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July 21, 2007 9:05 PM   Subscribe

What is the shortest sentence that would highlight differences in dialects and accents in the English language?

I am looking for some thinking about accents. Ideally ideas about the way we sound.

Awesome would be language quirks in particular groups within each country (such as the rolling r NZ has in Southland.).

Including English quirks in areas where it is spoken as a second language, and why.
posted by Samuel Farrow to Human Relations (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The first things that come to my mind are regionalisms anyway, but I'd try "Fish and chips on a really sunny day. Boyo."
posted by pompomtom at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2007

Fish and Chips. (on preview, as pompomtom says) It's the best way to tell the difference between Australian and New Zealander (?) accents.
posted by niles at 9:18 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

It may not be the shortest, but I've mentioned "Debbie does sex daily" in a similar context.
posted by rob511 at 9:18 PM on July 21, 2007

er, I did mean New Zealand. I just don't know what you call someone from New Zealand...New Zealandite?
posted by niles at 9:20 PM on July 21, 2007

New Zealander

"Out in the car, she headed to London for a beer."

I've never known of a "standard" phrase, but you could quite easily build one using those phenomes known to vary widely.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome - but I guess I am more interested in specific words of phrases, internationally.

For example in Southland they say "herb" - I hear harb because of the large number of crofters (from Scotland) that settled there.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:32 PM on July 21, 2007

I think that simply the word "fire" is enough. Variations in pronunciation of that word are all over the map.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:40 PM on July 21, 2007

Yeah, I'm thinking similar to TheNewWazoo, identify a wide variety of phenomes then construct a sentence. Perhaps if you want to be percise even a set of sentences with each focusing on specific aspects (bilabial, labiodental etc).
posted by edgeways at 9:43 PM on July 21, 2007

"What in the world".

Also, simply the word "newspaper". There's the American "noohspayper", the British "newspiper", etc.
posted by Xere at 9:53 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

This may not be the most helpful to you, but I remember learning that the American pronunciation of the word 'bird' involves an r-sound incredibly difficult for anyone from other dialects.

(I don't remember if it's a specific region of the US or all of us, though, sorry.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:12 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd include a negative in there somewhere - that's a point where a lot of dialects diverge I think: Scots cannae, Yorkshire nowt; Geordie divvn't etc.
posted by Abiezer at 10:50 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mary merrily caught a bird on the cot.

Lamest. Sentence. Ever.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:24 PM on July 21, 2007

Buy, could you pick me yup a micky and a 2-4 since me pogey cheque don't come in for coupla weeks.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2007

I remember reading a short magazine article (possibly in Smithsonian) about the disappearance of some New York accents, lamenting the replacement among elevator opearators of "Fawt flaw!" by "Fourth floor!"
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:15 AM on July 22, 2007

Best answer: On the Speech Accent Archive website, each speech sample features someone reading this paragraph: "Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station."

Each sentence highlights differences in regional pronunciation of vowel, consonant and diphthong sounds. Perhaps one of these sentences would do?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:29 AM on July 22, 2007 [25 favorites]

Response by poster: Brilliant - just what I need. Thanks.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:50 AM on July 22, 2007

I blame it on my family being from the Rocky Mountain West, but I completely unable to say the "g" in any word like "walking", "talking", "seeing", etc. (walkin', talkin', seein'), I'd suggest that you add a word like that to your test sentence. Maybe "Debbie does fisting sex daily".
posted by barnacles at 1:05 AM on July 22, 2007

Glad I could be of help. (The Speech Accent Archive is a pretty darn fantastic site!)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:37 AM on July 22, 2007

Just counting to ten will out quite a lot if differences, though you would have to wait until 101 for a short 'a'.
posted by Idcoytco at 4:02 AM on July 22, 2007

I'm semi-confident I could tell between at least 8 major British accents on this sentence: "I walked and worked about the beautiful grass."

"work" would separate Scousers pretty quickly, "grass" would separate entire families of accents from each other quickly (as would glass, arse, or task), "about" will knock out some Scottish accents, and "beautiful" could narrow it down even more with some of the less distinctive southern English accents.
posted by wackybrit at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2007

Ahh! Speech accent archive! I thought about that site as soon as I read this question but couldn't remember it. Yay!
posted by MadamM at 3:34 PM on July 22, 2007

"How now brown cow."
posted by trondant at 3:54 PM on July 22, 2007

Wow, that speech archive site is fantastic, and useful! Thanks!
posted by effugas at 4:38 PM on July 22, 2007

hurdy gurdy girl, just my opinion, but I think that speech archive is worthy of a fpp in the Blue. Or has it been posted already? (I've already wasted more time on it than most of the Friday Flash Fun posts)
posted by klarck at 6:01 PM on July 22, 2007

Response by poster: I agree with klarck.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:25 PM on July 22, 2007

It would be excellent to have the Speech Accent Archive as my first FPP! Unfortunately for me, it's already been done (in fact, I believe that thread was where I first found out about it--it's well worth reading, definitely).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:45 PM on July 22, 2007

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