12 Comments

My accent slipped!


Neither Here nor There…. is a story about, well about many things, it’s deep and complex that way. But, one of the themes that make up the rich and complex texture of the text  revolves around a man who finds himself out of his element. More to the point, he is in a foreign country. Now he speaks the language (to a degree, English is his second language) but he is not a native of Oxfordshire  (where the oh so charming village of Woodstock lies).

Hilarity ensues….

So you would expect a play on dialects, right?

No just no, but HELL NO!

I don’t even know which accent to pick let alone affect. It would end up reading like idiot speak. I hate it when they speak Spanish in American television and it sounds as if the speaker’s favorite pastimes are torturing cats and raping languages.

So what did I do?

I stuck to the bare minimum. Just a few words.

Crazy/Mental

Trash/Rubbish

Intelligent/Clever

And so on.

Not to say that these words are not used in North American English but they tend to have different meaning. Then you have words that either have no direct reference in another region like “quid” or mean something completely different. A man would never “wear the pants” in a English home, unless he was into cross dressing. I even wrote a whole chapter around “boots” and “bonnets” (save the Little House on the Prairie references for later, ummkay?)

I did include some dialect play, such as “Mum” instead of “Mom” (yes mum is the word when you’re talking about my mother, got that!), or “Wot?” instead of “What?” (because Michael Mendoza is based on Rupert Grint and that’s how he talks). But that’s more spelling than word choice. It’s the difference between armor and armour, one is English, the other one French (ducks for cover as a storm of liquor bottles comers raining down around him).

So I tried not to mess to much with it. I didn’t even bother to translate the few bits of Spanish. Of course the good thing is that while I did use some Puerto Rican terms in those short bits, I avoided dialect speak all together (so someone in Mexico would not laugh out loud when Antonio turns his R’s into L’s).

So unless you really want to take the chance avoid “dialecting” as much as possible. After all dialects and languages are hard enough in real life.

Now for someone with a better explanation, here is Eddie Izzard!

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12 comments on “My accent slipped!

  1. ROFL! I understand your dilemma, but I also think your post quite funny. ;)

  2. As an American, I’ve always spelled it, “mom”- but pronounced it the British, “mum”. I’ve heard that’s common in the New England area.

  3. Yeah! I’m dealing with some dialect/slang related issues right now in my WIP, and it totally is another layer to dialogue to deal with.

    On the non-writing front, I like to fake Brit accents sometimes to myself–my friends think I’m mildly crazy, but some Brit slang is too good not to use and only sounds right in the correct accent–and I base them on specific people. For me, I either go a kind of Emma Thompson route or else a delicious Ricky Gervais. I feel compelled to note that I don’t talk with strangers or family or friends in said accent, I talk to myself, ie when the milk’s bad or I want to call someone a slimy git.

    I was just the other day wondering if the HP characters (in the movies) have the accents they do because of the original actors’ accents, or if they’re taught accents…

    • @Tasha

      Sounds like a few Canadians I met. Doesn’t surprise me. I had a Irish teacher in New Jersey who kept saying “reckon”, which until that time I had associated with the American South. Then I learned about early America’s Scot-Irish history and it seem to fit.

      @Sputnitsa

      I done that too. Had a friend, a Michigander who used to say “bloody hell” all the time. My guess is that he picked it up frm all the fantasy novels he read.

      As for the actors, I think they all have their natural accents. Katie Lung (Cho Chang) used her natural Scottish accent and so did Sean Biggerstaff (real name I swear oh and he played Oliver Wood). Neither of them were written as Scots yet played the parts as such. In fact Katie was chosen because of her voice (“And I’ll say I would go” great line coming from her). In fact I think that Cho was first described as an exchanged student from China, but that somehow got dropped later in the novels.

      As for the trio, they are all basically from the greater London area and thus speak what we would call BBC English. Rupert does sprinkle in a few of his own aphorisms, such as in the first 3 movies he always said “wicked” but that was never in any of the books. Later he keeps saying “bloody hell” all the time.

  4. You’re lucky you can distinguish the dialects in writing… I’ve been around so many people with accents, and watched equal amounts of American and non-American TV, that I hardly even notice anymore when someone doesn’t sound or read like an American. Then when I try to write a different dialect, it’ll turn out like Arkansas meets London with a Canadian flair. Heh.

  5. Yeah, I hear JKR was told “no swearing” for the longest time, so she would hide her words in gestures, noises and by simply noting that Ron said something that caused Hermione to protest, or whatever. Molly Weasley’s swearword at the end was that much more powerful for the absence beforehand. Plus, of course, it was her doing the swearing. :)

    I like Ron’s accent in the movies…

    Oh, and LOTR has its own danger for me. After reading it, I routinely have to bite back on “hailing” folks. :) As in: “Hail, Riders of Rohan! What news of the north?” Which for some reason is a line which TRULY appeals to me. I *heart* that line. :)

    • @Sassee

      Well, like the folks in Writing Excuses say, better be careful with the dialects, because they are so easy to screw up. Spending sometime in a foreign country does help. Your ear gets tuned to the accents real quick. Worse case for me was talking to a Boston lady cop who ordered me to move “mah cah”. It took a lot of repetition and pointing to understand that she wanted me to “move my car”.

      I do hate one thing about how Americans deal with foreigners. You lot start racing your voices for no reason! What is up with that! Just because they don’t know the language doesn’t mean that they are deaf, they can hear you fine, they just don’t understand you. :D

      @Sputnitsa

      Swearing, unless your going for the joke (and even then not so much) should be kept to a minimum because it loses it’s punch. Although you can see by the fifth book it’s starts to creep in. I’m sure she thought “piss off you wankers, if I can’t have Molly bitch at someone in the middle of this battle you don’t get the last book. Now go and bugger someone less successful for a change, you stupid gits!”

  6. LOL, Ralph! Funny post. :)

    I struggled with something similar in Sword: the setting definitely wasn’t England, but it was vaguely medieval-based, and so my word choices had to reflect that. It was pretty damn hard, at first, to hold onto the voice while I was getting my head around new vocabulary. I loved every minute of it, but it definitely made me think.

    Tasha, I spell it “Mom” and pronounce it “Mum”, so I support your New England theory. :)

    • Epic win! Yes, it can be hard, and since all things ancient sound “British” to the modern English speaker and/or Early Modern/Shakespearean English (same thing with Spanish speakers, although Early Modern Spanish fits the bill there as well, blame it on Cervantes).

      It is a worth while exercise all the same.

  7. Good post! Enjoyed it (thanks for including the Eddie Izzard bit).
    I’ve been grappling with a similar issue. In my younger days, I would have written out the pronunciation (bleh), but these days I’m all for using a few phrases. And RAF slang…I know that’s going to make my head spin, too! I use a bit of the more common Briticisms in my everyday speech (bugger, bloody hell, and my favorite, cuppa) just to shake things up.

    I support the New England theory, too. I call my mom “mum.” Slightly off topic: when in England with my family a few years ago, an Englishman asked my mom and me what part of the country we were from (referring to England).

    • I lot of folks from New England around these parts. Yes, Eddie is another reason why Brit comedy is by far the best. We all have to muddle through I guess, although I confess to mining the HP series and Top Gear episodes for slang.

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