August 8, 2012 Butterfly Diary Team

The Coolest American Accents (Study English in the USA series)

As part of my series of posts to examine the English language through accents, I wanted to turn my attention to the U.S. You see, I’m definitely not an American per se, even though many people tell me that I sound American. My accent is a bit of a melting pot and several people have found it hard to place. That’s because I’m not a purebred, really. I’m a bit of a mutt (having lived in India, England and the U.S.).

But I’m definitely fascinated with the American accents, and if you’re studying English in the USA you may have encountered some of the coolest accents in the country. I’m still learning them (from movies, of course) but here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

Minnesota: I can’t mistake the Fargo accent. Nope, no chance of that, unless your completely deaf. Some may not think it cool but I get a kick out of anyone pronouncing the “O” sound (as in potat-OH). This accent is influenced by Scandinavia as well as Ireland and Britain.

Brooklyn Versus Southern: One viewing of My Cousin Vinny and you’re hooked. And let’s face it, there’s nothing short of brilliant in the way Joe Pesci’s Brooklyn accent (“I’ve got a judge that’s just achin’ to throw me in jail! ?I ain’t slept in five days?”) is at odds with the Judge’s more genteel Southern accent (“You will rise” ?as in “r-hai-se”). This is one movie where you’ll hear expressions like “I’ve been stiffed.” In my opinion, this movie gives one a first rate education on American accents in general, and class distinctions.

My Cousin Vinny

Joe Pesci plays a wanna-be lawyer and has a mean Brooklyn accent in “My Cousin Vinny”

Californian English: While English has always been the language norm in the sunny state of California, it was influenced by the influx of populations from the Northeast and Midwest. The Los Angeles accent is considered unaccented and the “reference” English for a lot of the areas. Think Valley Girl or Surfer (e.g. Blue Crush). While I couldn’t identify a Cali accent to save my life, I do know it’s very pleasant and musical.

New Jersey: Okay, I live in Jersey, but I don’t speak Joisy. Some people find this accent quite annoying, but I think it’s one of those quirky cool accents you come to accept. The best movie I can think of that exemplifies this accent is John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (?Hey, yooz guyz! Dere?s de dawg!?).

What’s your favorite U.S. accent?


This sponsored post is part of the Kaplan, Learn English series