Re: Speakeasy

1

"Say 'Teo Choco Chaco Toco Taco Hat' for me, won't you? Oh WOW. You were way off. Who taught you Spanish pronunciation, a run-over donkey?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:47 PM
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Haven't we already had this thread?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:48 PM
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Or one very similar to it?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:48 PM
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Mm, Paul Fussell says that it's classier for Americans to speak French with an American accent rather than a perfect French one. I don't see why that wouldn't apply to Spanish. Are you concerned that people won't understand him, or just that he'll sound dopey?

As somebody who is constitutionally incapable of making a Spanish rolled R, I'd say just let him go with it.


Posted by: Ace-K | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:49 PM
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I don't know, it seems like there's some relatively fixed innate ability to get this sort of thing right. Accents seem to be very difficult for some people. I know people who've lived in the US for decades and still speak with a very strong accent from wherever they're from, and other people who've lived here only a few years and have almost no detectable accent. (God knows my own accent wanders all over the map depending on who I've been around, and the other day I noticed someone I was talking to was picking up my accent and it totally weirded me out.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:51 PM
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Put on The Three Amigos, and whenever the main bad guy speaks say "wow, what an accent. Do you think we could ever have accents that natural and subtle?" and then stare intently at him/her for a full 30 seconds.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:51 PM
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Haven't we already had this thread?

Now that you mention it, yes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:51 PM
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4.last: As somebody who is constitutionally incapable of making a Spanish rolled R

Ah, so you live in the state of Arizona?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:52 PM
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Haven't we already had this thread?

Isn't that always already a good question?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:53 PM
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I recommend adopting an Irish brogue.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:53 PM
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Probably easiest to just assume that Spanish speakers find an American accent paired with immaculate Spanish to be quaintly charming, sort of like how we think of English speakers with French or Australian accents.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:58 PM
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Would you say that I have a plethora of Spanish knowledge?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:58 PM
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Haven't we already had this thread?

Yes, and I believe the idea was that this person Stanley knows should adopt a ludicrous caricature of a Spanish accent.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 8:59 PM
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My grandmother went to a fair of some sort, possibly a World's sort, in the 1930s and heard her voice recorded for the first time. She was so shocked by her accent, the story goes, that she sought out a language coach. I was some years into my childhood before it occurred to me that she ever would have had a foreign accent in English, since it was not her first language.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:04 PM
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we have had this thread and as I've mentioned I have an elderly cousin who speaks impeccable Italian with the most american accent ever. I would mention it to the friend but accept that if they've gotten this far without it they may never get there. sometimes americans feel like it's insulting to imitate people's accents somehow; if that's the barrier then Stanley's intervention might do some good.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:09 PM
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I had a Russian teacher whose essentially perfect English was sometimes hard to understand through the thick Russian accent.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:11 PM
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My grandfather apparently spoke pretty good Navajo, for a white guy, but with the most atrocious accent that what he said bore only the vaguest resemblance to the actual Navajo pronunciation. The Navajos could apparently understand him, though.

My dad, who actually took some Navajo classes, had a very good accent. When I took a Navajo class I was told that my accent was good too. I often think I should go back and learn some more Navajo, but it's really fucking hard.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:15 PM
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it seems like there's some relatively fixed innate ability to get this sort of thing right. Accents seem to be very difficult for some people

This, yes e.g. this French prof I once heard give a talk who spoke absolutely perfect idiomatic English with such a heavy accent it was difficult to understand what he was saying. Also my dad, but his English and French are rather far from perfect in other respects as well though they are quite fluent (articles, who needs them) Or, in a famous example, Henry Kissinger. The guy came to the US at age fifteen for chrissakes.

Paul Fussell says that it's classier for Americans to speak French with an American accent rather than a perfect French one.

Say what? While French hostility to mistakes and foreign accents is greatly exaggerated, this is simply not true. My mix of Swiss and American accents has certainly given rise to amusement.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:17 PM
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It's interesting how skill with grammar/vocabulary and pronunciation seem to vary totally independently.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:17 PM
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Stanley should try and humiliate his friend into developing a severe rhotacism.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:18 PM
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19: why is that interesting?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:18 PM
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21: Why not?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:20 PM
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*I* will take your question seriously, Stanley. Repeat or no.

It depends on two things:

1. The degree to which a natural accent would genuinely aid in the person's job. Depending on whether he is interacting with more or less well-traveled/cosmopolitan native speakers, it may be genuinely harder for the customers (?) to understand him. In that case, it's a performance issue. "Hey, yo, I'm worried that if the callers to our hotline can't understand us easily, they'll hang up."

2. The degree to which the person has shown an interest in giving and receiving constructive criticism on other topics. If he's not going to be able to hear you, if he has a really fragile sense of self-worth, or if it's going to poison your working relationship, don't bother. Unless the answer to #1 is "We're answering calls on a suicide prevention hotline."

Now, having solved Stanley's issue, I will say that there is almost nothing more incoherently temperature-raising than to listen to a presenter who has no idea how to work with an interpreter and is trying to communicate critical, potentially life-altering information.

Oh my word. In the interests of preserving my teeth, I finally started quietly drafting a How to Work with an Interpreter sheet in the middle of the presentation.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:20 PM
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sometimes americans feel like it's insulting to imitate people's accents somehow

I suspect this is exactly the thing. What's up with that?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:21 PM
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22: I'm rubber and you're glue?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:24 PM
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why is that interesting?

Because it implies that there are at least two separate skills involved in speaking a language, which probably has some further implications about cognition or whatever.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:24 PM
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18: Yes it was surprising to me too, and I don't imagine the French would appreciate it, but if I remember correctly, in Class he said that carelessness with French pronunciation was an excellent marker of the American upper classes -- that a perfect accent marked you, in those circles, as a parvenu.

Come to think of it, that probably wouldn't apply to Spanish, since French is a language apart in American culture. But you never know.


Posted by: Ace-K | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:25 PM
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26: But why do things keep sticking to you?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:25 PM
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What's up with that?

Dude, Stanley, are you serious? I had one of the most sheltered childhoods imaginable and even I wince at the memory of "Chinese" accent jokes that I did not have the wherewithal to stand up against.

The fear of looking racist -- not being racist -- is alive and well in American society.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:25 PM
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I'm not sure if anyone should defer to the tastes of the American upper classes in anything, really.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:26 PM
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In old American movies, "valet" often seems to rhyme with ballot.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:27 PM
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31: England is more than just an old American movie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:28 PM
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32: Yeah, it's also a trucking company.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:30 PM
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Dude, Stanley, are you serious?

Dead serious. But I might have a blindspot here. I grew up in a household with a non-native Spanish speaker speaking Spanish to me all the time. And faking accents was much encouraged.

You really think it's a fear-of-seeming-racist thing? I could buy that and am inclined to, based on my Witt-is-right-about-everything meter.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:31 PM
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26: I mean, yeah, but that's been apparent for a long time; verbal vs. grammatical disfluencies in brain damage patients provided (if I rmember right) the first solid evidence of functional specialization in the brain.

