The Corner

A Fraffly Bad Idea

Headline in the Daily Telegraph: “Yeah, baby, yeah. It’s international talk with a fake British accent day.” Is it, by George?

Big Apple Brits … targets anglophiles and is holding its first International talk with a fake British accent day on December 17th in NYC.

Begun as a virtual global event on Facebook, BAB have organised a face-to-face NYC event at Slatterys midtown pub, 8 East 36th Street, to celebrate the British accent and bring anglophiles together.

Everyone (even the Brits) is invited to adopt a fake accent for the event and may find themselves tested on the day by fiendish tongue twisters. You could mimic other famous “fakers,” such as Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins or Austin Powers. “Fakers” will be recorded for posterity and members will get a chance to listen, vote, comment and discuss their efforts online.

As so often when I read the newspapers nowadays, I get the impression that there are far too many people out there with far too much time on their hands. Dr. Johnson spoke of the fashionable crowd flocking to fashionable places where they could “rid themselves of the day.”

Perhaps that is too dour. All right, let’s take the thing at face value. A question immediately arises: Which British accent are you going to fake? As I pointed out in a Straggler column once, there are many to choose from:

The local people, who did not venture from home any more than necessary, had developed their own dialects. There were at least two in the county proper — three if you included the Soke of Peterborough, which we generally didn’t, and where the plural of “house” is “housen.”

Should the aspiring anglophile try for Estuary English, with lots of glottal stops and dropped aitches? Or Fraffly? Or Scouse? Or what?

I don’t think this will work. One thing that comes out clearly from those Jeeves & Wooster shows I’ve been watching is how very bad English actors are — even quite accomplished English actors — at American accents. Dick Van Dyke’s Midwestern Cockney is the other side of the coin. Let’s face it, we just can’t do each other’s voices.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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