Ming the Mechanic:
American Accents

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 American Accents2007-01-19 12:06
picture by Flemming Funch

This quiz purports to pinpoint what kind of American accent one has. Which it does, not by listening to you, but by questions about words that sound similar or not. Now, I'm not American, but most Europeans would think that obviously I am, because I speak with an American accent. But while I lived in California, most people could hear that I wasn't from around there. Somebody with just a bit of an ear for accents would guess that maybe I'm from Northern Europe. Others would just guess that maybe I'm from the east coast, or from Northen California. The thing is that there are a few sounds that would give me away. Bizarrely, in words like "English" or "language", I'll say the 'g' too much like a 'k', however hard I try to do otherwise. Must be because they were amongst the first words I learned.

So, now, that test. I'd have expected it to indicate I had somewhat of an imperfect west coast accent. But, not at all. It says there's a 100% match with "The Inland North", which means the area around the Great Lakes, like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The last one being maybe the only thing that makes sense from it, as a lot of scandinavians ended up there. But, like, Chicago, Illinois? I recognize the Chicago accent, and don't think I sound anything like it.

Now that I think of it, I can't recognize any of the questions as distinguishing a west coast accent. What would that be? When you say orrible, rather than whorrible? When you say inneresting, rather than intresting?

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19 Jan 2007 @ 08:37 by jmarc : nailed it for me
But since I'm not as well travelled as you, maybe it was easier to place me.

"You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine."

I'm about thirty miles north of Boston, in New Hampshire.

Had a problem with no. 8.

8. Moving on, what do you think about "Mary," "merry," and "marry"?
All 3 sound different
Mary and merry sound the same but marry is different from them
All 3 sound the same

I picked the first answer because it was closest to the truth for me, but in reality, Mary and marry sond the same, with merry sounding different.

But then, I was married to a Mary once, and well, it wasn't particularly merry (toward the end), lol.  

19 Jan 2007 @ 11:06 by ming : Mary
See, to me those three are said exactly the same. But for almost all the other questions about something being the same or different, my answer was that they were different.  

19 Jan 2007 @ 14:11 by GeZi @ : hmmm, must be my brother in law ...
Interesting test - even though I am also from the North Inland.
But I have an explanation - my brother in law moved to Minnesota a few years back and I have been there twice to visit - that must have tainted my Californian, but then again, it might be the same effect as for you, Flemming, our native tongues do not differ too much, even though you guys sing a bit more ;-)  

19 Jan 2007 @ 15:30 by ming : Enklish
It is indeed usually German that people guess before they figure out I'm Danish.

But, hey, it was probably British English you learned in school, just like me, which must be part of the equation. And somehow the conversion to American makes us end up sounding like Minnesotans.

Even if people around me for 20 years have said 'orrible', I'd just think they didn't speak properly.

And I still can't for the life of me seem to figure out what would be characteristic for a west coast accent.  

19 Jan 2007 @ 22:56 by GeZi @ : british english
Yeah, that's probably it - the first contact with that strange language in school being the British type. I remember that I had the biggest problems understanding American movies on TV while British ones were OK - not easy but OK.

Guess something like that forms you.  

20 Jan 2007 @ 07:21 by rayon : Most Europeans
Speak themost beautiful english with or without a placed accent from the US, which many have even if they have not via the US landmass. In the Mary test, each is quite different in my style, and while reading all the above find myself being reminded I must now read all from Ming and what there is from GunterZ in EurAmerican speak, which is quite attractive and melodious (from melody+interlect+emotion on auto). This, in me, in turn immediately causes a respectful stance, not quite curstying (as at school - GerEnglish nuns) but a living in real time, which is precisely where "anything can happen watchout".!  

20 Feb 2007 @ 00:52 by Paul Hughes @ : The West
I just took the test, and said my accent was 'The West' and that unless I was a SoCal surfer, it's the most ocmmon accent of California. Since I grew up there, no suprise. And being that I can immitate perfectly the socal surfer accent, I know the difference quite well. :)  

20 Feb 2007 @ 02:11 by ming : West
Makes sense. But it still puzzles me that I can't even say what a West Coast accent consists of. Even if I cheated in the test there, to make it show West, I couldn't get it. Here in the South of France I can quite easily point out what makes it a southern accent. But an L.A. accent, I somehow have no clue.  

20 Feb 2007 @ 02:18 by bushman : Hmm,
says Im from Philadelphia, the Inland North, mostly, but I was born and lived in California for 37 years, and moved to Arizona, never even been to those states.  

8 Mar 2007 @ 08:46 by BenG @ : Quiz
That quiz is too brief and narrowly focused to be accurate. Example: I took the quiz and it said I had a Midland accent, i.e., no accent!! Anyone listening to me would beg to differ, as I definitely have a Texas accent that borders on more strictly Southern (North Carolina influence from my mother). So, needless to say, the quiz wasn't right and I got offended. :)

As to a Chicago versus California accent, I'd think the California accent would have slightly broader vowels and the Chicago accent would be sharper-edged. The West Coast accent has a strong connection to what they speak in the Midwest, though, so it's natural for them to sound a lot alike.  

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