Which, okay, is interesting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:31 PM
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That's Al Gore's girlfriend.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:32 PM
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The thing about Chinese accent jokes, is that they're either racial jokes, if English is being used, or else they're jokes about how another language sounds like nonsense, not about accents. In neither case does the joker ever approach trying to speak another language in one of that other language's native accents. If anything, they should lead to the conclusion that failing to speak a language in one of its native accents is the problem, not mimicking a native accent in its language.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:34 PM
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I'd say just let him go with it

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:34 PM
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I mean, yeah, but that's been apparent for a long time; verbal vs. grammatical disfluencies in brain damage patients provided (if I rmember right) the first solid evidence of functional specialization in the brain.

Yeah, it's not like there's anything groundbreaking about this observation. But I do think it's interesting as a separate line of evidence pointing in the same direction as that other stuff.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:35 PM
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I confess when I posted this that I wondered whether teo would be annoyed or interested by the topic. I am now confused.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:37 PM
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Fear of being thought racist may be an issue for some people, but I think for a lot of people the biggest issue is self-consciousness about their language aptitude and fear of trying and failing. It's one of those things, like math, that people often think of themselves as "bad at" and therefore don't put much effort into improving at. (Granted, this is probably not what's going on with Stanley's acquaintance.) I think this was covered in the earlier thread.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:38 PM
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I confess when I posted this that I wondered whether teo would be annoyed or interested by the topic. I am now confused.

I haven't yet made up my mind. I'm going to wait to see how the thread progresses.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:39 PM
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31: The upper-crust Yankees in those old films all sound as though they're suffering from mild cases of lockjaw. But yeah, it's interesting that their speech sounds about 200 percent more British than anything you'd hear today. And that was well into the twentieth century, of course.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:40 PM
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42: At some point it'll probably roll to food and sex, and who doesn't like those things?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:40 PM
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An American accent like Jean Seberg's in Breathless might sound pretty cool to a French speaker, but not many people sound like that.

Because it implies that there are at least two separate skills involved in speaking a language

Based on my own experiences with language learning and language learners, I always figured that was a given. I've known more than a few people like the one Stanley's mentioned.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:41 PM
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44: Nobody, that's who.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:41 PM
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You really think it's a fear-of-seeming-racist thing?

In 100% of cases, I would say there's a 100% chance that it's a fear-of-seeming-racist thing. People are uncomfortable adopting a stereotypical or caricatured impersonation of another ethnicity. Especially when talking directly to people of that other ethnicity.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:42 PM
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I'm not sure if anyone's assuming that Americans are unusually bad at picking up accents in other languages, but I don't think there's much evidence that that's true. I suppose this doesn't preclude arguments that there's some reason Americans specifically don't pick up accents that differs from the reasons that millions of others speaking dozens of languages also have the exact same failing (to the extent that it's a failing).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:42 PM
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Also relevant is that many languages have a wide variety of regional or other dialects with differing accents, so the accent that comes to mind for a given foreign language learner may not necessarily be the best one for the context in which they are going to be using the language.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:44 PM
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You really think it's a fear-of-seeming-racist thing? I could buy that and am inclined to, based on my Witt-is-right-about-everything meter.

I'll keep "Witt is right" as the default setting, but this I don't buy. Some people just don't have an ear (or mouth) for phonetics, just as some people are tone deaf.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:47 PM
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At some point it'll probably roll to food and sex

Spanish food and sex or French sex and food?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:49 PM
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I'm not sure if anyone's assuming that Americans are unusually bad at picking up accents in other languages, but I don't think there's much evidence that that's true.

Yeah, I don't think so either. My assumption (possibly unfounded) is that most Americans don't pick up accents in other languages because they never learn any other languages in the first place. If English was good enough for Jesus...


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:51 PM
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51: If it rolls, Spanish.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:52 PM
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OK, I admit that some people are not afraid of sounding racist, they are actually afraid of sounding ridiculous.

It's like when you contemplate doing business in some country where you have to wear weird clothes that you would never consider wearing for any other reason. Imagine having photographs taken and people snickering at you either for looking silly or for going too far and looking like a parody of the people you're naively trying to impress.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:56 PM
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I think the most convincing thing would be for a native spanish speaker and Stanley to stage a conversation with Flat Nasal Accent, whereby Native Spanish Speaker feigns incomprehension until Stanster repeats each thing that FNA says, with an exaggerated spanish accent. Go in circles as many times as possible.

You could even switch to English and Speedy Gonzalez accents for maximum humiliation factor.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 9:59 PM
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My assumption (possibly unfounded) is that most Americans don't pick up accents in other languages because they never learn any other languages in the first place.

But this doesn't explain why, say, French or Russian people often have very strong accents when speaking English.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:01 PM
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Because Russian people have sexy accents. Why would they want to suppress that?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:02 PM
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The thing about Chinese accent jokes, is that they're either racial jokes, if English is being used, or else they're jokes about how another language sounds like nonsense, not about accents. In neither case does the joker ever approach trying to speak another language in one of that other language's native accents.

Indeed, one of the odd things about the "Chinese sounds like nonsense" jokes (à la Rosie O'Donnell) is that they almost never sound anything like actual Chinese.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:03 PM
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It appears that learning accents is actually quite difficult. More often than not, the explanation goes with the people who speak fluently (including in terms of pronunciation) than with the people who don't. Possible explanations: bilingual from birth, picked up the language young, solid effort at immersion, language coaching, etc. The default seems to be keeping one's native accent, but for some reason that's being treated as the aberration here.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:04 PM
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they are actually afraid of sounding ridiculous

True for a lot of people (it's why I mumble when I speak French), but IME people who are aware of sounding ridiculous tend to be aware that not even attempting to sound like native speakers also sounds ridiculous.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:07 PM
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I found the first term of Russian quite simple and our Cold-War-vintage American professor easy to understand. Once the class passed into the hands of a younger instructor who had actually spent substantial time in Russia, I could hardly understand anything out of the professor's mouth and he was appalled that we all spoke with terrible American accents (and also that we often wrote y for и, since, being from the American southwest, we'd all previously taken Spanish).


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:12 PM
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Anyway, to the extent that I have any advice - and I've never mastered an accent in any language other than English - the "sound like a caricature" advice seems pretty good to me. But a caricature in that language, not whatever caricature of an accent in English happens to be around.

I found that I had to get used to saying things I wasn't sure I'd understand if I had heard them from someone else, but that was in the context of learning a language, not being fluent. Listening to the radio or audiobooks in the target language is also helpful for catching intonation and pacing.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:13 PM
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(Perhaps it goes without saying that ColdWarProf had an awful American accent in Russian.)


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:15 PM
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People are ridiculously oversensitive about sounding bad in foreign languages. Just speak as best you can, and the folks you're talking to will deal (or switch to English). I bluffed my way into a second year German class at an intensive German place even though I only a little bit of pidgin, but I was used to using. I've also had Italian conversations when traveling in Italy after memorizing maybe a hundred basic words and adding French.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:15 PM
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IME people who are aware of sounding ridiculous tend to be aware that not even attempting to sound like native speakers also sounds ridiculous.

