Friday, July 13, 2007

On Dolphins and Wales

Since moving to Wales last September, I have learned a lot about differences between varieties of English, and I have received lots of questions about my accent. Many people have trouble placing me in part because my English has been influenced by my years in Scandinavia. So when asked (and the people here usually ask by saying “Where’s that accent from, love?”), I often reply, “Chicago by way of Sweden.”

Not too long ago, on the train from Cardiff to Swansea, I noticed a blurb (
speaking of wordplay, it had the amusing heading “Dolphins sound more like Wales”) in the newspaper saying that dolphins who live off the coast of Wales have been found to have distinct accents. Cows, birds, and other animals have recently been discovered to have dialects as well. Whales, incidentally, have songs, but I haven’t heard whether dialect influences those songs.

A week after I read that, I was signing in at the reception desk in a building in Swansea while chatting with the receptionist. He asked me, “Where’re you from, love? Canada?” “No,” I replied, “I’m from Chicago, in the U.S.” He looked disappointed but then said, “Oh, that’s all right, love. We like you anyway!”

I immediately thought of the dolphins and I imagined them migrating to other areas and being asked “Where’s that accent from, love?” by dolphins speaking another dialect.


Eric Dickens said...

Chicago, by way of Sweden.

I was wondering: is the Swedish accent input central or southern Swedish? Because down in Lund, Malmö and Helsingborg, the accent, with that back-"r" sound and intonation becomes "grötig" (according to Stockholmers) and very different to what they speak in Stockholm, Uppsala and Gothenburg.

B.J. Epstein said...

Yes, I confess to having picked up some skånska! Earlier this year, I was speaking Swedish in London with some Swedes and they asked me somewhat suspiciously, "So where exactly did you live in Sweden?" I had to admit, "Helsingborg, in Skåne." And they said they could tell. I am not sure why I am so easily influenced, but I do get a lot of people in the US asking me where I am from (they usually guess Germany) and some relatives and friends make fun of my Swedish sing-song sometimes!

Best wishes,