Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

SquibblyDibbly

American Accents

Recommended Posts

SquibblyDibbly

I was just wondering, when British groups play Call of Cthulhu in its classic New England setting do the players and GM put on American accents ?

 

My own group is UK based and apart from one Aussie who comes along from time to time we all have regional London accents. I would not expect the players to put on accents when playing American characters but when GMing sometimes it seems a neccesary evil. I'm not especially skilled at accents but I find it useful to differentiate a Yankee farmer from an educated Harvard professor, from a New York boxer say. If I try to show they are a farmer by doing a British West Country accent it only leads to confusion.

 

Also, some dialogue and handouts in pre-published adventures are specifically written in colloquial accents. Its hard to read these out without at least attempting an accent.

 

I'm just curious as to how other groups tackle this. Is it one rule for the GM, another for the players, or does everyone join in ( even if they are not very good at it ) ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
allicorn

All Brits here. To our shame, no, I don't think any of us have even attempted an American accent.

 

Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic... lame but entertaining versions of these accents are nearly always deployed when appropriate but somehow, nobody (myself included) seems willing to try an American accent excepting, as you say, those rare incidents of phonetically spelled, regionally accented dialog that occasionally crop up in adventures.

 

Alli

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RdphCarter

You're the ones with the accent! :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
red_bus

I will try an am-dram US accent from time to time, usually to pretty cringe-worthy effect. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mr_Lin
I will try an am-dram US accent from time to time, usually to pretty cringe-worthy effect. :D

 

Likewise. I play a university professor loosely based on the Michael Douglas character in Wonder Boys. When speaking dialogue I have a go at doing a bad impression of Douglas/Tripp, but when describing to the Keeper what I'm up to I stick to my normal speaking voice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
manethon
All Brits here. To our shame, no, I don't think any of us have even attempted an American accent.

 

As a Yank, I think that is very interesting. What is the big fear? Regular use of the letter "r"? :twisted:

 

Two small dialog tips... Americans never say "zed" for the last letter of the alphabet (its "zee") and and we regularly use the word "billion", not "milliard" or "thousand million". (The latter comment is more directed to non-native Anglophones who do use "milliard" for "thousand million" and "billion" for "million million" [i.e., trillion], even in English; I think that the Brits and Irish have joined the American and Canadian usage finally.)

 

I would wager most American players actually enjoy trying to do to various British and Irish accents. True, most of them are going to be cringe-worthy abominations, and no doubt limited to posh London and Cockney for England, and the worst sort of stereotypical Scottish and Irish movie-inspired "accents", but they are still fun for most American players to try. (With apologies to the Welsh, most Americans wouldn't know a Welsh accent if it bit them in the posterior.)

 

One of the funniest things I ever saw was a TV commercial in Toronto. The actors, all with very heavy Ontario accents that could not be masked, were trying to imitate Southern US white "trailer trash" to unintended hilarious effect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
manethon

BTW, the more adventurous players might be interested in the International Dialects of English Archive [IDEA]. It features audio files of educated people from all over the world reading a standard text in English, followed by (usually) the informant's life story (impromptu) so you can hear what that accent sounds like. It is not limited to native Angophones, but also English speakers from other countries, such as Macedonia :)

 

And yes, it is intended for actors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
allicorn
What is the big fear?

 

TBH, I suspect it's the subtlety that's the problem.

 

Some regional accents, both English & American, seem more prone to charicature. As you point out, Cockney is one. I'd say that the stereotyped "southern states" accent probably fills a similar role for us Brits. It's an accent we can imagine well and for the most part are able to perform badly but nonetheless recognizably.

 

Accents from Lovecraft country and from the right social class seem a lot more subtle though. In the same way, I imagine that one of those southern, English, middle-class, rather generic accents might also be quite challenging for you lot to pull off.

 

As for the whole "billion" thing? That was dying out when I was at school 30 years ago. :D

 

Great link there too, very helpful ta. I was previously using this similar service although it seems to have less entries than your new one.

 

EDIT: Oo, actually, side question on the "zed" / "zee" issue. If you're renting a riding animal for trip across the Dreamlands to mount Ngranek... is it a "zeh-bra" or a "zee-bra"?

 

Alli

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mulciber

Some thoughts on British reticence in attempting American accents. It may be that there's a certain degree of the stereotypical "British reserve" at times but also I know I have to think hard to improvise an NPC's speech and maintain whatever accent I'm attempting and so for some players it may be a bit too hard to pull off.

