The voice on the video ad for Aperture has this accent I’ve encountered quite often recently that really confuses me. It’s obviously an American accent, yet quite often I hear what sounds just like an Australian vowel. As soon as I’ve heard it, it’s gone, until it suddenly reappears.

Is this accent from a particular part of the US, or what’s going on?

16 thoughts on “what’s up with this accent?

  1. Ian Bogost

    Yeah, I hear the Australian vowels too. It’s not an accent of any kind from anywhere in the states. It sounds more like an American-watered-down accent from Oz. I wonder if they did that to make the product seem more “exotic” or something.

  2. Elin

    Have you two considered that it might just be that the speaker might be an American living in Australia, or more likely, an Australian living in the US..?

    🙂

  3. diane

    Wow. Possibly machine-generated speech? It’s funny how some vowels are so flat, and others
    are so plummy. But those hard r’s…

  4. KF

    Oh, you’re totally right — those are undoubtedly Australian ARs (“each image on the cahd”). I vote for Australian transplanted to the US long enough ago to have lost most of the accent, but not all of it. (Actually, it kinda reminds me of the lingering bits of Nic Harcourt’s Manchester accent…)

  5. Jill

    So there is no native US accent like this? Wow, then I’ve been hearing a lof of Australians-gone-American lately. There are quite a few in broadcast media – I don’t think I’ve met anyone personally who speaks like this.

  6. Lesley

    Or perhaps an Australian pretending to be American?

  7. Jill

    But what do Americans hear and think when they hear such an accent? Does it just sound American (until you have some weird Australian-Norwegian blogger specifically ask you about the vowels) or does it have some kind of attraction, like somehow you know, native and homely yet with a tinge of exoticism? To me it sounds kind of odd, but since it’s actually fairly common in broadcast media, and specifically chosen for this ad, I’m thinking it sounds different to an American?

    Of course, as a Australian-Norwegian, I’m rather taken by the fantasy that Australians may have actually subversively taken over the world, thinly disguising themselves as nationals of every other country with accents close enough to their hosts that their true identity is only signalled to their own kind. There’s probably some kind of message in that accent that I’ll discover if I listen closely enough.

    Damn, I should never have alerted you to that!

  8. diane

    Like a secret handshake! Thanks for making me smile 🙂

    I don’t think the accent sounds like anything I’ve ever heard here, except for the moments when the speaker has the flat standard American midwest accent, which to my New England ears is “no accent,” cuz it’s not marked regionally like the speaker’s from Boston or Tennessee or Minnesota etc. Are Australian accents “americanizing” ? That would be a pity.

  9. Ian Bogost

    But what do Americans hear and think when they hear such an accent?

    I think most American’s can’t distinguish between non-American English-language accents. That is, most Americans hear Australian, NZ, British, Scottish, Irish, as more or less the same. Or rather, they hear them as different but can’t tell you where the accent is from. In particular, Americans mistake Australians for British. So, I think most Americans would hear it as slightly sophisticated but not snobbish.

    As for me, it just sounds Australian, albeit in a reduced form. It just makes me ask the same questions you are asking. That’s more or less what Elin is suggesting: it’s a “real” accent, not a put-on, but certainly not as strong as it could be.

  10. Mark Bernstein

    Thanks to Hollywood, a lot of Americans *can* distinguish Australian from Oxbridge. And almost all Americans have a reasonable shot at distinguishing Edinburgh from Dublin from Liverpool.

    (Americans mistake Australian for British for the same reason that a studio offered Cary Grant the part of Henry Higggins in My Fair Lady.)

    The _Aperture_ speaker reads as an Australian who lives in the US, or conceivably a Yank living in Australia. There’s a possibility of some New England influence too: those a’s could almost be South Boston or perhaps coastal Maine.

  11. Bil Cole

    Mark’s right. We Yanks can identify Australian accents in a minute, as well as most of the more extreme regional Englishes. Finer distinctions elude us (e.g., we will mistake New Zealanders for Australian). And mixed accents may get assigned to some place we *think* has a distinctive accent but which we’ve never heard (my wife’s very slight German accent gets guesses like “Canadian?” or “Somewhere in the Midwest?). On the video, my first thought was affected-Manhattan-gallery-owner until I heard “cahd.” Then I was just puzzled. Maybe those Aussie a’s are like Canadian ou’s — the last, indelible mark of regional speech. If you listen to hockey broadcasts, the announcers will sound like generic TV sports voices until they have to say “about” and it comes out as “abooot”.

  12. Jill

    The last, indelible mark of regional speech. Yes, that’s probably about it 🙂

    But ya know, most Americans (apart from my esteemed friends) ask me if I’m from Britain. No, Australia. I usually don’t go into the whole Norway and Australia thing. Too complicated altogether.

    Of course sometimes I have to use an interpreter. Those phone calls can be really, really annoying. (I absolutely cannot understand how come Americans often think I’m saying “i” when I’m saying the letter “a” – and vice versa.)

  13. jess

    Thereís a possibility of some New England influence too: those aís could almost be South Boston or perhaps coastal Maine.

    Funny, I was actually expecting to hear a Down East accent when I read Jill’s description, but after listing to the clip, no. It’s not even close to either a Maine or Boston accent. Definitely Australian.

    (FWIW, examples of the Down East accent can be heard here, under the Tapes and CDs section)

  14. paul

    Many Boston accents sound to me (as an australian) like a normal american accent which occasionally throws in a broard australian vowel, then switches back to american. Its a very odd, disjointed sound. The most notable vowel is the a in words like car park (pronounced cah pahk), exactly the same way an aussie would say it.
    There’s a good example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbK4cL3QSc0

  15. Frank Gerace

    What is the accent of the gecko in the GEICO (auto insurance) commercial? I say ausatralian but a student says english and he should know because he lived in both places. It just shows that some people can’t distinguish. I’m not sure who couldn’t him or me.

  16. Sluggo

    The accent is Cockney. Think Michael Caine for a reference.
    The reason is obscure, far from obvious and has to do with an advertising agency going for a working-class voice, but nothing to do with Australia.

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