[A summer repeat from 7/5/13] For those Americans who know a foreign language like French, being able to speak with the accent of a Frenchman is probably a crowning glory. To sound more French than you do American. As an American visiting Paris, to speak French with a Parisian accent would likely raise a less arrogant eyebrow and invite a less rude response than might be normally expected from a Frenchman. When I am in Mexico, I try to conform my Spanish to the local accent. I can clumsily mimic an Argentine accent with the “shha shha” sounds. Or the faster clip of a Puerto Rican accent. I try not to “speak American” (Bway-nohss deee-ahss seen-yor).
So it crossed my mind that when one visits London or Scotland or Ireland, why is it that Americans don’t adopt a British accent in London (“howw dooo yoooo dooooo?”) or an Irish lilt in Ireland or a Scottish brogue in Scotland? I mean it would seem natural for a linguist to try and “fit in” but it also seems a little quirky that an American would “put on” an Irish or English accent and adopt the jargon (“That tosser’s a bit wonky. Probably a scouser“). As you might imagine, I’ve tried it. While in a London taxi — with Donna. We were chummy with the cabbie. So I asked him if I could try talking with an English accent — and have his opinion. “Bee’s knees, Governor” he said. Well, I put on my best Prince Charles accent, yabbered on for a minute or so and then asked the driver what he thought. “You sound like a bloody snoot.” Maybe it was the Prince Charles impersonation . . . . .