Archives for posts with tag: Accent

One area that highlights the division between American English and English English, as opposed to other versions of English, is the different pronunciations and accentuations on words.

Take the words laboratory and controversy for example. Our US friends prefer to accent the first syllable and the English prefer to accent the second, and continue to do so, despite the huge influence of American English on our daily European lives.

One difference I can’t get my head around is munging the last syllable of words that end in ‘-ile’. I remember watching an eipsode of the 6 Million Dollar Man back in the mid-seventies and they talked about a dangerous ‘missle’. What the heck’s a missle? In English English we put the accent on the first syllable but still give the second syllable a bit of a dance as well.

Futile is another one. Or Fyewtle as the Americans would say. Now that’s a futile pronunciation if ever there was one.

There are plenty of laudable examples of American English changing the spelling of words for simplicity’s sake. I offer you color, realize, maneuver and celiac for that argument.

But futile, missile, versatile, agile? Why not change the spelling on those too?

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I wrote in a previous post about the differences between writing for the US and UK markets. Of course, an increasingly popular medium for marketeersĀ is the movie, where the verbal side of the equation – as opposed to the written – comes to the fore.

Those of you in sales will have of course wrestled with the verbal side of accents, be they regional, national or spoken as a second language, from the wealth of face-to-face meetings you’ve had. Getting on with someone verbally is the ‘sine qua non’ of sales success.

As consumers and business-to-business people we’re well used to forming an opinion of someone from their voice and they way they use it, and this is arguably more important in the movie medium where often, in the case of voiceovers, you can hear the person but not see them.

Again, as with writing, it’s important to figure out what your key market is, and how disposed they are to either a regional accent, a domestic accent or a non-domestic one. Statistically speaking, some accents have more of an allure, a cachet, and some are a turn-off. It is what it is.

One of the companies I worked for considered the US its major market and the UK its secondary market. It produced collateral that favoured the US format, spelling and phrasing. For one of its more prestigious videos, it adopted a ‘mid-atlantic’ accent developed with a professional (and quite well-known) actor. Compromise which pleases no-one or sensible one-accent-fits-all approach? It depends, of course :-).