Foreign Accents

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DawnT
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2011/07/09 21:49:41 (permalink)

Foreign Accents

You can't turn on a radio or the television without being bombarded with commercials or television shows without hearing English spoken with a foreign accent by either the commerical pitchman or principals of the television presentation. Madison avenue employs some very bright people that folks like Bernays, Ivy Lee, and McLuhan would be proud of. Apparently their lead of featuring English spoken by foreign speakers for the American advertising market has been followed by the entertainment industry. Somehow a product pitched in an non-native American accent is more exotic,desirable,or has an international appeal. In recent years, just about every tv show has someone, usually a British,Australian, or someone from the British Isles speaking American English in a native brouge. Does that somehow confer a majestic or magnific air to an otherwise pedestrian event? I don't see programming using speakers from the deep south unless they are trying to convey the opposite effect. Why does a cosmetic or fashion pitched by a native French model speaking heavily accented and almost incomprehensible English presented with abstract or avant- garde imagery somehow give an alluring and chic appeal that otherwise would have not if an American model presented it?
 
Which gives pause for a thought. Does programming in other countries use native American speakers to give a sense of superiority to thier products or events? Would the British respond better to an American host speaking in Hollywood neutral English? Would those living in OZ rather someone like Jeff Foxworthy or Dolly Parton hosting a variety show? How about an American murdering the French language on a TV show or commercial in France? Could one immagine a voice like Peggy Hill speaking "Espanole" as she calls it pitching a product in Latin America giving it a US appeal?  Would speakers in those countries be similarly impressed?
 
Don't think so.
 
So why do the powers that be seem to think that we are?
Has it been ingrained in us that somehow we're inferior to the international community at a subconsious level?
 
#1

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    SeamusD
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/10 14:00:39 (permalink)
    To try and answer your last question, I'd say yes. I often hear people say "well they do that in (insert European country of choice), why not here", as if they're doing everything correctly and are more evolved than we in the States are. I don't buy it.
    #2
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/10 22:21:18 (permalink)
    First an (attempted) answer to Dawn's question:
    What's especially ironic regarding many of those British accents is that they originate in the Cockney, or some other working class community--they are the Brit equivalent of the "uneducated", lower class Southern drawl.  So what we perceive to be a distinguished voice of authority is actually looked down upon in its native land (remember Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady"?).  Conversely, there are a lot of British and Australian actors who are doing a very good job of sounding American (Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, am I right people?).
     
    As for the French accents pushing cosmetics and fashion, yeah, they're more exotic sounding than an American accent because we're Americans--we hear American accents every day.  There's nothing at all exotic about them.  And when you're promoting a product or service that positions itself as exotic or chic, well why wouldn't you use someone who sounds the part.
     
    I think (in fact, I'm quite certain) you're dead wrong about American actors not being used in foreign commercials.  Not only are they highly sought after both in Europe and Asia (see the Bill Murray film, "Lost In Translation"), but there are actors who you would never see doing commercials here who are paid a fortune to do work in other countries.  A-list movie stars whose high paying careers would be destroyed if they did an ad here in the States, are routinely doing commercials left and right overseas.
     
    Finally, in answer to SeamusD's consternation over people who reference European countries for utilizing technologies and techniques we're reluctant to try in this country, I think folks who do that are just trying to make others realize that these methods are actually in practice and working successfully.  It's not a matter of the U.S. being less evolved or stupider than other countries.
     
    On the other hand, why are we so reluctant to try new, proven methods?  If we're taking the attitude that, "We're Americans and we're the best and we don't need anyone else telling us how to do things!", well that's just stupid.  Now settle down.  I'm NOT saying you're stupid.  But that attitude certainly is.  Thinking we can't learn anything from other countries is ridiculous, especially now when every country should be sharing information on how we can all live a better life.
     
    It's a small, small world out there these days.  There are some countries doing some things better than us and refusing to recognize that out of stubbornness or just plain misplaced pride is a fool's game that will ultimately lead to the deterioration of this country.
     
    The United States of America is a great country, but believing that our way is the only way is ignorant and destructive.
     
