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How come on British movies/TV, it's easy for an American (Me) to understand

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-13-10 08:59 AM
Original message
How come on British movies/TV, it's easy for an American (Me) to understand

people who speak upper-class English (Inspector Lynley, Inspector Lewis & Hathaway), but hard to understand people who don't (such as Detective Barbara Havers).

Come to think of it, how come it's easy to understand Onslow? :shrug:



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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-13-10 01:58 PM
Response to Original message
1. I'm not familiar with the characters you're speaking of, but here's a generic guess.
Edited on Mon Sep-13-10 01:59 PM by Jim__
Upper class language is formal. The type of language that is used in books, that is spoken in school, that is taught to new speakers of a language. I know a little Spanish, mostly from school, but I have been exposed to a little bit of Mexican Spanish. When I tried to speak my academic Spanish in Mexico, I was told that nobody talks that way.

Usually when I listen to, say, the Australian Prime Minister speak, I can understand him. But I have no idea what this Australian (folk?) song is talking about:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolabah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"


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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-13-10 03:44 PM
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2. Another guess is that
you've heard many more examples of the upper-class accent than of the lower class.

Not counting the really Upper classes -- Prince Charles is almost impossible to understand.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-10-11 01:53 AM
Response to Original message
3. Inspector Lewis is not intended to be upper class
He was Morse's less sophisticated sidekick.

But the answer is that upper class speech contains fewer regionalisms and lower class accents are more strongly local. This is true in the U.S. as well as in the UK. I've had trouble with lower class Southern accents and lower class Boston accents.

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enuegii Donating Member (624 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-10-11 05:56 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. "Lower class Southern accents?"
So there is an "upper class" Southern accent?
I did not know that--I thought it was common knowledge that all Southerners were low-class.

I trust I don't really need the obvious emoticon here.

Of course, I can see the distinction you're trying to make, but your post comes off just a bit on the condescending side of things. Actually, perhaps even more than a bit...

Try "Standard American English" or "Received British" on the one hand, and "regional accents" on the other.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-10-11 10:49 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. There are definitely class-based accents in Britain
and it's not condescending to acknowledge it.

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