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zensky's avatar

A question about English accents?

Asked by zensky (13288 points ) November 30th, 2011

Obviously, the British English accent evolved first – and though there are several distinct accents throughout GB – there is a certain British accent that is different from the American.

The American accent, of which there are also several, is distinct and distinguished from its British counterpart, and ancestry.

But correct me if I’m wrong, except for a few British singers with very distinct, heavy – perhaps Manchesterian accents, many of them sound American when singing.

Why is that?

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19 Answers

KatawaGrey's avatar

I have always wondered this myself. Perhaps the American accent is the result of a mashing together of several different British accents that have sort of “flattened” resulting in the ultimate, unadorned British accent.

I’m American, btw, and to me, English accents and American accents sound as different as chalk and cheese, but it is possible that we actually sound quite similar. When I hear an Australian or Irish or Scottish accent, for instance, I know that they are not English accents, but they sound very obviously from the same part of the world to me.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Because if you want to sell stuff to americans you have to sound like them.

zensky's avatar

Oasis, The Proclaimers, The Stones… there are some who sound very British. I thought as much, @Lightlyseared – but I am trying to get behind the linguistic aspect of it – if there is one. The commercial reason is clear.

bongo's avatar

Because the only singers who really seem to “break” America tend to put on bad fake US accents. The good ones are the ones who keep their own identity. There are plenty of British sounding artists in the UK.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

British singers don’t sound American to me. I can hear the difference.

KatawaGrey's avatar

It’s interesting how some people seem to think that Americans will only buy music by artists who sound American. Maybe that’s all we buy because that’s all we have access to. What about artists like The Tings Tings who are pretty popular here and sound very obviously British, or The Beatles or Shakira who has a very distinct voice that sounds neither Colombian nor American when she sings? What about M.I.A. who sounds very clearly British and Sean Paul who is obviously Jamaican?

Jude's avatar

Great question. I’d love to know the answer to it.

Another band, The Sundays who sound quite British (they’re from Manchester).

poofandmook's avatar

@KatawaGrey: Actually, I think Sean Paul’s accent is fake. LOL

I think the “American” sound is more the drawing out of words. It’s hard to maintain an accent when you draw out a sound.

Interesting, the first artist I thought of was Adele, who has such a strong accent in her songs. One song comes to mind with a line that goes “I’m providing your time when I don’t get nuffin back, and for, and for, and for, when I don’t get nuffin back, oi I’m tired”... her “English” hits you in the face lol.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I also find it interesting that British actors seem to be able to do better American accents than Americans can do British accents. Hugh Laurie is a perfect example of this.

One band that in no way, shape or form could ever sound American: Herman’s Hermits.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I agree, @Sueanne_Tremendous . Isn’t Hugh Laurie amazing! I almost fell over with surprise when I heard that he is British. It is a pretty amazing feat if you can fool the “locals.” Of course, my first husband was British, and he could do a great John Wayne.

poofandmook's avatar

@Sueanne_Tremendous: I can’t remember where it is, but very recently I saw a video of the English kids from Harry Potter trying to do American accents… and your theory did not apply LOL

dappled_leaves's avatar

I remember seeing an interview with an American band many years ago dammit, I can’t remember who it was, in which the lead singer was talking apologetically about the fact that he sounded British when he sang. He said it was because so many of his strongest musical influences were British. It just seemed natural to him.

babybadger's avatar

I was just wondering about this with Adele! She sounds totally American when she sings, but I can barely distinguish her words when she speaks. I’m not sure exactly why her and others’ accents change; perhaps they do it on purpose as @bongo said. @poofandmook – I think Adele sounds American, or at least more American in her singing than her regular speaking voice, and I’m American. Maybe it’s the songs I’m thinking of… Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You…Weird haha.

anartist's avatar

The main [uppercrust or “BEEB”] accent may seem inappropriate for popular music as may other British dialects, while a mainstream [USA television equivalent] does not because it seems egalitarian. Think back: how did the Stones or other early British groups sound? They had accents, e.g. “Mrs Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter . . .” Herman’s Hermits.

Bellatrix's avatar

They bung it on (the American accent that is). It actually irritates me a bit when I hear UK or Australian singers putting on an American accent but I think, as other posters have said, if they want to make it in the US, they may have to.

Oh and @zensky, it is Mancunian. Or some people these days say they are “Mancs”. I prefer Mancunian.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I don’t necessarily think that they sound American when singing, I just think that everyone adopts the same, easy to understand (ie: not masked by any accent), accent while singing. I say this because, I remember, as a child, being a huge fan of Judith Durham who is an Australian singer. Ididn’t know she was an Aussie until a few years later because I had never heard her speak, only sing. Her Aussie accent doesn’t come through too much when she sings (although, I sometimes hear it now but maybe that’s because I know now) and so, I assumed she was British or American.

harple's avatar

I’ve just been to see Kate Rusby this evening – a Barnsley lass, definitely no affected accent here!

OpryLeigh's avatar

@harple I am so jealous. I adore Kate Rusby! Ruth Notman is another folk singer who keeps her British accent when she sings!

poofandmook's avatar

@babybadger: If you ever get a chance to listen to her album 19, you’ll hear the accent while she’s singing, and it’s thicker than molasses. lol

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