Friday, 22 February 2019
British Regional Accents: A Guide for American DMs
So, I sat down and tried to watch the first episode of the first Critical Role campaign. I gave up a few minutes in. I had half an idea to write a series of blog posts critiquing it, but, on reflection, what would be the point? I'm not the target audience, and if some people enjoy it, good for them. (I write this through teeth that are slightly less gritted than they would once have been; I've mellowed over the years.)
But the post did get me thinking about the topic of British regional accents and American cultural products, particularly in Fantasy & SF, mainly because the first PC to get introduced in that Critical Role campaign is described by an actor straight from the Dick Van Dyke School of Linguistics, and it got me thinking about how Americans make use of such a limited palette of British accents when going for some sort of specific effect.
The general rule for Americans when it comes to British accents seems to be: British people are either very posh or cockneys, and if they're not, they're either the Beatles or Scottish. The Welsh and Northern Irish certainly don't exist, and nor does any English person outside a kind of mythical idealised London roughly between the years 1850-1945, or Liverpool between the years 1962-1970.
This is reflected in the way British regional accents are used in American Fantasy & SF: villains speak in RP, unless they are mook and/or comedy villains, in which case they're cockneys; dwarves are Scottish, and now and again somebody from Somerset appears, usually to represent a yokel (viz: Sam in the The Lord of the Rings films).
This won't do. You guys need to expand your range a little bit.
The best way to do this is by watching videos of interviews with football fans on YouTube - an unintentionally hilarious genre of programming which never fails to combine vitriolic anger, self-entitled outrage, politically incorrect asides, and logical incoherence - all presented in the funny voices of grown men who should really know better.
Here are some examples. First, Estuary English. How about the guy on the right for a hobgoblin?
Second, how about this Mancunian kobold?
Third, a couple of Liverpudlian gnolls complaining about modern football.
Fourth, some slightly downtrodden Geordie orcs dissecting the result of a recent battle.
Fifth, check out this Boro fan (that's Middlesborough) - a goblin for definite (although he is right about Leeds).
Sixth, a clan of Brummie bullywugs?
And finally - Welsh wererat?