Yes, but that can easily be passed off as "I'm just not good at languages and I know it" ridiculous rather than "I'm just not good at languages and I don't know it" ridiculous.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:17 PM
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It appears that learning accents is actually quite difficult.

I'd say there's just a lot of individual variation. Some people find it easy, others find it very hard.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:19 PM
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we often wrote y for и

What did ю юз for y?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:19 PM
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The "talk like a caricature" advice is probably good, but I find it kind of weird because my own tendency is to just mimic the pronunciation and intonation of the native speakers I hear as best I can, and trying to imitate a stereotypical accent seems harder. But then, I seem to be adept at learning accents, so the advice isn't really for me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:21 PM
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Oh, and on the intervention question, I suspect it depends on the person's graduate concentration. Some put more emphasis on phonetics than others. The teacher I had for first semester Italian could teach only first semester Italian and nothing more advanced because of her accent, but she was fluent. Her main field was really art history.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:25 PM
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The substitution error only occurred with the word "and." It was weird.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:26 PM
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66: Yes, but lots of things are like that and get referred to, casually, as "difficult." That's all I meant.

I found I could do a decent job at Spanish and Italian* accent wise (but can't really now, without remedial practice), but not so good with French or Russian. Really not good with the French r, partly because I couldn't keep from doing a Spanish-ish r. Spanish was the only one I took as a kid and without any accelerated courses, so there were years and years to practice pronunciation.

I did crack up a bunch of people in my group when reading a dialogue from the Russian textbook in the accent of the cranky old Russian man we heard on the accompanying tapes, but I wouldn't have had the guts to do something like that in real conversation. Which I guess might be evidence for the not wanting to sound ridiculous argument.

*I have to admit that I really was trying to make have fun of with Italian with my accent, though. This sort of backfired when I mistakenly used the word for "glass" instead of the word "bottle" when buying a bottle of water. (Hey, it was a phrase in one of the textbook exercises, ok?) But I got my bottle of water, and the guy laughed and laughed, so it was all fine.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:34 PM
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Really not good with the French r, partly because I couldn't keep from doing a Spanish-ish r.

Funny, I had basically the opposite problem. I can do the French r fine, but the Spanish one gives me endless trouble. This is unfortunate because a Spanish-type r is much more common cross-linguistically than either the French or English one. I also have trouble with the German r. I guess I just have a hard time with trills.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:39 PM
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One nice thing about Navajo: no r.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:39 PM
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Indeed, one of the odd things about the "Chinese sounds like nonsense" jokes (à la Rosie O'Donnell) is that they almost never sound anything like actual Chinese.

This is the problem I have with the "sound like a caricature" advice—the caricature is often way off the mark. If you're talking to a native speaker, you're hearing the sounds you need to make; as the Chinese saying goes, when making an axe the model is close at hand (in the original, of course, that saying sounds like this).


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:40 PM
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Oh, right, German. I barely used that outside of classroom settings. I felt like I could make the right sounds, or at least the 'r', but I was more focused on trying to put the damn words in the right order without too much pausing to think about it.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:42 PM
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I can't do r's in any language except for English. In other languages they often go missing or come out like l's.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:45 PM
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they often go missing or come out like l's.

So you're fluent in Puerto Rican Spanish.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:47 PM
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Except for the whole Spanish thing.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:48 PM
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74: But that's a caricature of the language, not the accent. I suppose the first step is getting the right sound to sound like a caricature of.

But my understanding of the advice is that you're not really trying to sound like a caricature to the person you're speaking to, you're just supposed to acknowledge that you're going to sound like a caricature to yourself, and be willing to accept that until it sounds natural to you. Maybe using the word caricature in this context does more harm than good. I haven't actually read the original advice; I don't think I read most of that thread.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:50 PM
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Can someone (teo: looking at you) find the thread in which we talked about this topic? I will give you five merit points.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:56 PM
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80: Done.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 10:58 PM
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81: Gracias.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 11:01 PM
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82: De nada.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 11:02 PM
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I would say "Get a room" in Spanish, but I don't want to sound ridiculo.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 11:14 PM
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You need to work on your accent. It's ridículo.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-16-10 11:30 PM
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43: the older generation of my Long Island/New York family still speak like in an old movie (or did until recently, in the case of my grandfather.) it was funny to realize that my Gdad and this guy Keith who worked for him were born within 5 miles of each other and had both spent most of their adult lives in East Hampton, but my Gdad had 30s movie accent and Keith is an Italian guy from LonGuyland.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:22 AM
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85: That was intentional.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:30 AM
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I've told this story before, but I used to work with a secretary in Glasgow who had a rough-as-arses east-end of Glasgow accent. However, for years she'd lived in Italy working initially as an au pair/nanny for a rich Italian couple, but, when it became clear that she was bright and a good administrator she'd ended up as some sort of executive PA to the father's company.

She used to laugh about the fact that because she'd learned Italian from scratch in Italy from very posh Italians, and almost entirely by immersion, she (apparently) spoke Italian with a sophisticated aristocratic accent and vocabulary, but she spoke English with just about the most working class low-status accent you can imagine.

Also, speaking of accent retention, we had a prick neighbour last year who spoke with a strong Glasgow accent, who, it turned out, had moved to England when he was only about a year old. Which, as far as I could tell, meant that his accent was almost entirely fake. I'm pretty sure he'd cultivated it because he thought it made him sound hard.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:46 AM
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67 is excellent.

Really not good with the French r, partly because I couldn't keep from doing a Spanish-ish r.

Tell people your teacher was from Roussillon or somewhere round there.

I get the impression that English with a foreign accent is regarded as sounding sexy but in many countries speaking with a heavy English/American accent is regarded as sounding boorish. This impression may be wrong and is based on a totally unrepresentative sample. I suspect it reflects a less tolerant attitude to accents generally in other cultures.

Whatever, I'd do the imitation thing if I was going to get serious about a language. My French and Spanish teachers always worked on our pronunciation quite a bit.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:35 AM
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but she spoke English with just about the most working class low-status accent you can imagine.

This. My Spanish last year was deeply rural, cornpone Andaluz -- the equivalent of some guy from Spain speaking with an Appalachian accent.

As far as Stanley goes, I find that I don't mind non-native accents in English at all, but an American accent in Spanish is like a knife in my ears; I can't stand listening to it, and I don't know why.


Posted by: jsligh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:46 AM
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In old American movies, "valet" often seems to rhyme with ballot.

Americans who speak English should certainly try their best to adopt the correct (English) accent, just as with any other foreign language.

Also, speaking of accent retention, we had a prick neighbour last year who spoke with a strong Glasgow accent, who, it turned out, had moved to England when he was only about a year old. Which, as far as I could tell, meant that his accent was almost entirely fake.

