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United Kingdom Movies Television Entertainment

Why Are Fantasy World Accents British? 516

Posted by Soulskill
from the consolation-prize-for-losing-the-colonies dept.
kodiaktau writes "An interesting article from the BBC News Magazine explores the reasons why most fantasy worlds use British as their primary accent. Citing specific examples from recent and upcoming shows and movies like Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, the article concludes British accents are 'sufficiently exotic,' 'comprehensible' and have a 'splash of otherness.' It would be odd to think of a fantasy world having a New Jersey accent, or even a Mid-West accent, which tends to be the default for TV and movies in the U.S., but how do UK viewers feel about having British as a default? More specifically, what about the range of UK accents, like Scottish, Welsh, Cockney? The International Dialects of English Archive shows at least nine regional sounds, with dozens of sub-regional pronunciations in England alone. In the U.S., there have always been many regional accents that might be used in interesting ways. Filmmakers should consider looking at speech accents from other areas of the world to create more interesting dialects."
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Why Are Fantasy World Accents British?

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  • by PatPending (953482) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:18PM (#39527611)

    Imagine The Lord of the Rings where all the Hobbits had Brooklyn accents.

    Fah gedda boudit [youtube.com]

  • Re:Old World (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigtomrodney (993427) * on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:20PM (#39527643)
    Is it Received Pronunciation [wikipedia.org] that you're referring to?
  • Re:Abstraction (Score:4, Informative)

    by operagost (62405) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:20PM (#39527653) Homepage Journal
    Bugs Bunny has a Brooklyn accent.
  • Re:Abstraction (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:27PM (#39527773)

    Shouldn't Thor sound.. Icelandic? I mean, after all that's the language we got which is least removed from the ur-nordic language (whatever that may have been).

  • by Zordak (123132) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:31PM (#39527865) Homepage Journal
    Lots of planets have a North*!

    *Arguably, this one could go either way.

    (Doctor Who and grammar. We all need our little obsessions.)

  • by justin12345 (846440) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:44PM (#39528055)
    Shakespeare is actually Modern English (and he'll Melt with You), not Middle English. Middle English is somewhat nebulously defined, but Chaucer would be a better example.
  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:50PM (#39528139)
  • by Xtifr (1323) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:52PM (#39528167) Homepage

    The standard term is General American [wikipedia.org]" (GE) or "Standard American Accent" (SAE). It's not an average (or even just average).

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:4, Informative)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:02PM (#39528299)

    Does Bugs Bunny sound sexy to you?

    No. But I will note that when the UK director Gerry Anderson produced Thunderbirds, for a UK audience, he gave the puppets US accents.

    Jessica Rabbit does :)

    The thunderbirds puppets were modelled on the US astronauts, so its not unreasonable that (at the time) futuristic people were American. I guess its the same as today where all the terrorists are middle eastern.

    There are a lot of British accents in Hollywood... but they're usually the badguy, with the hero as an apple-pie-eating-all-american guy, like Tom Cruise.

    I think its alll about keeping things simple for the US audiences, the bad guy speaks with a British accent, the good guy has an American one, the terrorist is dark and swarthy, the charming rogue is Irish... stereotypes make it easy for the audience to know what to expect from that character.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:04PM (#39528309)

    Good point, but he spoke early modern It had a heavy brogue and sounded semi-Scottish. Also it was pre-vowel shift, so it sounded little like modern British.

  • Re:Simple, really (Score:5, Informative)

    by newcastlejon (1483695) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:14PM (#39528453)
    Firstly, you forgot one of the Brits' most significant characteristics: self-deprecation.

    - Free healthcare to all, at much cheaper rates than the US private healthcare system. I've tried both, and I'd take the NHS in a heart-beat.

    The NHS has its ups and downs but we count ourselves very lucky for having it as well as private healthcare providers like Bupa.

    - Significantly subsidized education. You don't come out of college desperate to find a job to pay off your immense loans.

    Desperate to find a job, maybe, but our student loans aren't taken out privately - for the most part - so the repayments are actually quite reasonable. In fact, the first £15k (around the $23k mark) of your earnings are disregarded when it comes to calculating repayments.

    - They're not currently at war with any chemicals, nouns, or indeed any nation-states as far as I'm aware.

