Beautiful Anne Hathaway is getting criticized currently in the UK for her poor accent in the film ‘One Day’. A core dynamic in all David Nicholls’s books is about class and the outsider. How the person who doesn’t quite fit in – and feels they don’t quite measure up – reacts and acts. Wonderful potential for comedy and tragedy.
She’s meant to be from Yorkshire, by reputation a place where folk are canny, tell it like it is and ‘don’t stand no stuff nor nonsense’. A strong Yorkshire accent has flattened vowels and sustained, non-plosive consonants. From snippets I’ve heard, Ms Hathaway’s got some of the vowels, but the consonants have proved a challenge.
So does your accent matter in business? Well it certainly reveals a great deal about:
Almost all big city accents – London, New York, Glasgow – have a high degree of nasality, or talking through the nose. Living here means pollution makes it hazardous to go for big gulps of fresh air.
Want to do an Australian accent? Shape your mouth into a slit and you’ll start to get it. Why?…down to insect avoidance, m’ dears.
your type of snobbery
We all know people who shift accent dramatically in order to fit in with their surroundings or who doggedly emphasise their native twang. Known as Tony Blair syndrome, some people can’t help themselves adapting. They have a continuum of accents for different purposes.
Others of us are inverted snobs and play up our native accent, to indicate chippiness and distinctiveness. Listen out for entrepreneurs who do this.
your tribe membership
Accent can exclude of course too. Like most of our South Wales friends we had to watch The Wire with subtitles.
Interestingly, vowels convey emotion in speech and consonants create structure, logic, clarity and attack. So if you want to sound softer/tougher, then modify accordingly. Stre-e-e-tch the vo-o-o-w-e-e-e-ls or hit-t-t those c-c-c-on-n-n-son-na a-n-n-t-t-ts.
And these differences account to an extent for irrational stereotyping: Southern Irish and Welsh accents for instance have very light, quickly released consonants. As one, I’d be surprised to discover a book titled ‘The Rationality of the Celts’.
Bad news for Anne Hathaway is that Yorkshire folk often project a sense of ‘you take us as you find us’. I can’t quite believe her account of her accent changing, much as she is charming.
The good news is whatever your accent you can have a good voice. And the even better news is that I’ve just finished writing a book describing how.
Subscribers, coming to you as a gift pdf very soon.