In his defence, it may have been unconscious. A friend of mine at school went off to Australia for a year, and when he came back he was tortured by the fact that he was unable to get rid of his Australian accent for about another six months.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:01 AM
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"But this doesn't explain why, say, French or Russian people often have very strong accents when speaking English."

In my experience, they really don't. The French, that is. I'm sitting next to a native French speaker who you probably wouldn't know was French just from listening to her. Admittedly, her accent is better than any other French person I've worked with, but the others also had pretty decent accents. Most of my French contacts speak with better English accents than, say, my Spanish or Portuguese contacts, and a lot better than my Italian contacts. Bear in mind that I'm talking about people who are almost all totally fluent in English and use it every day.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:51 AM
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re: 91

As far as I can tell, he'd never had had the chance to develop a Scottish accent. He'd lived in England his entire life [although his parents were Scottish], and yet his accent was markedly stronger than mine [Falkirk council estate, etc]. Knowing everything else I know about him [and he was an arse of the highest water], I'm pretty confident it was all about the fake machismo.

re: 92

Yeah, in my experience Spanish and Italians speaking English, even those who are fluent and have excellent grammar and vocabulary, often have almost comically thick accents. One year I had flatmates from Belgium, Germany, and Spain, and although the Spanish/Basque girl had the best written English* her accent was so much poorer than the others that you'd never believe that she was in the middle of her Master's degree.

* I used to sometimes proof-read their work.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:57 AM
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It seems to depend on the person. In Ohio, I had a French friend who spoke English all the time, and had all American friends, but had the most incomprehensibly thick accent, even after a decade in the US.

My Serbian friend, who barely has a noticeably foreign accent at all in English, says that her friends, some of whom are extremely hard to understand in English after living here the same amount of time, do not imitate the American accent on purpose, like they're afraid it might be offensive or something.

I'm inclined to say it's not as much of a choice as that; some ears have a hard time hearing and imitating sounds in foreign languages. If I don't imitate a little bit of a clipped NY-ish accent when I lecture quickly, my students don't even understand me in English.

My Spanish, due to an accident of circumstance at an impressionable age, is thickly accented somewhere in the Chilean/Argentinian range. Pretty much no one here understands me. I keep having to remind myself that I am fluent. Surely those 10 years were not wasted.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:04 AM
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I'm fairly used to (English) people not understanding me in English. I like to think of those people as ignorant fucks -- as my accent is not strong (except when talking to other Scots), and I usually consciously tone it down even further when I'm trying to be comprehended.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:22 AM
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95. English people can't always understand other English people: my BiLiL can readily drop into a thick Mackem which is completely incomprehensible to me.

(On preview, this basically recapitulates 94.3)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:51 AM
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re: 96

Of course. I have a couple of Geordie and Mackem friends that I struggled to understand sometimes. I didn't mean that. I meant that ignorant, "yer wot?" you sometimes get from people* even when you aren't speaking in a thick accent or using dialect words.

* by 'people' I mean Londoners.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:01 AM
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Oh well, Londoners.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:05 AM
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It's why I put the inverted commas round 'people' in the footnote!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:16 AM
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I had a friend from Texas who suddenly developed an English accent, but I could always understand him pretty well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:25 AM
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100. What a strange thing to do. Sex, money or affectation?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:29 AM
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My father (from South Shields, so officially not really a Mackem or a Geordie) claims that when he went to Norway with the Navy, the locals did a double take because the accent (and some of the dialect) is so familiar. But these stories all take place in bars, so probably should be taken with a pinch of salt...


Posted by: Heloise | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:36 AM
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unable to get rid of his Australian accent

In college, I worked at a restaurant that was staffed mostly with Moroccans, and at the end of every night, I'd be speaking English with a weird quasi-Arabic accent.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:38 AM
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Sex, money or affectation?

I think the hope was that the third would help the first two along.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:39 AM
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I woke up thinking of my grandmother's saying that she thinks it's funny she's been complimented on her refined accent in Italian because she could just as easily sounded like a truck driver and wouldn't have realized until it was too late, that it was hardly a sign of moral or intellectual strength.

I don't know what advice to give Stanley. My partner is one of those accent-deaf people while I find them natural. She's going to Spain without me next month and I'm glad she decided to take a summer class in Spanish for free at the CC where she teaches rather than an expensive private class, because I don't think either will do her much good in terms of even the simple conversational bits she wants. I still remember unfondly all the time my linguist uncle and I spent trying to get her to understand and enunciate the differences between "D'Youville" and "Louisville," and that was without even getting into the regional complications with the latter.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:40 AM
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I'm working up the courage to tell my new supervisor that he always says "nucular" for "nuclear" (and the word comes up often). I don't forsee a real problem - he's intelligent, genial, and non-egotistical, I just need to build more of a rapport with him - except that I worry he might have trouble correcting himself, as he's told me he has a auditory processing disability keeping him from learning foreign languages.

I wonder if a moderate American accent is viewed neutrally by most Europeans, but the scales can tip over to negativity if it's strong enough to give the impression that the speaker isn't making an honest effort to speak properly. I saw some older French movie - maybe Cleo de 5 a 7? - in which a cinema was showing an advertisement with an American supermodel, speaking in French with an American accent even I could tell was strong.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:03 AM
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My sense, from listening to non-native speakers of English, is that a strong accent really isn't much of a problem once you're close enough to be comprehensible. Someone with fluent vocabulary and sentence structure, but a thick accent, is usually perfectly easy to communicate with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:09 AM
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ATIFFD.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:10 AM
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Or, in a famous example, Henry Kissinger. The guy came to the US at age fifteen for chrissakes.

He kept his accent on purpose, to cultivate the image of a European intellectual.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:27 AM
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they are actually afraid of sounding ridiculous

This. A few years ago I took a beginner's course at L'Allianace Française in DC. Except for the start of the 1st class, it was all in French. But at the start, the instructor (a Frenchwoman) asked people to introduce themselves using an Inspector Clouseau voice. About two of the 12 people attempted it and it was obvious the others felt very uncomfortable. Me, I tried it and still felt like a fool.

Funny, among the students there were a number who were not Americans. I could hear other people's American accents most of the time, but I could always hear the Portuguese, Russian, etc. accents. The Portuguese R used in French was impressive. Hearing other people's accents made me feel more self-conscious. I felt that mine clanged in their ears as much as theirs did in mine.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:29 AM
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Italians mimicing an American accent. The lyrics are gibberish, but apparently convincing to Italian ears.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:40 AM
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Sort of on topic, it's been quite entertaining to listen to ESPN's brit World Cup play-by-play announcer try and make his commentary relatable for Americans.

Earlier he welcomed the soldiers watching on the "American Forces Network", and just now he said "great footballers don't always make good coaches; think about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird..."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:48 AM
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I've always wished I could hear what an American accent sounds like to native speakers of other languages. I like most accents I hear from non-native speakers of English and I'd just as soon* they keep the accent as long as it doesn't impede communication.

