Monday, August 18, 2014

What about Accents?


Hello and Happy Monday to you! My family and I have just spent ten days camping in the New Forest and tomorrow we are flitting off to southern France, so my post today will be somewhat shorter than usual.

For such a small set of isles, the United Kingdom amazes me in its huge array of native accents. (I'm sure this is true for the U.S. and other parts of the world too.) Irish, Scottish, and Welsh are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the variation within England itself. From Manchester to Cornwall, “English” speech differs a lot.
Now, accents are very fun to imitate—but another matter to write out in a story. If you're like Dorothy Sayers and can whip out Glaswegian and Cockney with ease, your story could sparkle with amusing detail. But if your attempts aren't accurate or stuck in the 1920s, they'll only disappoint a reader (cringe). For example, even if your Scots brogue is great, I doubt that, “Och, aye, bonny lass,” is common parlance anymore.





So what do you do about characters with accents? Do you describe nuances of speech, or do you write them out phonetically? What do you prefer reading?

...And would you buy the accent mouth-spray if it worked? :)

  
Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her blog or Facebook page to find out more.


*Images from Google and River Island

7 comments:

  1. I agree! Accents can be disappointing if not written correctly! And YES! I would totally buy an 'Instant Accent' mouth spray if they worked! ;-)

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    1. Haha--me too! Someone should do scientific research into making something like that work :D

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  2. I think someone needs to buy me the mouth spray...

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    1. Yes!! :D It could be so handy for writing dialogue. . . .

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  3. (You've been reading the Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach, haven't you?!)I find 'written-out' accents rather irritating than helpful - they get in the way of enjoying what the character is saying, and if the author tells you at the start what kind of accent it *is*, you can imagine quite comfortably.
    I usually try to do that, and then make sure that the words fit the accent I've assigned - for instance not let an Australian character talk the way I'd let an Irishman. (I don't think I actually have any Irish at the moment anyway...)

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  4. Yes! Sayers' evident familiarity with accents has really earned my respect. :)

    You bring up a great concept; *what* the character says can be used to show his nationality rather than *how* he says it. I can imagine this would mean a very conscious choice of words on the author's part, and a great reading experience! Thank you for sharing!

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  5. I like a touch of accents here and there, but when everyone in the story speaks in apostrophes, it can be a little overwhelming. : ) Mouth spray would be awesome!

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