When David Charlesworth made his first trip to the United States, he flew into the cornfields of Indiana all jetlagged and hungry.
So we took him out to eat. And someone in our party (it was the genius, I suppose) decided that Longhorn steakhouse was a good idea. It’s a throw-your-peanut-shells-on-the-floor place. Big belt buckles are de rigueur. No snakeskin boots, no service.
When we walked in, we told David: “The women here will love your accent.” He looked doubtful, but we were correct. Not only did the 20-something hostess swoon when David said “Hello,” but several members of the wait staff came over to our table during the evening just to hear him speak.
It’s no secret that in the United States, having a British accent raises your IQ by at least 10 points. During my 25 years in publishing, I’ve learned that it is hopeless to argue with a British accent during a meeting. I might have fact and figures, but he has the accent. Case closed.
The same goes for South African accents. Australian accents, not so much. Many Americans can only picture “Crocodile Dundee” when an Australian speaks.
When I go overseas, I assume I sound like a hick. So I try to speak clearly, evenly and without any Arkansas idioms. Still, I imagine my students hear me as “Cooter” from “The Dukes of Hazzard” – a gun-toting, tobacco-chewing, redneck dufus.
During my recent trip to England, one of my English hosts commented that he had spent the previous evening listening to one of the American students talk about his philosophy of furniture design.
“It was fascinating,” the Brit said. “Or maybe it was just his deep voice and American accent that made me listen to him all night.”
— Christopher Schwarz