Having praised British actors for their convincing American accents a couple of posts ago, now I’m going to highlight a slideshow that mostly criticises American actors for their terrible ‘British’ accents.
First of all, I’d like to point out that there is no such thing as a ‘British’ accent. What people generally mean by ‘British’ is English. There’s wide variation in English accents, just as there is with American accents, but that’s another post. I think Americans (in particular) tend to think of two different types of English accent – either the type spoken by the Royal Family, or a Cockney, as attempted by Dick Van Dyke. Which, incidentally, is apparently the worst accent of all time.
Take a look at the slideshow – which American actor do you think has the best accent? My vote goes to Renee Zellweger for Bridget Jones. But special mention should go to the lovely James McAvoy – he’s not American but you’d never know that he’s Scottish from his perfect English tones.
Are you feeling inspired by the last post about rap around the world but finding you’re burdened with a defiantly uncool name? Well, the Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names is here to help.
You can take a look at (and buy) the poster at Pop Chart Lab – $25 is nothing compared to the squillions you’ll make as a famous rapper, right?
I’m pretty sure MC Michelle isn’t cool enough unfortunately. What would your rap name be?
An interesting article over at How Stuff Works looks at rap music in different languages.
The first video showcases 28 different languages, from French to Icelandic (I don’t count American/British as different languages!). Other videos include raps in Middle English and Klingon! It’s interesting to see how well different languages fit the rap genre, given that it originated in American English.
I’ve posted previously about music being helpful with language learning. Does anyone listen to rap in their target language? Can you recommend some artists?
Have you ever wondered why the skin-tight one piece mostly seen on gymnasts is called a leotard? Or why a bathtub with massage jets is called a Jacuzzi? Then this slideshow from Slate is for you!
Jacuzzi is the name of the Italian immigrant brothers who first invented a particular type of hot tub. The name has now become synonymous with all hot tubs, much like Hoover for vacuum cleaner. Another example of this is the inventor of safety razors, King Camp Gillette.
And the inspiration behind leotard? Jules Leotard, a French acrobat who invented both the trapeze and the outfit to wear whilst on it.
See more people who became nouns at Slate.com and also at Life.com.
Over at the Dialect Blog they’ve listed their top 10 American accents done by non-Americans. The post is based on an article at USA Today which looked at American accents by non-American TV actors.
The two lists are united in choosing Hugh Laurie (House) and Idris Elba (The Wire) as having excellent American accents. Having never seen The Wire, I can only comment on Hugh Laurie’s accent, which I find a little odd. To me it sounds American-adjacent; I recognise that it’s supposed to be American but for me it’s just a bit too odd sounding. I do agree with the Dialect Blog though about Laurie’s portrayal of a different type of American, it’s refreshing to see this in amongst the bland and stereotypical characters we see on a lot of shows.
Having occasionally tried an American accent myself, I can attest to the difficulty of switching from your native accent (good thing I’m not a professional actor!). Who do you think does a great job with accents?
Did you know that New York City is the birthplace of Scrabble?
Alfred Mosher Butts invented the game in 1938 at a church in Jackson Heights, and a Scrabble-themed street sign has been erected to commemorate this. The sign has history though – it was originally put up in 1995, and disappeared in 2008. Local residents missed the sign and appear happy that it is making a return in the fall.
“The city is a really seminal place in terms of Scrabble history,” National Scrabble Association president John D. Williams told us. “Us New Yorkers like to think of ourselves as the center of everything, and Scrabble is no exception.” Williams said he’s “extremely happy” to hear of the new sign, which will be designed by Massimo Vignelli—though he did have one suggestion: “I wouldn’t mind seeing it in tiles.” (Source: Gothamist)
An interesting article at The Atlantic explores the beauty of rare alphabets.
A Vermont-based writer has been documenting our alphabet heritage through wood carvings as part of his Endangered Alphabets Project. Tim Brookes exhibits the wood carvings and has written a book with an introduction by the linguist David Crystal.
Edward Tenner writes in The Atlantic:
My favorite from Mr. Brookes’ book, though, is Mandaic, spoken by only a hundred or so survivors of an ancient people and faith, the only language written so that even in handwriting all lines are equal. Mandeans also may be unique in believing their language was created by God before humanity itself, and highly developed letter mysticism is at the core of their religion.
The Endangered Alphabets project is not just about language or typography but about the unique insights into humanity and world that obscure scripts preserve. (Source: The Atlantic)
Take a look at the article to see a slideshow of some scripts, and at the Endangered Alphabets Project website for more information.
A multimedia artist in New York City is planning to teach English – at a Laundromat.
Hector Canonge will teach two one-hour English classes a week, as part of his public art project, The Inwood Laundromat Language Institute. What was the inspiration behind the project?
“There are a lot of newcomers [to the United States] in the area, and I see that they struggle with a lot of the concepts that we take for granted – the wash cycle, the spin cycle,” he explained. “Sometimes they even have difficulty asking to buy soap or for change because they don’t speak the language.” (Source: Manhattan Times)
Canonge will teach vocabulary essential to using the Laundromat, including “clothes”, “soap” and “machines” before moving on to more complex aspects like verbs and possessive nouns. He will use flashcards, a brochure and the environment to support his teaching.
At the end of the project a graduation will be held for the students. The art comes in at the end of the ceremony – Canonge will unveil a multimedia interactive kiosk installmant in the Laundromat which will “outline the process of the project and highlight individual experiences that took place over the course of the month”.
This sounds like a great way of reaching out to the community and involving them not just in language, but art. What’s the most unusual place you’ve learned a language?