Accent expert critiques American actors' British acccents

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Maleficent? A fantasy movie set in a period before anyone spoke modern English, much less with a British accent?


On the flip side, we can agree some British actors just have terrible American accents:
Charlie Hunnam is clearly the all time Hall of Shame winner, followed by Andrew Lincoln.


I was really looking forward to dunking on this – an American telling us about British accents? HA! – but she’s really, really good. If she’d stuck to her English accent(s), I would have assumed she’s English.

Nonetheless, a few quibbles:

  • All the accents she critiques bar one are English (and southern English at that), and all of those except one are upper or middle class. A bit more regional variety would have been nice, but I suppose not many American actors are asked to do, say, a Scouse accent.

  • A couple of times she distinguishes between British accents and Scottish accents. Scottish accents are British accents. As are Welsh, Yorkshire, Geordie, West Country, etc.

  • In her discussion of Scottish accents, she distinguishes between “hard, Glasgow/Highland accents” and “softer Edinburgh accents”. Highland accents are (in my limited experience) softer and more lilt-like than either Glasgow or Edinburgh accents, possibly because English in the Highlands is historically an imported language (the native language being Gaelic, though only a small minority still speak it), whereas in the Lowlands and north-east it exists on a continuum with Scots, which has its own firm views on phonology. And I can say from personal experience that a working-class Edinburgh accent is nigh-on incomprehensible to a newly-arrived Englishman.


This is like an industry at this point. Do you suppose they have a union?


Iain Glen gets an honorable mention for his Bruce Wayne in Titans.


I’m curious what people think of Daniel Craig’s southern accent in Knives Out. I just assumed it was a regional variation that I haven’t encountered much but my wife thought it was terrible. We certainly didn’t hear anyone talk like that when we lived in Memphis.


This guy…



He was going for Cajun by way of Foghorn Leghorn. Still not his worst American accent. That would be Logan Lucky.


At least top 3 in bad American accenting. Hunnam still logged in more hours of bad accenting with Sons of Anarchy than the nearest competitors. At least 2 seasons longer than that show had any right to keep going for.

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Very generous of her to not even touch on whatever accent Ben Affleck was trying on in Shakespeare In Love.


As a non-native speaker I got really annoyed by the constant music which isn’t really in the background. Bloody hell, that’s massively distracting. I had trouble hearing the difference between pronunciations.


Back in the 70s my dad (boston area of US) went to do electrical engineering work as a contractor down a West Virginia coal mine. He says the older miners were mostly unintelligible to him, similar, I guess to a working-class person in Edinburgh and an English visitor.


I agree with your wife. It was over-exaggerated & pulled-back, all at the same time. (That sentence made sense in my head. Typed out, not so much. But still.)
The ones that bother me the most are when they mash up really broad vowels from 5 different accents to make “midwest”.


When I was a kid we lived next to a family with a wife who was from London. She had a loverly lilt of an accent. Her bother visited once and he was so cockney that he might have been speaking a foreign language for all I could understand of him. I think that only word he ever said that I could catch was “is”.


In the context of that movie, though, that almost fits. In that virtually none of the main characters were who they were pretending to be.


True, and they lampshade it—pretty sure a character calls him “Colonel Sanders” at least once, as if to say, “C’mon—nobody really talks like that.”


Exactly. The whole film was a homage parody with a twist - including the accent.


Hey, it’s good that she even distinguishes between different Scottish accents. So many actors and writers just aim for “generic Scottish” (which is usually a bad impression of a Glasgow accent)and leave it at that.
One notable offender in that sense was the BBC’s own Eastenders (long-running soap-opera filled with cockney accents, to those of you not familiar with it), which at one point had a Scottish character. The actress playing her had a (genuine) unmistakable Glasgow accent, was written by the writers to go back home to Edinburgh, and had parents who talked with lilting, sing-song accents from the Western Isles. Complete research failure.

In truth, there’s so many different accents that it’s difficult to get any of them spot on. As she alluded to in the video, there’s not only very strong local accents, there’s also a strong element of social class that comes across in accents as well, which can sound like they come from completely different places within the social strata of one city. The cast of Trainspotting have Edinburgh accents, as does the posh lady from Morningside, who thinks sex is what coal is delivered in.

Also, The video asks why so many Hollywood villains have RP accents- I always thought that this was simply due to the large number of classically-trained british actors who ended up in those roles, perpetuating the long-standing stereotype. Although I suppose it’s a bit chicken and egg at this point.