    Buddy
     
    post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2011/07/11 01:12:12
    #3
    Foodbme
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/10 23:26:46 (permalink)
    You live in SOUTH FL!!! DUH!!!!
    You're in one of the most international areas of the country!! What do you expect?? Companies are appealing to those consumers.
    How many Spanish speaking Radio & TV stations are in South FL???
    Right now, there are 14 Spanish Speaking Radio Stations in the Phoenix market area and 2 all Spanish TV Stations.  Why??? Because there are people who live here who don't speak ENGLISH! All the local TV News, Weather and Sports shows have some Broadcasters with Hispanic names. WHY?? Because there is a large percentage of the viewing audience that have Hispanic names. HELLO!
    post edited by Foodbme - 2011/07/10 23:39:38
    #4
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 01:09:53 (permalink)
    Foodbme,
    I'm not taking issue with your numbers or your reasoning, but I don't think Dawn is referring to Hispanic accents.  She specifically mentions British/Australian accents when it comes to standard product pitches, and French accents (although I suspect there are many others, as well) for cosmetics and fashion items.
     
    Living in a diverse urban area myself, I recognize the scenario you describe.  But given the types of accents in question, I think Dawn's geography is irrelevant.
     
    Buddy
    #5
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 01:53:37 (permalink)
    You know, it just occurred to me what got you started on this thread..it's that damn gecko from the insurance company, isn't it?  That no good little green scaly punk is taking away work from honest, hard working American geckos and it just sticks in your craw.  Well, now I get it and I take it all back.  No, not really.
     
    BTW, not many people remember the original voice for the gecko was provided by Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier" and "Cheers" fame.  How they made the leap from his pseudo-snooty upper crust character voice to a Cockney dialect is beyond me.  Based on my earlier assertions, it's kind of a step backwards isn't it?  Of course these are the same guys who use modern day cavemen and an inanimate stack of money with a pair of googly eyes stuck on top to represent their company, so go figure.
     
    Buddy
    #6
    Davydd
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 09:43:35 (permalink)
    Yeah, and they have those damn woodchucks chucking wood.
    #7
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 09:59:56 (permalink)
    And the spokesman who looks like Pierce Brosnan but sounds like Rod Serling.
     
    Brad
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    mar52
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 11:22:16 (permalink)
    ScreamingChicken

    And the spokesman who looks like Pierce Brosnan but sounds like Rod Serling.

    Brad

     
    We have a winner!
     
    I think that the "foreign accents" that are showing up in our commercials are an attempt by ad executives to include more of our melting pot residents.  Not every white person has the same accent.  It's easier to identify a Black, an Hispanic, a Middle Eastener or East Indian person in ads (realizing that there are differences in these people as well), but an Australian?
     
    Ads are meant to hit certain demographics and be on target with everyone else as well.  It's not easy.
     
    Or...  I might have read this entire question incorrectly.
    #9
    Davydd
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 12:14:22 (permalink)
    mar52

    ScreamingChicken

    And the spokesman who looks like Pierce Brosnan but sounds like Rod Serling.

    Brad


    We have a winner!

    I think that the "foreign accents" that are showing up in our commercials are an attempt by ad executives to include more of our melting pot residents.  Not every white person has the same accent.  It's easier to identify a Black, an Hispanic, a Middle Eastener or East Indian person in ads (realizing that there are differences in these people as well), but an Australian?

    Ads are meant to hit certain demographics and be on target with everyone else as well.  It's not easy.

    Or...  I might have read this entire question incorrectly.

    He's an American, Michael McGlone, born in White Plains, NY.
    #10
    SeamusD
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 14:18:24 (permalink)
    Buddy, I didn't elaborate enough I think for you to understand where I'm coming from. I don't hold any of the opinions you're referring to, and I'm actually thinking the opposite. I was referring to things that don't work, or wouldn't work here, that some people tout as being superior just because it comes from Europe, without any real analysis of what they're talking about. Proven technology, smart ideas, and innovation? Cart it on over and hook me up. Outdated, archaic ways of thinking and the misery it brings? No thanks. Simply because they do it over there doesn't make it worthwhile to import here. Everything should be judged on its own individual merit.
    #11
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/11 23:00:51 (permalink)
    We're on the same page Seamus.
     