I also wondered if the wide exposure to American accents via films means that some people might think it will be more glaringly obvious if their attempted accent is rubbish.

I might be a little intimidated by the fact that we now have an American in our group but luckily I'm running a mediaeval campaign at present!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tigger_MK4

Our group also avoids american accents. However, as we usually end up playing in a non american environment (we tend to do the "big" campaigns) there are often few American characters !

 

However, my faux scandanavian accent (straight out of the Muppets) does get an airing as often as possible...

 

In 1990 I attended Gencon in Milwakee (sp?) and had the odd experience of playing a pulp-hero character "Idaho Jones" whilst sat next to a gent from that area who was playing a British officer....

 

I dont think either of us was particularly successful 8O

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
red_bus

Yes, I would put any reticence down less to fear and more to not wanting to blow the atmosphere. I quite enjoy putting my vocal cords to work emulating the various vowel noises of different US voices :D

 

But if it is a tense moment, and the players are hanging on what you say, it is often better to just got for a neutral accent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
themaninawhitecar

EDIT: Oo, actually, side question on the "zed" / "zee" issue. If you're renting a riding animal for trip across the Dreamlands to mount Ngranek... is it a "zeh-bra" or a "zee-bra"?

Alli

 

Being the midwest (Iowa) boy I am, I would say "zee-bra."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RdphCarter
Oo, actually, side question on the "zed" / "zee" issue. If you're renting a riding animal for trip across the Dreamlands to mount Ngranek... is it a "zeh-bra" or a "zee-bra"?

It's a ZEE bra! - except in Kenya

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
manethon

As for the whole "billion" thing? That was dying out when I was at school 30 years ago. :D

 

yes, I understand that. The problem is that non-native speakers of English who are using English as a second language often don't realize that, but that is likely a reflection that "milliard" is still current in their language(s).

 

Now were this might be interesting for game play is when there are large numbers involved and a group of Yanks and Brits misunderstand each other over a critical point circa 1920-1930 when the distinction was still made in the UK and Irish Free State. Mistakes involving the number of floors in a building are always good too (1st floor vs ground floor, etc.).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GBSteve

We have an Aussie in our group too, but also an Italian/Belgian and a Singaporean (who sounds a bit American). So those who can do accents do them, if they are any good, otherwise we just leave well alone.

 

I can do Cockney, RP and French but nothing else. I wish I could do some kind of American accent but I'm useless in that regard. At Origins three years ago, I was playing Matt Goodman's pulp game The Zeppelin Age. He handed out pregens and I got an American PC. Everyone else except for Paula, my wife was American. I tried to do the accent but it was so ghastly that I was made to change PCs. I got Biggles instead so that was fine.

 

On the other hand, at the same con Paula and I played a game of Gaslight Cthulhu in which we were commended on our accents. Another player tried to do posh but was so appalling that I couldn't understand a word he was saying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stepheno

In the last part of Escape From Innsmouth I was given a well-to-do New England Marine officer to play. I used my impression of Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons.

 

Hilarity ensued.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kurgan

What an incredibly cool topic. :)

 

One thing that jumps right out as a glaring omission is the simple fact that Americans of the 1920s (New Englanders), at least those in old films, often spoke with an accent that's hasn't been heard since. In fact, to the "common" American ear, those old accents sound vaguely British, like a hybrid UK/US accent. I've always found that to be incredibly fascinating, and often wondered how it came to be, and what caused it to vanish. So, I suppose what I'm trying to say is simply that, if you're in the UK, and trying to affect coontemporary US accents for your period game, you've already gone off-track.

 

However, there is an easy, and fairly entertaining, workaround. You see, although that accent no longer exists in America, it does survive in the vocal chords of certain British personages. No, I'm not kidding, and you'll have to trust me on this, but the only people alive today that, to an American, sound like someone from 1920s New England, are UK actors that happen to have a similar, subdued accent (their actual speaking voice, not a particular role). There are a few US actors, too, but it's mostly persons from the UK. I'll list a few names below for example, but the idea is that, instead of trying to do an "American Accent," try and emulate a single person that fits the bill. You can reserve the more eccentric, humorous accents (the ones you know will be completely over-the-top when you do them) for the various NPCs, as entertainment value requires. :)

 

Here are a few examples:

 

Rex Harrison

Peter O'Toole

John Gielgud

Ioan Gruffudd

Robert Lindsay

Peter Firth

 

Try to do any of them as a base, whilst downplaying any overt regional inflexions or verbal mannerisms (like O'Toole's Irish roots, which is very subtle, or Lindsay's more commanding Shakespearean training that always shows in his performances --except, perhaps, when he played Jericho), and you'll be right on the money. For added effect, inject a little Welsh mannerism here and there for the occasional "excited, adrenalin boost" when things are getting heated, and you'll have it.

