucky, though a career in the Air Force mellowed his accent considerably. Anyway, he told me once that reading the (Middle English?) introduction to Canterbury Tales in school was a revelation to him. He recognized enough traits of "hillbilly" in Chaucer's original writing to understand that the dialect of those around him was simply a better-preserved form of that kind of English. Previously, he had simply thought that the "hillbilly" dialect was just a product of ignorance. On my own, I discovered the similarities between some British accents and the "Old Plantation" accent of some Southerners. (I really want to sound as cool as Shelby Foote)

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:
quote:
Esprise Me said:
It pisses me off to no end that Europeans assume I'm Canadian because I behave myself abroad--not because I expect them to recognize my accent, but because it reflects their belief in a hypocritical stereotype of the "ugly American."

It's normally just that Canadians tend to get more pissed off at being called American than vice versa, so if you're in a situation where you have to guess it's better to go with Canadian. (Same with guessing New Zealand over Australia if you aren't sure.) And it makes you look more perceptive if you're right...!

I suppose that does suggest that a lot of people think it's insulting to be called American, though.

Having recently lived overseas, I'd have to agree. I also find that it has to do with which of the two countries is better represented wherever you are. When I was in Taiwan, the Western community had far more Canadians than Americans, so we all tended to be referred to as Canadians - even the Australians and Kiwis! (I once went to a bakery with an Australian friend, and the guy behind the counter - who had heard us both talking in English - asked if we were brothers. He obviously couldn't hear any difference in our accents.)

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Ramblin' Dave. Dry. Crisp. Witty.:
I spent some time in Denmark several summers ago. My friends there told me my Danish sounded like Swedish. (The two languages are close enough together that speakers of one can usually understand the other, but they are distinct - at least if you speak them correctly!)

And both are close enough to German that listening to Bergman's MAGIC FLUTE is a little odd for someone who knows it in German.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Zorro:
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:I also like American comments. Most are along the lines 'My ancestors lived here in the thirteenth century', but one I saw yesterday said, 'Roman bricks? Nice touch.' (Most mediaeval churches where I live use some Roman bricks.)
I'm so proud to be an American. [Roll Eyes]
I don't get it. Why do you think those are offensive comments?

Seaboe

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Zorro
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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Not offensive, just...I don't know, further evidence that a lot of Americans don't exactly conduct themselves intelligently while in other countries.

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"Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary!"
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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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I just don't see what is so unintelligent about recognizing Roman bricks or mentioning that your ancestors lived nearby.

Oh, well. C'est la vie.

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
I just don't see what is so unintelligent about recognizing Roman bricks or mentioning that your ancestors lived nearby.

Oh, well. C'est la vie.

Seaboe

Saying "Roman bricks? Nice touch" sounds like they think they are looking at an attraction at Disneyland. That someone, somehow did this deliberately for the "wow" factor.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Not to me. To me it sounds like a typical visitor's book comment and could be written by someone of any nationality.

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
Not to me. To me it sounds like a typical visitor's book comment and could be written by someone of any nationality.

Seaboe

Honestly why would anyone say "nice touch" though? To me it sounds like someone is either a little ignorant about history & architecture or maybe is making a joke.

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Because people write thoughtless things in visitor's books. They don't know what to say, and they don't want to just be the umpteenth person to say "beautiful" or "gorgeous" or "great view!"

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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Ulkomaalainen
Jingle Bell Hock


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Let's just say that you get tourists of any nation to misbehave as good as they can once out of their own country. My "most favourite" experience was during a stay at SLC (Salt Lake City in this context) visiting the information/visitor centre, when, with a distinguished accent from another region, but clearly German, someone shouted at the top of his lungs "This f*ing sect can kiss by ass". Having been to France a year earlier and having learned some of the language, my parents and I decided, until we got out to speak solely French. Moi? Non, je ne suis pas d'Allemagne. After this, we were very wary of Germans (and had one future encounter which was negative). I think, when you have had your experiences with "ugly Americans" abroad, you would be more sensitive to "Nice touch". It looks out of place to me, but neither stupid nor offensive.