    Buddy
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    DawnT
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/12 04:13:19 (permalink)
     
     
    What I am talking about is American programming intended for the English speaking masses. Turn on the TV any night and all you hear on the variety type competition shows are British Empire accents from the hosts to the judges. Watch a tv drama, or sitcom and what do you hear? There's going to be at least a cast member or two speaking in a British or other Euro accent that's revered as the intellectual, the reserved savant, or the suave  authority figure. Commercials carry the same messages, many with a debonair male character implying European craftsmanship or the fashionably elegant female exuding a cultured class image. These media images are directed at the American, English speaking public, not the Hispanic markets. There’s always been an allure about precision Euro craftsmanship and to some degree royalty and elite culture among Americans, but until recently you didn’t see this saturation of the media with Euro characters like you do now.
    #13
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/12 09:05:47 (permalink)
    In the case of the variety/competition shows, a lot of the time, those British accents are the actual producers of the show.  Simon Cowell brought "American Idol" to us and is now bringing "X-Factor".  If I'm not mistaken he's also involved in "America's Got Talent".  You hear a variety of Euro accents on the various dance shows because those people chosen to be judges are the authorities on the subject, otherwise they wouldn't have been asked to do the show.
     
    As a contradiction to your assertion, take a look at the judging panel for NBC's summer show, "The Voice"--all Americans, and from a variety of musical, ethnic, racial, and geographic backgrounds--including a Southern drawl.  Also, I'll restate what I said earlier about British and Australian actors playing American roles.  There are more of them than you suspect, all sounding very American.  Three that leap immediately to mind are (as referenced above) Briton; Hugh Laurie as House, Welshman; Matthew Rhys as the gay brother, Kevin on "Brothers and Sisters", and Aussie; Jason Clarke as Chicago cop Jarek Wysocki on FOX's "Chicago Code".  Frankly, in a diverse culture like ours,  there's a good balance of accents on the tube these days.
     
    As for your observation that Brits are frequently cast as "the intellectual, the reserved savant, or the suave authority figure", this is hardly a new trend.  I grew up with TV as my friend in the 60s and 70s and remember many British accents in plenty of classic shows.  Leo J. Carroll as Mr. Waverly, boss of Napolean Solo and Ilya Kuryakin (played, BTW, by David McCallum, another Brit, but doing a quasi-Russian accent) on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is one that I remember fondly.  There were plenty of others that, if I were ready to do the research, I could list at length.
     
    Sorry Dawn, but if you're hearing too many British and other Euro accents on TV these days, it just means you weren't listening that closely in the past.  This is nothing new and it's hardly an assault on our fragile American egos.  And to reiterate the answer to your question in your original post: People in foreign countries LOVE our movie/TV/music stars.  I can't speak for Jeff Foxworthy, but Dolly Parton sure is an international star.  When we were in Ireland a few years back, we couldn't believe their love for American country music.  They know the tunes, they know the words, and they treat the stuff with a religious reverence that would make any Nashville native son proud.  And not just the current stuff--we're talking about classics that go back 50-60 years and more.  Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline; they're all gods over there.
     
    So relax, this is not a one way street with a bunch of Euro-Punks invading our entertainment industry or our psyches.  The stream of performers flows both ways across all four oceans and no one is getting the short end of the stick.
     
    Buddy
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    Davydd
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2011/07/12 10:24:12 (permalink)
    Don't forget Simon Baker (Australian) as American citizen, Patrick Jane on The Mentalist. He goes to great lengths to speak American English on the show. This link is interesting.
     
    http://www.nypost.com/p/b...itAECOd1QqxyoY5m0FDvXP
    #15
    Richard Brooks Alba
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/22 16:19:49 (permalink)
    Tru dat on David McCallum! (He's still a favorite & comforting presence on TV.)
     
    Accent in this discussion seems like a much broader topic of concern than being addressed here. For some, it may be some sort of more civil veil for xenophobia. The comic uses of accent to help exaggerate - or establish - the hilarity of a situation [e.g. What will that wacky Apu say next?] are often part of an unstated plan to comfort those who don't cope with the exotic unless it's effin' funny. The matter of selecting foreign-sounding players for an ad can also render some curious mis-fires - a recent ad for a competitor to Dyson struck me as particularly clumsy: the ad showed the "regular" American shopper advocating for the more modestly-priced competing vacuum cleaner while the Brit was defending the Dyson for its superior engineering. What stuck in my craw was this Brit's working class garb and accent [quasi-Cockney] - a very poor substitute for the posher sound and look of James Dyson himself. (It would be like substituting a Texan for a New Englander - or vice-versa....)
     