 

If that works for you, you can take it another step further by learning the differences in vowel pronunciation (always the most important first-step in learning any langauge, and which would help a lot for this), and by listening to old radio shows that were recorded on the east coast during that time (specifically the more eccentric, adventurous material, like The Shadow). Heh, Fibber McGee & Molly just won't cut it, but Lamont Cranston will help immeasurably. :)

 

By the way, on a humorous side-note, despite my having an ear for it, and being able to distinguish most UK accents by region, if anyone can explain to me why the Northeast England area always trips me up, I'd appreciate it. Always blows me away when I miss a "North" accent, but every Brit for miles perks-up and says, "Oh, he's from the North." Drives me nuts that I can't hear "it," whatever it is. It's like a verbal version of a Masonic handshake! lol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mulciber

Following on from Kurgan, I guess very few British folk speak as they did in the Twenties, there was a great programme - "How the Edwardians Spoke" as part of the BBC4 Edwardian season recently - that used recordings of POWs made by the Germans during WWI to compare accents then with the present.

 

Quite a few of "The Shadow" recordings that I have feature Orson Welles, and yes, I suppose his accent does sound a little hybrid or Trans-Atlantic.

 

As for being fooled by the North Eastern accents, odd, to me (originally from the South East) they're some of the most distinctive (and pleasant) accents in Britain. "Gan canny marra!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geordie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FunGuyfromYuggoth
One thing that jumps right out as a glaring omission is the simple fact that Americans of the 1920s (New Englanders), at least those in old films, often spoke with an accent that's hasn't been heard since. In fact, to the "common" American ear, those old accents sound vaguely British, like a hybrid UK/US accent. I've always found that to be incredibly fascinating, and often wondered how it came to be, and what caused it to vanish.

 

If I could venture?:

 

* Standardized pronounciationg emphasized in public education in the U.S. that smoothed out regional variances

* World War 2 veterans who picked up a "working accent" serving overseas amid people from every region in the U.S. and brought it home with them (along with all of that colorful slang and off-color expressions)

* Mass media, music (rock and roll), television and film leveling out the accent, and

* Fewer immigrants from Britain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nemo235

Very interesting topic.

 

I'm from the States, Indiana specifically. So I have a 'Mid-Western' accent.

I studied drama in school and practised a few accents including French, German (studied one semester), Russian, Hispanic, and British.

I like to think I can imitate a couple British-like accents.

 

If they made people laugh, then that was okay considering one of my main influences was Monty Python's Flying Circus.

 

If you feel you can get an accent during a game, and it doesn't break the mood, I say try it.

If it's not working, no problem. Players are very forgiving.

It's all in the name of fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nollvane

As FunGuy suggested, mass media has had a lot to do with ironing out the most eccentric American regional accents. A number of major TV broadcasters (Tom Brokaw and Johnny Carson come to mind) were from the midwest, supposedly prefered by the networks for their relatively slow, unaccented and easy-to-understand delivery (that may be urban myth, but the predominance of midwesterners in prominent TV positions speaks for itself).

 

As far as regional accents, the southern accents (plural) are still going strong, and in the early '90's it was popular to imitate the nasal Minnesota/Wisconsin accent made famous in "Fargo." (I haven't heard that one much lately, though.) The movie "Quiz Show" had, I tought, a number of good northeastern accents, recognizable without being cartoony (the upper-crust characters didn't come across like Thurston Howell III :D )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nollvane

Double post. Feel free to delete.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
allicorn
...lots of stuff...

 

Fascinating stuff man! Thanks for that :-)

 

Alli

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mr_Lin

I always though Kelsey Grammar sounded vaguely English (even before he started doing Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons) although still recognisably American. I'm guessing his voice would be regarded as quite posh in the US?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeC
I always though Kelsey Grammar sounded vaguely English (even before he started doing Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons) although still recognisably American. I'm guessing his voice would be regarded as quite posh in the US?

 

We don't call them 'posh'.

 

'Preppie', perhaps. Or 'Stuck up', but not 'posh'.....;-)

 

MikeC, Kelsey Grammer is a fave of mine. A phenomenal voice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...