“I shouldn't be saying this - high treason, really - but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.”
When it comes to accents its great being a Brit in the States. Although many of us have different British accents, they are usually all very popular with the natives. Having grown up with British-sounding people I never really thought about us coming across as particularly intelligent or sophisticated, apart from the real boffins* that is. Indeed, there are some UK accents that sound positively brainless, even when the individual has a triple digit IQ (not naming any of course.) Americans however, don’t seem to make the same distinction, or at least I’ve never heard a British accent being denigrated.
From my own experience in the States, I have to agree with Fry’s statement. I’m quite often asked to read something out at school parent meetings for example, and when I ask why, I’m told it “will sound better with a British accent”. Personally, I think your average American has such a smooth, confident delivery on anything from the cafeteria menu to international diplomacy, I’d never dream of questioning them, but apparently I’m in the minority.
Not that I have much of a potty mouth these days, (three kids), but we Brits can usually deliver some fairly colo(u)rful language and get away with it over here. Dropping the “F” bomb usually has people in hysterics as they tell you it never sounds quite as good when they say it. And of course, if you use British swear words such as bloody and bugger (excuse me) it delights them. (Unfortunately my favo(u)rite one, “sodding”, is completely unknown here so it has disappeared from my lexicon.)
So yes Brits, if you fancy a quick IQ boost, pop across the Pond and just talk for a while!
(*boffin – seriously intelligent person, usually a scientist).
As an American, I have to agree with both Mr. Fry and Toni. British people just sound smart. I don’t know why, they just do. And beyond sounding smarter, we, as a nation, just love the way they talk.
My wife is forever being asked to “say something British” when she visits the States, while in the seven years I have lived here no one has ever requested me to talk just to listen to my accent. Would that it was so; I’d love the idea that people assumed I was a genius just because I accent the second syllable in “Baton” and leave the superfluous ones out of “Aluminum.”
As it is, I don’t think the Brits regard Americans as particularly smart. And when we try to imitate a British accent, well, that makes us sound particularly stupid.
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