*I'm not sure I've ever written "just as soon" before. It's a weird phrase, when you come to think of it.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:54 AM
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112: They just slipped up and said "daft" in a moment of excitement, which made me grin. (I'm so glad I'm not at work today!)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:59 AM
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I've always wished I could hear what an American accent sounds like to native speakers of other languages

I've heard it described as talking like you have a hot potato in your mouth.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:13 AM
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Well that's discouraging.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:18 AM
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In the spirit of repetition, I thought I should tell you again that to me it seems that I speak Hebrew with a perfect accent that sounds just like an Israeli, but, for some reason, actual Israelis claim that I have a strong American accent.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:32 AM
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re: 102

Probably true. Geordie dialect words all basically the same as Scots, and thus have quite a lot in common with various Scandinavian and Lowlands languages [Frisian, Plattdeutsch, Afrikaans, etc]. It used to always mystify me that every single word Geordies use is entirely standard in my own idiolect, give or take a few, and yet the change of rhythm and accent renders if near incomprehensible.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:39 AM
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native french english speakers whom I know have excellent accents, sometimes notably british if that's where/from whom they learned it. someone recently said to me after a meeting, you mean "Colette" is french? I'm all, dude, she's named Colette. [not her actual name for privacy's sake but her real name is equally, maximally french.] native italian speakers IME, not so much with the english accent. I had a nice experience in sicily with an acquaintance's dad, when I referred to him and his wife with "Loro" (plural of the polite singulae Lei) while using the subjunctive, and he was all, kids these days with their disrespecting "voi's"! here's an american girl and she has better manners than you already! I know I have said this in the earlier thread, but italian speakers think I have an accent, but emphatically not an american accent. it evolved into quite an extensive discussion in a bar, with the consensus being that I sounded albanian.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:01 AM
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118: See also Dutch and English. The vocabulary is all there, especially if you speak Geramn as well, but that doesn't make a spoken conversation any more comprehensible.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:24 AM
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or German for that matter


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:24 AM
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57: Because Russian people have sexy accents

Indeed. The single sexiest sound the human voice is capable of producing is a woman with a thick Russian accent saying the word "cat." Fact. Other Russian-accented words are also sexy, but that's the ne plus ultra of sexy sounds.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:24 AM
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106: I tend to wonder if it's worth correcting people on these things when they don't impede comprehension or if it's an impulse better examined and perhaps tamed. I dated someone who said "between he and I" and it drove me nuts. I corrected him. He probably felt irritated and mildly humiliated; I felt like a schoolmarm. He also continued to say it because once you're an adult, these things don't change easily. Kind of lose/lose.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:28 AM
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And the thing about 'nucular' is that there's an argument that it's not an error, just a dialectical difference. It grates on me like anything as well, but I'm not sure there's anything more than 'I don't like your accent' behind the grating.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:31 AM
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123 (and also 113): I tried to do the same thing someone I know who says "just assume" for "just as soon" (which, really, how can you say that?), with the same awkward results.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:33 AM
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Speaking of ... there's an accent that I adopt when I'm in Ghana, which isn't quite Ghanaian English (and certainly not pidgin, though some of the vocabularly makes its way in), but is closer to it in intonation and rhythm than my everyday accent. I find it helps people understand me better, especially those who pretty much only venture into English during short interactions. It does sometimes result in confusion as to where it is I'm actually from. Germany is the standard guess, but I think that may be something of a default category for foreigners who speak English differently than you might expect them to.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:35 AM
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124: There are a number of senior members of the fusion community who say 'nucular.' It's a word that obviously comes up a lot, and you just don't correct a guy whose been working in the field for 50 years on something like that. I think it's best to just view it as a dialectical difference, but it still grates.

On accents - I don't have a native accent and tend to drift towards the accent whoever I'm talking to at the time. I get worried that people will think I'm mocking, but it's completely unconscious. I learned to speak from people with US accents (mostly Dad), English accents (mostly Mom), and a variety of African accents, often layered with Portuguese. When I was really young I'd talk to Mom in an English accent, Dad in an American one, and the various refugees (from former Portuguese colonies) who were living with us and babysitting me a lot in the accent appropriate to them. I really wish my accentular flexibility translated into learning new languages, because that is really hard for me.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:46 AM
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127.1: I say 'nucular.' I've tried to fix it since high school when I got yelled at by the judge at a speech contest. My topic was fission. Knowing how much I grated the judges picky ears was the highlight of my day, which may be why I can't change on that matter. I've managed to correct my pronunciation of "Parmesan" after my wife started mocking me for various midwestern verbal ticks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:52 AM
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126: I've got a 'Samoan' accent like that I picked up -- not actually Samoan sounding, but with a rhythm that seemed to be easier for Samoan kids with weak English to understand. Unfortunately, for years after the Peace Corps, it'd pop out whenever I heard a strong accent of any sort, which must have sounded both condescending and kind of insane. I seem to have stopped doing it now, thank goodness.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:55 AM
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124: This is so. I'll try not to go on my now practically scripted rant in full, but when people went on and on about W saying nucular, I felt the point was being missed in a way that verged on grandeur. As long as the wrongness of red states is harped on in ways that focus on mockable metonyms like dialect, nobody should expect much in the way of dialog or progress.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:56 AM
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130: In my case, the judge blamed my 'nucular' on Dan Rather. It isn't like I didn't practice the speech before my parents, teacher, and other kids. None of them thought to correct me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:01 AM
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127: Fair enough, but this guy deals with new people all the time, and by demographics, I suspect at the very least 10-15% of them will think less of him for that reason alone.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:15 AM
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I could buy that and am inclined to, based on my Witt-is-right-about-everything meter

I evaluate much of what I read on Unfogged by the WWWD theory.

Witt is always correct. As she is that non-racists fear sounding like they are mocking accents.

Also, non-native speakers can feel silly trying to sound like a native.

But, most importantly, Witt is always correct.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:21 AM
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I can speak singlish--partly strangely accented english plus chinese word order plus random malay particles and words. taxi drivers think it's hilarious. my educated friends can switch from the british-accented acrolect to the "why like that, lor?" in one second. it's funny to watch.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:32 AM
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senior members of the fusion community

Like, Japanes/Thai?

My parents, particularly my mother, corrected our speech all the time when I was a kid, so the habit of correcting others has been hard for me to shake.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:37 AM
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italian speakers think I have an accent, but emphatically not an american accent

I've no doubt mentioned it before, but a Chilean girl I chatted up and subsequently dated in South America later confessed to me that she thought I was Norwegian or some other Northern European and definitely would not have knowingly opened up to someone from the USA. (This was March 2003, and she was with the 99% of Chileans who, according to polling at the time, weren't so hot on the idea of that Iraq fight GWB had just picked.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:41 AM
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You smooth bastard deceiving innocent Chilean girls with your smooth Norwegian ways.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:48 AM
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Say what you will about people from the USA, they're more likely to be fluent in Spanish than Norwegians are.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:51 AM
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Some of my best friends are people from the USA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:52 AM
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134: Hee. A Ghanaian friend of mine went to college in the US and speaks English (to me) with a dead-on American accent (specifically, something in the range of educated African-American, think Will Smith when he's not clownin), but switches easily to Ga, Twi or pidgin: "Charley, why de you treat me so so?"