    The way the TV biz works these days, whatever accent you hear on the air was likely tested before a number of audiences before it was settled on - so if the test audiences think the Kiwi sounds sexiest of those tested, that's how they select their talent. The gecko likely got tested with other accents as well, so even if the current voice seems a bit absurd, it may have tested more memorable. Now, back when there wasn't such testing, who could've imagined that a rabbit with a Brooklyn/Bronx accent was going to capture our imagination for all those years? (Or that he would introduce many of us to the cuisines of New Orleans.)
    #16
    Vince Macek
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/22 22:07:26 (permalink)
    The National Lampoon, when they had a radio show in the early 70s, did an ad for the Indianapolis Academy of the French Accent, giving ordinary slobs the ability to be suave and interesting. Stuff has been going on forever.
    Oh, and that Geico gekko? He's really an anole lizard. Dang poser...
    #17
    kland01s
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/22 22:41:08 (permalink)
    I guess my TV has different commercials. Plain old Midwest.
    #18
    felix4067
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/22 23:03:39 (permalink)
    Considering this is a thread that hadn't been posted in since July of 2011 until a few hours ago, that doesn't surprise me.
     
    But there is quite a preponderance of British-type accents in advertising, for everything from laundry additives to luxury sedans.
    #19
    chewingthefat
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/23 13:57:21 (permalink)
    The Dos Equis, most interesting man in the world, with the whaterer foreign accent, is American!
    #20
    Sundancer7
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/23 15:28:41 (permalink)
    When you get to thinking about it, almost everybody in the USA has a accent and most of it influenced by the region we live in.  Our little company was bought by Revlon in 1978 and we leaders of the company had to attend meetings at the GM building on 5th ave in NYC.  I will never forget how those folks looked down on us in the south because of your accent that was foreign to them.  We did not come close to sounding like the natives of the city.  I will not name the ethnicity of the leaders and neither did they give credit to how profitable our company was.  I survived until I retired about seven years ago.
     
    I managed our operations all over the USA and each area has its own particular accent mainly due to ethnical influence.
     
    Paul E.  Smith
    Knoxville, TN     
    #21
    CajunKing
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/23 16:11:44 (permalink)
    Budreaux -
     
    "What's especially ironic regarding many of those British accents is that they originate in the Cockney, or some other working class community--they are the Brit equivalent of the "uneducated", lower class Southern drawl. "
     
    Whats yall talkin bout?  Jus cuz us fokes in da south don't talk as funny as youse in da nort.  I mean come on this comin from a guy who says "Da BARES".
     

    #22
    FriedClamFanatic
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/23 16:15:01 (permalink)
    Just give me John Cleese.he can do whatever accent he wants
    #23
    kland01s
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/23 17:47:35 (permalink)
    My one is the Gevallia coffee guy..... fake Johann.
    #24
    SeamusD
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/05/24 13:23:10 (permalink)
    I chuckle every morning on my drive into work when the local traffic report comes on during the Bob and Tom show. The girl doing the traffic report has SUCH a central NY accent, and doesn't hide it. We have a preponderance to drop the hard t in a lot of words. For example, "skating" comes out "skay-en".
    The traffic girl says "accident", but without the "t" on the end, it comes out "accide-(short, sharp exhale)". "Street" comes out "stree-(short, sharp exhale)".
    I almost finished a degree in broadcasting, in that time I worked to rid myself of my CNY accent, and now when I hear it on the radio it makes me laugh.
    #25
    Richard Brooks Alba
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/06/04 17:28:21 (permalink)
    I'm remembering Cleese's "Well, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" - said with a slightly overearnest/overdone cowboy drawl from an old episode of Flying Circus - it was good in it's subtle exaggeration. 
    #26
    Root-Beer Man
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    Re:Foreign Accents 2013/06/04 17:43:52 (permalink)
    When I went to school in Japan, it was pretty common for some students/parents or other foreigners, to get gigs doing Japanese commercials. Sometimes the voices were added in in Japanese, but sometimes the folks doing the commercial spoke Japanese with a Gaijin accent. It was the same for the Japanese viewers as it is for American audiences. Someone speaking with a foreign accent. Having traveled the world and lived in a lot of foreign countries it's no big deal to me to hear an accent.
    #27
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