March 6, 2008

Accents, performed with astounding flexibility.



Via Daniel Solove.

31 comments:

Eclecticity said...

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fantastic find!

Beth said...

How grand! That last one is my favorite, the "trans-atlantic" sound of all the old movies.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Hi, I'm Paul Zrimsek, I'm a regular commenter at Feministing, and I find Amy Walker an all-too-poignant reminder of how women in this culture are forced to submerge their true voices.

Yo, I'm Paul Zrimsek, I'm a regular commenter at Ace of Spades, and I'd hit it.

Hi,I'm Paul Zrimsek^H^H^H^H PAZ^H^H^H MS-Dos Passos, a regular commenter at wingnut blog Althouse, whose sickening pretensions to being neutral are as convincing as Amy Walker's pretensions to being Texan.

Hi, I'm Paul Zrimsek, I comment regularly on Megan McArdle's blog, and I'm convinced that Britain's disastrous history of socialism is the only thing keeping Amy Walker from being as tall as she ought to be.

Hi, I'm Paul Zrimsek, a regular diarist at Daily Kos, and I want to know how much longer Chimpy is going to avoid facing the consequences of his failed war for oil.

Henry said...

Once she hits the U.S. regional accents I can hear the caricature but it's still very impressive.

There's a scene in Jim Sheridan's In America where Sheridan's character shifts through a series of accents in a similar way. The point, says Sheridan in his director's notes, was to give the audience a clue that this unemployed actor actually had some chops.

rcocean said...

Very Impressive. Of course, there is no "Seattle Accent".

kimsch said...

Katharine Hepburn is who I heard when Amy Walker did the "transatlantic"

paul a'barge said...

Does not play in Firefox.

Chip Ahoy said...

Amy Walker is American. By American, I mean the country, not the continent, that appellation is considered arrogant by citizens of countries South of the United States. From Whidbey Island Washington, specifically, which might be why she claims a Seattle accent where others don't hear one. If you couldn't tell, she isn't British by her perfect teeth. Apologies for the meme. This doesn't seem all that extraordinary to me, nor require much special training, it rather reminds me of pretty much every single one of the Air Force brat friends I grew up with, none of whom possessed a genuine accent of their own, or had to discover one later in life and stick with it. My own sibs are sponges that way, at this point, we all sound different to each other. The real trick is to nail the accent in acquired languages so that you're not immediately identified as American, again, by American I mean U.S. citizen.

But I learned something here, didn't know Katharine Hepburn's accent had a name.

Synova said...

I met a man who said he could do 13 distinct accents from Texas.

And Paul! Bravo!!

Patm said...

Impressive, but her Brooklyn was weak. Her "WHAT?" Shoulda been "Wha?"

Very smart, Paul

Tibore said...

Henry hit it: The regional US accents were a bit overdone. Then again, she was doing it to emphasize differences, so it's totally understandable.

We (I include myself in this) often fail to grasp the number of different accents the US has. Where I'm at, I'm always struck by the differences between the more clipped speech from the folks from Chicago, and the sort of drawl-twang from Kentuckians (which is distinct from the other southern accents, like from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, etc.). Which is distinct from my relatives who actually grew up in New York, which is different from a cousin's husband, who's from Texas.

But even more interesting is running across a person who's grown up in a region and yet is free of its accent. A cousin, who's sisters have completely absorbed the mid-Tennesee twangs of the region they grew up in, is so completely devoid of any southern accent that he "sounds" midwestern. Even though he grew up under the same roof as his sisters. I'm just so totally amazed by that. And the friend who comes to mind when I think of "Chicago accent" ("Da Behrs"... I mean, he's so dead on, he's a charicature...) introduced me to another friend who grew up in the city too, and that guy is just 100% devoid of any Chicago-speech characteristics. I'm at once struck by the range of accents in this country and by the intermingling of them.

Somewhere, some linguist has got to be having the time of his or her life studying these differences.

Beth said...

tibore,

New Orleans has a lot of different accents that change over small distances. One of linguistics professors could listen to any New Orleanian for just a sentence or two and know exactly where they'd grown up, and often what school they'd attended.

chip ahoy says "it rather reminds me of pretty much every single one of the Air Force brat friends I grew up with, none of whom possessed a genuine accent of their own, or had to discover one later in life and stick with it. My own sibs are sponges that way, at this point, we all sound different to each other."

That's my family, too, Chip. I've adapted my accent as I've moved many times over the years.

Southern accents in TV and movies almost always leave me dismayed. Dialogue coaches seem to have no clue that Georgians don't sound like Texans who don't sound like Louisianians who don't sound like Mississippians. New Orleanians don't sound very southern at all, and movies always, always get that wrong. I'm always relieved when a real southerner is cast for a southern role.

ricpic said...

True that Seattle English is accentless but so is Des Moines English. The real art in being an accentologist consists in conveying the hairsbreadth differences between the northwest accentless accent and the midwest accentless accent.

From Inwood said...

Quick, Professor Higgins....

IMHO, she's not so great on American Regional accents. Not because, in her Brooklyn persona, as patm noticed, she pronounced the final "t" in the word "what", since any one of Jewish descent would do so naturally (please save your anti-Semitic comments for cedarford), but, more important, because she relies more on the harshness, shrillness, raspiness of the NYC voice rather than on nuances. She has watched & listened to too much Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday or Mia Farrow in Radio Days, her betters.

The Texas one was also an over generalization; as someone noted on this thread, there are many Texas accents.

Based on personal experience, her Belfast & Scottish accents were spot on, but her Irish one was just acceptable. Her German one was quite good, not the Sid Caesar one we sometimes hear. My wife says the Russian one was great.