As of the original topic, I am pretty sure you can tell the differences of accents when people are speaking foreign languages. But you probably need to distinguish them in their mother tongue and speak the other language fairly well. It is no problem for me, if there is some German speaker with a recognizable accent in German, to find this out if he/she speaks English. Even if there are overtones in people who may have spent a year in Denver or Edinburgh or wherever and have an additional accent, too. Once Austrian/Swabian/Bavarian/Saxon/Northerner, you're never gonna lose your way of speaking, pronouncing, and choosing words and grammar.

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arnie
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:
(Same with guessing New Zealand over Australia if you aren't sure.) And it makes you look more perceptive if you're right...!

That certainly worked for me some years ago. I was chatting to the pretty new barmaid in a pub near where I worked and correctly identified her by her accent as being from New Zealand. She'd only recently arrived in London and pretty well eveyone else had assumed she was Australian, so I got off to a good start.

We went out together for three months until she returned to NZ. [Wink]

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De gustibus non est disputandum.

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:
quote:
Esprise Me said:
It pisses me off to no end that Europeans assume I'm Canadian because I behave myself abroad--not because I expect them to recognize my accent, but because it reflects their belief in a hypocritical stereotype of the "ugly American."

It's normally just that Canadians tend to get more pissed off at being called American than vice versa, so if you're in a situation where you have to guess it's better to go with Canadian. (Same with guessing New Zealand over Australia if you aren't sure.) And it makes you look more perceptive if you're right...!

I suppose that does suggest that a lot of people think it's insulting to be called American, though.

You may be right; minority groups often take greater offense at being lumped together with the majority, so if there are fewer Canadian than American travelers in Europe, the locals may be hedging their bets.
But I did have some disturbing experiences the last time I was in Europe that would be hard to interpret that way. Once I was in a coffee shop in Amsterdam, sharing a joint with some friends, when a group of Australian guys approached us. We'd been mistaken for Canadians so often by that point that we stopped correcting people. As we all were talking, a group of teenagers burst into the shop, obviously drunk, and started singing a Britney Spears song at the top of their lungs. The Aussie I'd been talking to rolled his eyes and muttered, "Americans." What's really screwed up about this whole story is this: I'd been in the Netherlands long enough to know a Dutch accent when I heard one, and those kids were definitely Dutch.

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"If God wrote it, the grammar must be infallible. Perhaps it is we who are mistaken." -MapleLeaf

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Malruhn
The "Was on Sale" Song


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I have a sensitive ear when it comes to accents. I can spot a New Yorker (as in: NYC) from a Long Islander - a Georgian from a Virginian - and from a Mississippian.

I have also been able to hear the difference between Brits, and can hear the difference between an Aussie and a Kiwi within seconds.

A couple years ago, I was able to out a British poser.

The accent was flawless - he sounded very authentic... until I got bothered by his grammar... and that was his undoing.

He had a friend get hurt, and the guy "went to the hospital." On another occasion, this guy went "to the university."

It was a pleasure to paste him to the floor in public. No self respecting Brit goes to those places... they go "to hospital" and "to university". I began asking him about what he was doing when the air war started in Gulf War I, just like in Stalag 17, and when he said that he had just sat down for a nice dinner of bangers and mashed (which he can't eat now without remembering the media footage!), I knew we had the Nazi spy!!

HAH!! The air war started at 7:00 p.m. on the east coast of the US - NOT in the UK. He was still in bed - or if an early riser, he was getting breakfast.

Jerk.

Turned out he was from Jersey (as in NEW Jersey) and just wanted in on the free poontang American girls throw at guys with British accents. His roommate in college was from Liverpool, and that's where he got his "tutor"... at university! [lol]

(When Johnny comes marching home...)

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arnie
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
The air war started at 7:00 p.m. on the east coast of the US - NOT in the UK. He was still in bed - or if an early riser, he was getting breakfast.
Huh? The UK is 5 hours ahead of the east coast. 7.00 p.m. EST is therefore 12.00 Midnight GMT. He was probably either just gone to bed, or was still up.

As a "true blue" Brit I have no idea what I was doing at the exact time the air war started, although I do remember staying up very late that night watching the TV news.

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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Mind you, he wouldn't have said "bangers and mashed", but "bangers and mash". Although i may be missing a Scouse variation...

And you do sometimes got "to the hospital" and "to the university" here. It depends. Still, you showed him, eh?

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Blatherskite
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I just want to point out that I'm British and can only speak English, but even I sometimes can't tell the difference between a Brit and an American when they're speaking another language.