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:53 AM
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I know long know enough Spanish to sweep a date a Chilean, but back when I did, someone from Spain told me I had a good accent. I think this meant that I didn't sound like a Mexican.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:56 AM
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I think I've mentioned this before, but in a bar during my first week in Japan I met a salaryman who, like many Japanese, had pretty good grammar and a serviceable vocabulary (thanks to years of classroom study) but an accent so thick he was nearly incomprehensible. I struggled to understand him in conversation for about half an hour, and then he took his turn at the karaoke machine and did a spot-on impression of Elvis singing "Love Me Tender" without a trace of an accent.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:57 AM
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When I was at Chaco last year, one of the things I did for some overtime was chaperone a BBC film crew. The mix of accents was interesting. The director, who was the person I interacted with the most, spoke RP, as did the cameraman, and I could understand both of them easily. The on-camera speaker was Scottish, and his accent was a little tricky for me at first but after I got used to it I could understand him fine. The young guy they had helping out, though, spoke this really thick Cockney-ish accent that was just impossible for me to understand.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:57 AM
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I know long know enough Spanish to sweep a date a Chilean

I'm sorry, was I speaking pidgin again?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:59 AM
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Stanley is going to have to translate 141 into Spanish for the rest of us.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:59 AM
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Oops. "I no longer know enough Spanish to date a Chilean." I got distracted by my job.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:02 AM
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145: It says ¡Órale, guey! ¡Qué caray! En Wisconsin. Punto com.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:02 AM
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140: I love that so much. Pidgins feel so very intimate to me for some reason. It's something to do with the implied acknowledgment of barriers between the speakers coupled with the obvious desire to connect that comes with simply speaking, like a handshake through prison bars. It's as if the language itself is saying we're all the same under the skin.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:08 AM
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Whoops: En Wisconsin s/b En Güisconsin


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:13 AM
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I no longer know enough Spanish to date a Chilean

I can think of some more immediately pertinent obstacles, Don Juan.


Posted by: Moby's Wife | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:19 AM
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150: You're using the iPod I gave you to spy on me? How dare you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:28 AM
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151: you should have erased the google search history while you were at it, Mr. +skoal +dipping +girls +naked.



Posted by: Moby's Wife | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:52 AM
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Faker. My wife knows Skoal is candy for people who lack the stomach for Copenhagen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:55 AM
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I think I heard somewhere that, even though certain people don't pick up accents on their own, when they make a conscious effort to (possibly with the help of a therapist) it tends to work very well most of the time. In other words, while the ability to pick up grammar and vocab may be more or less fixed, the ability to pick up accent is quite a bit more learnable. Is any of that true?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:07 AM
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possibly with the help of a therapist

I realize you probably meant *speech* therapist, but for a few seconds there I was squinting at my screen puzzling over a mental image of Eliza Doolittle lying on a couch with 'enry 'iggins inquiring, "So, Ms. Doolittle. Tell me about your mother..."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:24 AM
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This is a funny thread to read when I just came back from a meeting with a Sierra Leonan who stopped every block to greet people in Krio or English, never breaking rhythm in her conversation with me.

Spanish speakers claim I have an American accent and non-native-Spanish-speaker Americans claim my Spanish accent is "good." I suspect this means "I am unable to discern that it is actually a horrible mishmash of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Castilian/European-influenced, and Argentinian accent and vocabulary."

I lightly adapt accents depending on who I'm speaking to, but much more than that I tend to pick up rhythm and cadence. It's entirely involuntary and sometimes I have to be on guard not to offend. In Alaska it took about a day for me to go over completely (think Marilyn on Northern Exposure, for those of us of a certain age).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:25 AM
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I would say "Get a room" in Spanish, but I don't want to sound ridiculo.

You need to work on your accent. It's ridículo.

Come to think, ridiculo would sound pretty ridículo.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:39 AM
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But, most importantly, Witt is always correct.

Is it terrible of me to say that I am looking forward to the heebie/Witt cage match for the Always Right title?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:47 AM
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I often think I should go back and learn some more Navajo, but it's really fucking hard.

You could be a windtalker!

http://david-kahn.com/articles-navajo-windtalkers.htm


Posted by: Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:56 AM
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158: Luckily for the people who have to live around me, the real world provides multiple opportunities each day to confirm my non-rightness. So I think the title goes to heebie on summary judgment, as the law people would say.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:00 PM
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England is more than just an old American movie

I know we have talked about the annoying habit of newscasters to pronounce foreign capitals with an accent appropriate to the country, esp. "south of the border". And Mumbai is Bombay in English. Call it whatever you want in your own language.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:06 PM
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Is it terrible of me to say that I am looking forward to the heebie/Witt cage match for the Always Right title?

Witt and heebie are non-overlapping magisteria.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:09 PM
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And Mumbai is was Bombay in English.

Until 1995. They speak English there too, you know.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:21 PM
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Witt and heebie are non-overlapping magisteria.

Unfortunately.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:22 PM
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163: Sure, just give me 20 years to get used to the change.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:22 PM
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At the very least, wherever they overlap conflict is inconceivable.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:24 PM
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The link in 159 is good. I like that he points out right at the beginning that the movie's "bodyguard" premise is totally fictional.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:24 PM
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Until 1995. They speak English there too, you know.

Of course, old chap. I understand that place names are at best approximations of the name that the native speakers use. But why don't we call Germany Deutchland? And where the hell does Allemand come into it? Jingoism is the way to go, by gum. Wogs start at Calais, etc.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:31 PM
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Some people speak languages containing sounds that I have not been able to make. Actually, most people speak languages with sounds I have not been able to make.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:38 PM
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If you don't speak German the appropriate name for Germany is Niemcy. And while we're at it, how about Włochy and its capital, Rzym. There's also the country known as Węgry, which through WWI contained a province called Siedmiogród.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:43 PM
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I think my American accent is pretty strong when I speak in French. If I got back into practice with it - say, at least one week of frequent use - I think my accent would still be noticeable, but no longer so strong that Francophones switch to English to accommodate me or have to ask me to repeat everything I say.

89
I get the impression that English with a foreign accent is regarded as sounding sexy but in many countries speaking with a heavy English/American accent is regarded as sounding boorish.

I think that's just because Americans who can't blend in or don't bother to are considered boorish. But maybe that's me being self-conscious, if English accents are regarded the same.

119
he was all, kids these days with their disrespecting "voi's"! here's an american girl and she has better manners than you already!

Cool, but that's a bit unfair to the Italian kids (and sorry to burst your bubble, if you had one about this), because I'm pretty sure people who learn languages in school tend to get formal and proper usage drilled into their heads and slang only comes later. I know that's how it was for me.

124
And the thing about 'nucular' is that there's an argument that it's not an error, just a dialectical difference.

Huh, I'm glad I didn't see this thread until after a bunch of people had already commented, because I would have said "of course it's an error".