BTW, Mario Pei, channeling Prof Higgins, perhaps, in his Story of Language (1949) has a section on how to place a person within 50 miles of his home town. This one-time seminal work is outdated in this regard by the rise of TV where the network news anchors who tend to favor the General American Speech pattern, have exorcised some of the more illiterate accents with their “youses” & “yizes”, tho the "expert" TV talkingheads, not having gone to broadcast school, at least the older ones, tend to have kept their humble origins in speech pattern intact.

Geraldine Ferraro & Geraldo (nee, Gerry Rivers), keep me aware of my need to overcome my tendency to regress when stressed. (The Dodgers’ CF, Snoyder? Alas, poor Dook, I knoo ‘im , Horatio!)

ricpic said...

Actors almost always botch accents. This is strange since so many actors claim to do tons of research before tackling a role. An exception was Brando, who, when he wasn't hamming it up, did very creditable accents: Terry Molloy in On The Waterfront was pitch perfect Jersey blue collar Irish; the German officer he played in The Young Lions was the only time I've heard a genuine cultured - not deutschland uber alles - accent spoken by a non-German actor; sometimes he did a synthetic southern accent - Reflections In A Golden Eye - that at least didn't insult southerners. It all boils down to respect. If an accent is done with respect/love it has a chance of working. The reason Walker's Brooklyn accent grates is that she's crapping on Brooklyn -- no respect/love/understanding.

ricpic said...

Creditable? Oy vey. Credible (I think).

Fen said...

Kyra Sedgwick does a perfect Bama accent. I only watch The Closer because she reminds me of my college sweetie from Birmingham.

Jason said...

The young lady has a terrific ear.

Here's the kicker...with most of them you can identify the city before she identifies it.

No, not all of them were perfect, but cut the kid a break, will ya?

Minor observation - it is edited. It helps to speak a few words in a foreign accent to get the rhythm going before rolling the tape.

But if she's an actress in a role, that's no problem.

Belfast was dead on. TNC!

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

The young lady has a terrific ear.

Here's the kicker...with most of them you can identify the city before she identifies it.

No, not all of them were perfect, but cut the kid a break, will ya?

Minor observation - it is edited. It helps to speak a few words in a foreign accent to get the rhythm going before rolling the tape.

But if she's an actress in a role, that's no problem.

Belfast was dead on. TNC!

Beth said...

Fen, I agree. Sometime's I cringe at the breadth of it, but Sedgewick does a good job.

Holly Hunter's the real deal, but -- and this indicates how sadly easy it is to make me laugh -- one of my favorite things to do is make fun of her little commercials talking about the character on Saving Grace. They're so Hollywood -- "Grace is brave. This is a brave story about a woman. It's her life." All in a big old Texas drawl. I just howl when I hear it.

Actors: acting is not brave. You're not taking risks. Playing the Joker shouldn't drive you to suicide. Just read the lines, dammit.

/curmudgeonly moment

John Burgess said...

Her Belfast accent was good, but it was the Catholic accent, not the Protestant one. And no, I'm not kidding.

Blake said...

beth,

Well, okay, but she (Holly Hunter) isn't saying she (Holly Hunter) is brave, she (Holly Hunter) is saying her character (Grace) is brave.

Right?

That's legit. Cheap, but legit.

Beth said...

Oh, if you want to be picky, Blake, then okay, you're right.

But it's still funny. She's so serious! So intense! Hey, I love Holly Hunter. I just enjoy laughing at actors taking their jobs so seriously. I do dig the way TV, cable stations especially, are creating more roles for older actresses. Women whose youth made them stars on the big screen aren't fading into the background, and in doing so, they have to create interesting older female characters. I can applaud that.

Joan said...

Nice interview with Amy Walker, in which she makes me feel OK for modifying my accent to match the speech I'm hearing around me.

I grew up in Dorchester, a district of Boston now made notorious by the Affleck brothers' Gone Baby Gone, which has always been famous for its dropped r's. I haven't used that accent since I was 13 years old and we moved. I was mocked for it then, but if I get on the phone to my sister, who still lives there, back it comes. Any other time, it feels fake, so I don't talk that way. But when I visit Houston, I find myself slipping into that gentle accent, which is nothing like the typical broad Texas drawl you're likely to hear in a movie. (At least not at the medical center, any way.)

I was glad Amy didn't attempt "Boston." No one ever gets it right unless they've lived there, and that includes most of the cast of Cheers.

I, too, heard Katherine Hepburn, and loved hearing it!

Beth said...

Joan, I spent just a brief time in Dorchester during our Katrina evacuation and I didn't perceive it being as grim and grotesque as Gone Baby Gone portrayed it. I liked the movie, and most of the performances, but I do remember thinking it was a bit stereotyped and overblown. And where were the Vietnamese? I saw lots of Vietnamese people and businesses in Dorchester!

What did you think?

Blake said...

Oh, sure, beth, she's sellin' it.

"The Closer" is a big enough hit to make them wonder if they haven't tapped into a heretofore untapped market, I'm sure.

I'm all for older women landing good parts, too. Sedgewick and Hunter have an appeal that's not just about their looks.

Fen said...

Beth: Fen, I agree

That means I have to take a shot, right? Bartender, Stoli/rocks pls. ;)

Hoosier Daddy said...

Man...the Russian accent...I think I just fell in love.

Beth said...

Fen, I'll have the same, with a twist. It's Friday, right?

Beth said...

Here's a link to a song by a local group who play on the nostalgia that New Orleanians have for their culture. It's a twist on Twelve Days of Christmas, so yes, it's a little bit annoying, but it's a good compendium of the range of accents in this area, with each day adding an example.

The Twelve Yats of Christmas

A "Yat" is someone from the working class New Orleans neighborhoods primarily along the river, from their usual greeting, "Where Y'at?" i.e. "How are you?" Also refers to the dialect, which is kind of New Jerseyish.