    Some chemicals are very much targeted, but punishments are nowhere near as harsh as those in the US. Words... well, so long as you aren't encouraging violence, intolerance, etc. you're pretty much free to say what you want, including insults directed towards the Royal Family (see point the First). As for nation-states that depends entirely on who the US is after at the moment :P, but suffice it to say we don't have it in for Cuba; it's 4,500 miles away.

    - There's no gate-rape or sanctioned government-grope at the borders

    Nope, free travel between EU nations in particular is a wonderful thing and we've learned to take the rough with the smooth. We have enough home-grown nutcases anyway.

    - They don't have 1 in every 31 adults [wikipedia.org] behind bars or on parole / being monitored. Think about that for a second. One in Thirty-one.

    Amen to that. That statistic is quite saddening and I'm given to understand that many inmates are imprisoned for relatively minor drug offences.

    - They live longer, and have less infant deaths

    A double-edged sword, since we're careening towards the same pension crisis as many other nations. Infant mortality, however, is a bad thing however one looks at it.

    - They have a genuine choice in politics - left, center, or right. As opposed to right and crazy-town here in the US.

    LOL! Our choice is basically pro-business toffs (Tory - blue), pro-union spendaholics (Labour - red) and the Liberal Democrats, whose yellow ties should give some indication as to their character.
    (I actually vote LD for their progressive social policies and attitude toward proportional representation... and partly because I'm curious to see how they would screw things up)

    - Their police won't handcuff you, lie you on the floor, then shoot you dead [wikipedia.org] on a subway train.

    Generally, no they won't, and the fact that most of them don't carry firearms, but the ones that do have been known to shoot people before [wikipedia.org] boarding a subway train. That was a dark day, but in our defence most of the nation was in uproar over it.

    - No metal-detectors needed at schools. Schools, for $deity sake!

    Not yet, thankfully, but we need to sort out the problem of knife crime, which is preferable to gun crime but still lethal.

    - There's no software patents :)

    Yes, but given that the blues are in charge and the reds seem keen on the idea too I think it's only a matter of time even without US pressure.

    All told, the UK society seems to be functioning as well as any enlightened Western society should, unlike the USA. On th

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:15PM (#39528487)
    Chaucer? The Owl and the Nightingale forever!

    The niyhtingale in hire thoyhte
    athold al this, & longe thoyhte
    wat ho tharafter miyhte segge:
    vor ho ne miyhte noyht alegge
    that the hule hadde hire ised,
    vor he spac bothe riyht an red.
    An hire ofthuyhte that ho hadde
    the speche so for uorth iladde,
    an was oferd that hire answare
    ne wurthe noyht ariyht ifare.

    The bottom line is, if you can understand it, it's not Middle English. (Diachronous linguistics geeks excepted, of course.)

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:4, Informative)

    by JSG (82708) on Friday March 30, 2012 @06:13PM (#39529331) Homepage

    Have you ever tried to read Chaucer? That's Middle English. As for Old English - trust me you (nor I) stand a chance! Modern English dialects are much closer together than what might have be termed dialects back then but there is still a huge difference in accents and many terms and words even today across regions. Then throw in Cumbric, Kentish and many other old languages into the mix. Cumbric was still in sporadic use in the 20th C. That's just in England. Then you have Welsh, Irish and Scots with all the same complexities that exist and existed in England with dialects and probably outright different languages in different regions and ages.

    The UK and Eire are a small area landwise but a fair diversity in culture still remains - and long may it continue (IMNSHO).

    Have a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaucer [wikipedia.org] there's some samples from his writings with translations. I'm a native en_GB speaker and I find it tough going.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday March 30, 2012 @08:39PM (#39530819) Journal

    As a Russian, I can tell you that I vastly prefer American movies about Russians where they all speak English (and I guess at that point they have to use accents to make it sound "foreign") over those where they actually try to put Russian in there - because I haven't seen a single movie where it wasn't hilariously wrong in both accent and sentence structure.

    Remember that scene in "Red Dawn" where a Soviet soldier tries to read the sign (in English) at the national park, has to make most of it up because of his poor command of the language, which results in a hilarious "translation"? Well, that scene is doubly hilarious if you're a Russian, because his actual speech is about as close to the English subtitles, as the subtitles themselves are to what's on the sign...

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:33PM (#39531451) Homepage

    Knowing modern German would be more useful than English for trying to make anythuing out in Old English.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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