OK, fair enough, enough smart people pronounce it like Bush that it's probably accepted usage. But what other "-clear" words are pronounced "cular"? Any? If it's just that one word, how can it be a dialectical thing?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:55 PM
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the movie's "bodyguard" premise is totally fictional

A friend of mine has a funny first date story that entailed going to see the Kevin Costner / Whitney Houston vehicle Bodyguard with someone employed by the equivalent of the Secret Service in another country. Apparently he could not resist vocally criticizing the lack of realism in the movie, to the point where she insisted that they leave so that he didn't make a scene.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:55 PM
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171.last: avunclear, funiclear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:04 PM
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So I think I'm bad at accents - like I said, strong American accent when speaking French, and I think my rare attempts to imitate other accents in English sound stupid and unsuccessful - and yet, I was complimented once on speaking a tonal language. On a bus trip with a group of exchange students, I introduced myself to a pair of Chinese girls. Maybe Thai or something, I don't remember. But whatever the case, they were amazed that I pronounced their names correctly. It was just individuals' names, and to me it seemed like just a matter of repeating what I heard, but apparently most people either don't think to try or don't have the ear for inflections. It was weird.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:05 PM
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The highest level of acheivement I reached in speaking French was that people in Paris started to believe I was Dutch. It would probably take me at least a year of living in a Francophone country full time to get back to that level.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:06 PM
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||
I am curious about the genesis of this sign.
|>


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:07 PM
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176: has to be SXSW.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:13 PM
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177: The comments say so, and folks claim they know the bar. I am astonished that SXSW has such specific cultural oddnesses that it's immediately identifiable. Are people trying to jump the line by invoking Google Analytics results for their blog really that common there?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:17 PM
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The highest level of acheivement I reached in speaking French was that people in Paris started to believe I was Dutch.

The highest level I attained was speaking French like a Spanish cow.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:32 PM
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168:
Yeah, but this isn't right. It's not a Germany to Deutschland situation, or a Peking to Beijing. It's more like Elizabethville to Lubumbashi or Leningrad to St. Petersberg.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:46 PM
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the appropriate name for Germany is Niemcy. And while we're at it, how about Włochy and its capital, Rzym. There's also the country known as Węgry, which through WWI contained a province called Siedmiogród.

Any ful kno that is not English and do not make sens.


Posted by: Nigel Molesworth, Esq. | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:48 PM
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Leningrad to St. Petersberg

Ahem:

St. Petersberg to Leningrad to St. Petersberg, Comrade.


Posted by: ssias | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:53 PM
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What did you do to my name? Damn keyboard.


Posted by: Peter the Great, Tsar of all the Russias | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:55 PM
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179: Better to speak French like one than to be one.


Posted by: OPINIONATED Gelett Burgess | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:55 PM
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171: Why does it have to be a phonetic rule to be a dialect form?

I did an OED search recently, and I'm don't think there are any other words ending in "-clear" that aren't compounds of the word "clear." And there's heaps of common words ending in "-cular" besides Sifu's: there's circular, particular, jocular, muscular, molecular, vascular, perpendicular, vehicular, secular, binocular, spectacular, macular... even if it's an error, it's not all that unreasonable one.

Also the OED lists "nucular" as an alternative, last cited 1985 (not counting a Bush comment).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:56 PM
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It's more like Elizabethville to Lubumbashi or Leningrad to St. Petersberg

El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula to Lozangles


Posted by: Sam Yorty | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:02 PM
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Sam Yorty said Los AnGaleeez, with a hard g and an eeee sound.

I've only heard that once or twice in the wild, but I believe it was standard whitey pronounciation through about 1960.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:20 PM
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I mean, Bombay was both an Anglicization from the Portuguese toponym, closely related to the name the city has had in Hindi and other languages, and the official name. When it changed, it went from an official name used by many residents of the city to one favored by the indigenous ethnic group. As Blume said, before 1995, Bombay as the English form of Mumbai, or Bambai. Since 1995, Bombay is the old name and Mumbai is the new name.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:24 PM
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Wasn't there something dubious about the change to Mumbai -- nationalist party in power or something like that?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:27 PM
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heebie/witt correctness cage match?

I thought the female roles were well-defined. A brief sampling:

Witt = always correct
alameida/thorn = always interesting, always compelling stories
Blume = eyebrows/crazy smart, german speaking, obivously highly tolerant of bike-obessions.
heebie = booty/math
LB = DO NOT TRY TO DEBATE her!
RTFS = Please, please, please cook for me

Ill have to come back for Di, oudemia, paren, awb, and others.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:29 PM
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Wasn't there something dubious about the change to Mumbai -- nationalist party in power or something like that?

Yeah, there was a wave of name changes across the country when a Hindu nationalist party began to gain power. It's a complicated situation, and I only know enough about it to know that I don't know enough about it to comment intelligently.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:37 PM
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190: Yes, Mumbai is the Marathi name, and I believe Marathi speakers aren't even a majority of Mumbaikars (though of course they are majority of the state of Maharashtra, the state Mumbai is part of). Bombay is the old melting-pot name, whereas Mumbai has a whiff of the ethnic/linguistic chauvinism of the party that put it through. Still, it's been 15 years, and people are getting used to it.

Similar story with Madras>Chennai (Tamil partisanship). Calcutta was renamed Kolkata by Communists, though, apparently just hopping on the bandwagon.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:39 PM
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191: Yeah, I have no idea what role the BJP played in all these name changes, but I imagine there was some.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:43 PM
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When are the new Guineans going to change the name of Port Moresby? Maybe they don't care.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:46 PM
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190: ""This is like being unaware that Ogged is Iranian, Heebie is always right, or Alamedia was like totally crazy and used to do a lot of drugs. It's practically the first thing they tell you when you get an internet license."


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:51 PM
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182: What, no Petrograd?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:00 PM
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190: We men have some kind of compulsive need to put woman in boxes, don't we?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:02 PM
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Ain't that the goddamn truth.


Posted by: OPINIONATED HELENA | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:06 PM
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It's a complicated situation, and I only know enough about it to know that I don't know enough about it to comment intelligently.

That actually would prevent teo from commenting on a topic. He's odd that way.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:10 PM
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197: Yes, but limbs make it difficult.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:21 PM
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Not sure how I managed to completely miss comment 198.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:22 PM
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THAT MOVIE COST ME A WHOLE TOWN.


Posted by: OPINIONATED KIM BASINGER | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:26 PM
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195: Christ, are we all so easily reduced? Maybe we should set a day for "musical commenting personas."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:36 PM
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We should do a "comment as somebody else" day. Everyone emails or leaves a comment who wants to participate; you agree to hand over your personality for a day to an imitator, and also to imitate someone else. One of the regulars assigns each person to the party he or she will be imitating. Then we have at it!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:41 PM
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"musical commenting personas."

