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JLeslie's avatar

Do you feel it’s always bad to mimic someone’s accent?

Asked by JLeslie (65399points) May 31st, 2019 from iPhone

What if it’s your own relatives?

Comedians do this a lot, they take on the voice of the person. Sometimes it’s about a family member, but not always. Everyday people do it too when recanting a story.

When Rosie O’Donnell did it on The View mimicking an Asian accent she caught hell for it. I thought she was funny. A few Asian people in the audience the next day said they weren’t offended and thought it was funny, but the overall consensus seemed to be she was a horrible person for doing it.

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Diana Nyad, the swimmer, and she told a story about being a child and what her father told her growing up. When she did his part she used his Greek accent.

Does the context matter? If it’s a story about something that we value then it’s ok to use their accent or broken English?

It’s been said it’s human nature to mimic and mirror when talking with someone. It supposedly builds rapport.

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15 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

Context is everything. Mimicking to mock or demean is very different from mimicking for differentiation of characters. Who you mimic and when and in front of whom makes a difference. There is no black and white line here.
But Iwould say, in general, that when in doubt, don’t.

zenvelo's avatar

Like many things, it depends on context. When a comedian like Rosie O’Donnell does it, it is in the context of making fun of a person’s ability to communicate. That is no different from Donald Trump making fun of a disable person’s speech patterns.

When done by someone relating a touching story that illustrates the love of a family member, it isn’t belittling, it is endearing.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo Ok, how about Billy Crystal doing an old Jewish guy with a European accent? Or, Margaret Cho doing a Korean accent? George Lopez doing a Mexican accent? It’s ok because they are those National backgrounds? Or, are they contributing to a problem?

zenvelo's avatar

All three of them are expressing the difficulty of growing up in their family culture.

It would be wrong if Billy Crystal made jokes about dealing with a Korean shopkeeper, or Margaret Cho made a joke about lowriders at her high school.

kritiper's avatar

Land o’ Goshen, no!

JLeslie's avatar

What about the idea that if people do it regarding their own “kind” then they are contributing to the message that it is ok?

An extreme example is I think no one should use the N word, but some people think it is ok for African Americans to use it. I argue if they use it they keep the word alive, I am all for letting it die, except in the study of history and literature. If mimicking can be offensive, maybe everyone should steer clear of doing it.

What do you think?

canidmajor's avatar

I think it is up to the members of each culture to decide what is OK within that context.

gondwanalon's avatar

If you can mimic the accent flawlessly you may get away with it.

I have a friend who is a master at mimicking accents. When he went to Ireland he was advised not to try it. But he couldn’t resist and the local people loved him for it.

ucme's avatar

As with all comedy, the key is if you are laughing with or at the intended butt of a particular joke.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I think it’s funny personally, if it’s done well. Like Margaret Cho.

As far as the N word, I don’t think anyone should say it at this point in time. Pretty hypocritical to say ‘we’ can say it but you can’t. And I don’t think it’s appropriate in raps or anything either.

Many of us in the Midwest find it hilarious when we mock each other, but some coaster who does a terrible job, no thanks, not funny.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Since this is in social, I watched “Concussion” last night again with Will Smith. Smith played a Nigerian doctor who discovered “CTE”...traumatic brain injury caused by playing football, especially in the pros.
He did such a superb job with the accent. He’s really pretty versatile. He played Ali, and got his voice down pretty good too.

MrGrimm888's avatar

“Imitation, is the sincerest form of flattery.”..

jca2's avatar

I live in southern NY, about an hour away from the city. Many of us (myself included) have New York accents (hot dawg, cawfee, mawl, wit instead of with, etc.). Sometimes we’ll imitate each other by exaggerating and drawing out the dawg, or the cawfee and it’s funny. That’s among friends. We all talk this way so we all can laugh about it and appreciate it. If we weren’t friends, I wouldn’t chance it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 Cawfee always gives away my NY connection. People won’t be sure where I’m from and then I’ll say coffee, talk, January, or a name like Karen, and suddenly the person I’m talking to will ask, “are you from NY?” Lol. Maryland actually has an accent that I don’t think I ever acquired even living there from ages 9–18. It’s very subtle. I know it when I hear it. I remember Oprah once talking about it. She could do the accent.

I do use a midwestern accent, and some of their vernacular when I’m in the Midwest or with midwesterners, and a little southern in the south, but some words the NY never goes away.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Am I supposed to be offended by @JLeslie‘s use of “their” when referring to people like me?

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