It can also be hard to tell somebody's accent when they're singing, but that's probably completely irrelevant.

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Zorro
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I really impressed the hell out of a young woman working at my local nursery (gardens, not kids). I asked her one day if she was from New Zealand, and her eyes lit up. "Yes!" she said. "Most Americans hear my accent and automatically think I'm Australian."

I explained to her that this wasn't because I was naturally brilliant- one of the kids in the school I worked at was from New Zealand. He'd lost most of his accent, but his parents hadn't.

She was still impressed, though.

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Spindely Fingers
I Saw Three Shipments


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I've got a pretty good ear, not to mention training in dialects and accents, and I can generally tell not only where a person is from by their dialect, but, depending on the country, what part of the country they are from. Admittedly, I have a much easier time with the various British regional dialects (Yorkshire, Cornish, Cockney, various Irish, etc.) Still, I'd imagine if I can take an educated guess on what part of Italy someone is from (there's a huge difference in accent), a European with a fairly good ear could distinguish a Brit from an American.

PS On a side note, there are 180-something distinct American Southern accents, and the accents found in Appalachia (And Tangier Island, Virginia, oddly enough) are often cited as the closest modern equivalent to Elizabethan English . Unfortunately, with the advent of television and mass-media into these previously isolated regions, this is rapidly being lost.

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So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. ...
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
It can also be hard to tell somebody's accent when they're singing
A lot of popular music does seem to reduce people's accents to a generic Midlantic drawl, and classical singing seems to have its own accent and diction. But loads of singers make a virtue of their accents: Billy Bragg for example.

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I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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Others that do include King Creosote (Scottish), Kate Rusby (S.Yorkshire), Roots Manuva (Stockwell), Lady Sovereign (Islington), The Streets (Brighton), Tricky (Bristol), Ian Brown/Tim Burgess/Shaun Ryder (Manchester) Cerys Matthews (S.Wales), and, erm, Noddy Holder from Slade (Black Country) [Big Grin]

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

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Tarquin Farquart
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Jay Tea:
Others that do include King Creosote (Scottish), Kate Rusby (S.Yorkshire), Roots Manuva (Stockwell), Lady Sovereign (Islington), The Streets (Brighton), Tricky (Bristol), Ian Brown/Tim Burgess/Shaun Ryder (Manchester) Cerys Matthews (S.Wales), and, erm, Noddy Holder from Slade (Black Country) [Big Grin]

I 'm annoyed you didn't mention the Proclaimers! Or hyped-up-to-the-max-cuz-they-use-the-interweb new-fangled Yorkshire-based indie wunderkinds the Artic Monkeys. [Smile]

Tricky is a scary bloke. Did you ever see that documentary about him on a few years back where one of his relatives recounts a tale of once stabbing a guy in the pub for looking at him funny (!)

ETA: Good shouts for Lady Sovereign and Kate Rusby BTW. [Smile]

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I shall baffle you with cabbages and rhinoceroses in the kitchen and incessant quotations from "Now We Are Six" through the mouthpiece of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head. So there!

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
I 'm annoyed you didn't mention the Proclaimers! Or hyped-up-to-the-max-cuz-they-use-the-interweb new-fangled Yorkshire-based indie wunderkinds the Artic Monkeys.
I had considered naming The Proclaimers, but I chose a far more talented Scot instead [Wink]

Does Jimmy Nail count for singing in Geordie? I'm trying to get a singer for each clear dialectal zone in the UK [lol]

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

Posts: 6552 | From: UK | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Tarquin Farquart
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Jay Tea:
Does Jimmy Nail count for singing in Geordie? I'm trying to get a singer for each clear dialectal zone in the UK [lol]

What about Eric Burdon of the Animals?

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I shall baffle you with cabbages and rhinoceroses in the kitchen and incessant quotations from "Now We Are Six" through the mouthpiece of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head. So there!

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by Tarquin Farquart:
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Tea:
Does Jimmy Nail count for singing in Geordie? I'm trying to get a singer for each clear dialectal zone in the UK [lol]

What about Eric Burdon of the Animals?
I'm not familiar enough with the band to comment on that one - not aware of any clear accent in the few Animals classics I 'do' know...


We gotta get oot o' this pleeace

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

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