Sunday, January 12, 2014
Accents are interesting things. The video above is a countdown of the “Top 10 Worst Movie Accents”. Some of them are merely shockingly bad, but some of those are so bad they’re hilarious.
As I’ve already noted, I have no accent, but like most people, I can hear the accents of others. Sometimes, I’m even pretty good about working out where a person is from, based on their accent, but sometimes is the critical word here: When I hear foreign people talk in New Zealand, I get people’s accents wrong more often than not, it seems. Fortunately, I never say anything to them, so I don’t embarrass myself by getting their accent wrong.
It’s actually quite easy to get an accent wrong, which means it’s possible to make some incorrect conclusions, too. Recently, I got an email that was forwarding a link to a prank video for Tui beer, a New Zealand brand. That was the top viral video in New Zealand last year, and I included it in a post last month (the video is the second one at the link).
The email was entitled, “Best beer prank... Australians”, and included a direct link to the YouTube posting of the video. Previous forwarders declared things like, “You have to hand it to the Australians. And they had such a great time carrying this out. This is one of the best pranks I've seen, what a lot of work,” and “these guys are the kings of pranksters. Don't think I'd go into a crawlspace in Australia, though.”
The people forwarding the email were American, though people from many other countries (apart from New Zealand and Australia, of course) could easily have made the same mistake. But because the folks assumed the ad was Australian, it led one to make assumptions about the crawl space in the video. For the record, there’s no harmful wildlife living in New Zealand crawlspaces.
Of course, if anyone had clicked through to the YouTube Channel the video was part of, and then clicked the “About” tab (yes, I’m the sort of person who actually does that…), they would have read this: “At the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka, New Zealand, there's always something brewing. Like beer, plans, schemes, innovations…” So, anyone who was curious about who made the ad could easily have found out it was a New Zealand—not Australian—company.
The thing about assumptions is that we have no idea we even could be wrong, so it doesn’t occur to us to verify that we’re right. Double-checking facts can’t hurt, and it can even help promote understanding, which seems like a good reason in itself.
In any case, accents are interesting things, regardless of whether we can imitate them or correctly identify them. Hm, suddenly a cold beer sounds quite nice.