Normally, the New York Times gets a lot right, but, like all newspapers, they come out with fluff pieces that makes you wonder if they just want to test to see how stupid the American public really is. Just picture the editorial meetings.
“I found a study that says there is a correlation between high cheese consumption and improvement in SAT scores. I have a couple of experts to give a few quotes.”
“Let’s run it. The teenagers of the U.S. will be constipated in no time.”
This round of stupid comes in the form of a “how to” article, namely How to Fake a British Accent. Click on the link. Yes, it’s the New York Times, and I am not making this up.
Sigh. Where to start with this?
Well, what is a “British” accent? The accent Malia Wollan is writing about is the neutral Queen’s English accent commonly used in media called Received Pronunciation. Her advice is to watch BBC programming and videos featuring English politicians. Considering what Americans get over here television-wise, maybe they can sound like a cantakerous dowager who cannot answer a straight question. That will certainly make them popular.
Of course, if Ms. Wollan is to go by, the U.K. only has one accent and could not have developed any regional or national differences in the way they speak. But the video below certainly has a different take.
Ms. Wollan tells us to “go undercover” to try out our “new patois”. We should do things like shop or order in a restaurant to see if we can pass ourselves off as the Duke and Duchess of Macclesfield. She admonishes us to “Practice until nothing can jar you out of it, not even a sex scene or a close call with an oncoming taxi.”
I would love to see an American try this and meet an actual Briton or someone who has lived in the U.K. Because we love small talk over here, and when we hear someone with an accent, we will ask about their origins, especially if we have similar ones. I know I do. It’ll be fun to watch the fraud squirm like the worm he or she is.
Faking a British accent begs the question…why would you want to do this in the first place apart from preparing for a role as an actor? To sound classier and more intelligent? Are you in a con game like Amy Adams in American Hustle? Federal Witness Protection Program? Got a good deal on an earldom at Big Seb’s House o’ Titles?
So, Ms. Wollan, let me put this to you directly. To coin a real British expression, you are off your trolley.
All you are doing is advising Americans to insult English people. Notice I am saying English, not British, because there is nothing Irish, Welsh, or Scottish about this accent you are promoting. That is an insult of omission, and in this case, the other three ethnicities got off lucky.
By telling Americans that, by taking on English accents, they can join in and embody what is good about English culture is pure nonsense. Accent does not an ethnicity make. Life in the U.K. is not a BBC drama, so stop romanticizing it and making it something it is not. Remember that you are dealing with real people and not characters on a screen that you can emulate for this season’s fashion. Imitation is not flattering in this case. It is mockery.
And, if you don’t think so, talk to people like my husband who gets sick and tired of people fawning over his accent in this country and not listening to what he is actually saying.
You are also indirectly telling anyone else who does not have an English accent that their speaking voices are not good enough. That is just as offensive. Because the truth is, if anyone wants to sound classier and more intelligent, maybe more work should go into the substance of one’s speech rather than the accent.