Or like that scene in Amadeus where Wolfie plays the same tune in the style of various composers.

frex multiple spoof Liazrdbreath posts, pick the winner.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:42 PM
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(i would like to note that i lose arguments all the time. and that i rarely injure debating partners. big ol' pussycat. harmless. that's me.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:44 PM
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180, 182, 183, 186:
It's St. Petersburg. Burg as in borough. Berg means mountain. Argh.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 3:58 PM
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I imagine that the competition for the roles of a few oh so fun to imitate commenters could be quite fierce.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:00 PM
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Berg means mountain

Not in Russian, it don't


Posted by: Peter the Great, Tsar of all the Russias | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:01 PM
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I'm hoping that a brave few will step up to the plate of imitating the hard-to-imitate commenters. How would you imitate Cerebocrat? I have no idea! Where is that guy, anyway?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:04 PM
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No, you're a mountain


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:04 PM
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Good luck to whomever tries to imitate Apostropher. Your eyes might burn from their sockets "researching" for links.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:08 PM
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No, you're a mountain

NO, I AM A ROCK, I AM AN IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISLAND.


Posted by: OPINIONATED PAUL SIMON | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:10 PM
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Holy crap is that one giant cock.


Posted by: imitation apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:10 PM
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125: (skimming down) I just took some great pleasure reading a student's in-class writing where, instead of writing "level playing field" she wrote "evil playing field." I want to show it to her and widen my eyes suggestively, but I won't.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:15 PM
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207: Tannhäuser makes so much more sense now.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:20 PM
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215: I just encountered a mishearing of a song by Pat Benetar: "Hit me with your pet shark"


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:31 PM
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217: Like, in real life? I can't imagine someone walking around singing the correct lyrics, let alone the (very funny) misheard ones.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:32 PM
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A confession, not an in-the-wild encounter.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:36 PM
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Tannhäuser makes so much more sense now

Mound of Venus, Mountain of Venus, what's the dif? It's all good.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:37 PM
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220: I didn't say "better."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:40 PM
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I recall that musical commenters was one option discussed when we did the anonymous-comment day.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:03 PM
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222: I don't get how musical commenters would work.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:06 PM
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I don't get how musical commenters would work

Given the Calvinball nature of most discussions around here, I suppose it would work however you want it to work. But I would suggest either random sock puppets or assigned spoofing.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:12 PM
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223: I guess musical commenters in the strict sense wouldn't work, but something like 204 was discussed.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:14 PM
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222: I'm an idea man! Logistics is down the hall.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 5:17 PM
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222: I have never been able to find anonymous comment day. I feel shame. A link?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:44 PM
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Here's the thread about it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:47 PM
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That's because it was called Single Blind Day.

Another of the 1000-comment threads from that day.

Unmasking thread.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:50 PM
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IT IS NOT PWNAGE IF YOU ADD VALUE. Thank you.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:50 PM
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230: You are so right, Witt.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:53 PM
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I can't tell who Beer Nuts Gang and Figbash are at this remove, but those are great names and should be reused.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:54 PM
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In one of the threads in 229 I used the word "unequivocably". What the hell, me?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:54 PM
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This was the "musical commenters" suggestion I remembered.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:56 PM
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I remember being totally, totally unable to figure out who Blume was. I also remember it being really obvious who I was.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:59 PM
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I just remember posting in the thread accidentally.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:13 PM
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I also remember it being really obvious who I was.

Because of the bossiness?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:13 PM
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Whoa, weird top of the ninth in the Yankees/Phils game.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:14 PM
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237: because of the drug use.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:18 PM
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I'm bossy? That's pretty weird.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:19 PM
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But we won. So, yay!

(Don't mind me, muttering to myself over in the corner here. Back to the kitchen!)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:21 PM
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240: Prickly?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:30 PM
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242: oh, well, sure. On unfogged I am. Lately. It's only because I hate everybody.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:35 PM
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As long as you brought enough hate for everybody.


Posted by: Opinionated Teacher | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:36 PM
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Back to the kitchen!)

Sexist.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:59 PM
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245: I'll have you know that it is totally possible to cook and listen to baseball at the same time. (Yo, excellent chocolate mousse pie.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:11 PM
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Not all of us can boast about not-record-breakingly-shitty baseball teams and pie.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:13 PM
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As long as its not moose turd pie. (Which is good though.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:14 PM
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Re-reading the single-blind thread felt bittersweet to me, because OTOH, I think I made some interesting/valuable/funny contributions to the threads, OTOH, it coincided with a period of unprecedentedly bad depression, during which every dimension of my life was headed downhill fast, and commenting was the only activity I derived any pleasure from.


Posted by: Needlessly Presidential | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:06 AM
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190: that was a really tactful way of saying "crazy", will. remember when ogged complained that since I had sobered up he wasn't really getting the crazy goodness he'd signed up for?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:22 AM
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alameida:
No, not crazy. Sure, you have some crazy stories. But, the word I think of for most of your comments is compelling.

But I spend a lot of time with people who are struggling with something. Marriage, alcohol, drugs, kids, depression, or money.

I got here after you sobered up so I missed any crazy depravity. Sad for me. Good for you.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:32 AM
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250: I think that was someone else bemoaning ogged's bad luck.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:46 AM
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251.3: <obligatory>RTFA, will.</obligatory>


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 11:22 AM
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Stanley:
You are dead to me after trashing our school. What is next, suggesting that our hs was stuffy?!!?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 12:25 PM
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254: I mean, it was, but the mascot still makes me proud. ("Do it with a Trojan!")


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 12:27 PM
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249: Re-reading the single-blind thread felt bittersweet to me

I'm not sure who Needlessly Presidential is, but I haven't been able to reread those threads for 3 years now, and counting. Maybe someday.

210: How would you imitate Cerebocrat? I have no idea! Where is that guy, anyway?

I think he said he was moving to Japan, a couple of years ago.

We should do a "comment as somebody else" day. Everyone emails or leaves a comment who wants to participate; you agree to hand over your personality for a day to an imitator, and also to imitate someone else. One of the regulars assigns each person to the party he or she will be imitating. Then we have at it!

Terrible idea! Terrible! Terrible! Did you people learn nothing?

I admit the Single Blind day was an interesting idea, and it should in theory work in the intended way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:54 PM
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Terrible idea! Terrible! Terrible! Did you people learn nothing?

My memory of that day leads me to the same basic attitude, but it was interesting to look back at the postmortem thread and see that many people seem to have had basically positive feelings about it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:09 PM
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Hm. Maybe I'll read the postmortem thread. One of these days. Memory does play tricks on you, after all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:15 PM
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Some people who weren't positive, were very much not positive about it during and afterwards. IIRC.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:21 PM
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Yeah, that's the part I remember best.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:22 PM
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Having just read selected portions of the interim, intermediate, thread, I have to say that it was not a fun thing at all. Whether things are better now, these days, I can't say. Best to leave that stuff there, 3 years ago, and try not to let it happen again.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:45 PM
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I think he said he was moving to Japan, a couple of years ago.

That's funny, I thought they had internet there. (Probably there's a Japanese Unofged that's much better. Fewer losers like me, and their version of ogged (ofged?) never left.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:27 PM
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