Monday, November 18, 2013

I have no accent

As an expat, one common and good-natured discussion I get into is WHO has an accent: Me or New Zealanders? The answer is predictable—it’s “the other guy” who has an accent.

Some Kiwis think I have a “mongrel accent”, that is, all mish-mashed together into something not exactly Kiwi, but not entirely American, either. Some Kiwis have thought I was Canadian, and during the height of the unpopularity of the Bush-Cheney regime I sometimes didn’t bother correcting them.

However, I apparently I really don’t have an accent.

I took an online quiz asking about how certain words sound, and it produced results shown in the graphic above. It says I have “a Midland Accent”, which they say is “just another way of saying you don’t have an accent.”

Obviously I actually do have an accent—everyone does, a function of where they grew up, mostly. My accent—well the one I had when I arrived in NZ, because I know some of it has changed—is actually called “Inland North” and is a variant of what they used to call Standard American English (also known as General American). It was taught to broadcasting students as the best accent for American radio and television (nowadays, it seems, anything goes…). This is probably why my results added, “You have a good voice for TV and Radio.”

That made me chuckle a bit, sort of self-mockingly, because I do, apparently, produce podcast episodes from time to time. And much as I think that my rare podcast episodes are far better now than when I started, it has less to do with accent than with all the things that make good announcers: Vocal control, modulation, tone, etc., etc. I’m still not very good at it, but even I can tell I’m better than when I started.

So, while I do have an accent, and it’s different from folks born in New Zealand, that certainly doesn’t mean they DON’T have an accent. And the answer to the question, who has the accent? It depends who makes up the majority in the room at the time. Even in New Zealand there have been times when I’ve been in the majority. And that can mean only one thing: Sometimes, even in New Zealand, I don’t have an accent.


rogerogreen said...

From West Side Story (America): "Better get rid of your accent!"

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Apparently, I already did.