Accent ist gut

9 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

This week, I read a book by Cara McKenna called Her Best Laid Plans in which a mid-20s woman, Jamie, goes to Ireland for vacation after a bad breakup and meets and falls for hot Irish bartender, Connor. Sounds like a perfect vacation to me. It’s a good, fun, sexy read and not only because I’ve been to several of the places she visited (horseback riding on The Dingle FTW!).

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An Irish accent adds a lyrical lilt to the English language and is, in my experience, something better captured as an essence rather than recreated verbatim by reforming words. It dances like music on top of the vowels and consonants. Throughout Her Best Laid Plans, McKenna uses a light hand to highlight these inflections in Connor’s language. Occasionally, Jamie repeats a word or two in her head with an exaggerated spelling as she enjoys the verbal music.  I found myself sounding them out with her, often with an entertained smile on my face as I heard a male Irish-accented voice in my ear. Dayam, but I love me a man with an accent.

Colin you're lonely ugly asshole you must accept it

It’s become cliche now to say that. Like that subplot in Love Actually where Colin Frissell goes to the American Midwest to get laid because he knows, dorky looking as he may be, American women will find his British accent hotter than Atlanta on fire. It’s funny because it’s true. But why?

None of us think we have an accent but likely all of us do. I’d swear up and down that I don’t sport a Jersey accent (unless I want to or am trying to make a point) but one of my college roommates liked to needle me for the particular “aw” flavor I add to the word “office.” Whether regional dialect or foreign influence, we all mark where we come from by how we speak–and sometimes how we don’t speak.

And yet, having a certain kind of accent ups the hotness factor almost as much as one of the wrong kinds of accents can lower it. Serve up some Tom Hiddleston reading poetry or sprouting Shakespeare and I’m gonna need a moment in my bunk.

Or how ’bout Ioan Gruffudd performing 13th century poetry live? Ya huh. It’s like that.

Why do women (and men, I’m sure) find foreign accents so attractive? A quick Google search reveals a surprising lack of any serious information on the subject, outside of some forum discussions and their adorable overall lack of veracity. The idea that a man (or woman, but mostly men) is made more attractive with an accent is just nearly universally accepted. There’s even a dating site designed to hook you up with a partner who sports the accent of your choice. An accent can up the attractiveness quotient of a man by at least 40% and that’s before adding tequila to the equation. Think of a man talking dirty in bed with you and crank it higher imagining that voice tinged with an accent. Hoo. Shah.

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Yeah, he’s a bit of a woolly mammoth here, but can’t you just hear his brogue growl “is that how you want it now, lass?”

Is it the intrigue of the unfamiliar, the lure of something different? As Americans, we’re kind of conditioned, by Hollywood or an Old World remnant not quite washed out of our DNA by the Revolution, to believe men with accents, particularly that sophisticated, upper class Oxbridge British accent, are automatically more intelligent and cultured than their American counterparts. Welshmen have the fast patter with a particular way of hitting soft on hard consonants that lift the meaning of the most mundane items. Irish and Scottish men are charming and suave, seducing women as much with their voices as anything else.

Step outside of the UK and add a more continental flair with a Spanish or Frenchman or the lush seduction of an Italian accent. This CNN list of the world’s 13 most favorite accents includes Nigerian, Thai, and Argentine. There’s also this list of the top 10 sexiest accents in the world, a list first name checked by our own Elizabeth Shore way back in April of 2014. People dig the accents and I may not know why, but I’m right there with ’em.

Do accents turn you on? Do you have a favorite? Does it really matter?

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8 Responses to “Accent ist gut”

  1. Elizabeth Shore March 11, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    When I first began dating my dh, who’s European, a catty girl I knew sniped that I was only dating him “because of his accent.” I remember at the time thinking that it was the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard, and I maintain it now. Sure, an accent can be nice to listen to, but content it king. If everything coming out of his mouth was pure idiocy I would’ve headed for the hills no matter how pleasingly he spoke.

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    • Kemberlee March 11, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      No kidding. Funny thing for me is that I remember when I was about 9 and talking with the girls who I used to be friendly with. We were all talking about being grown up…who we’d marry, what we’d do for a living, etc. I remember saying I was going to marry an Irishman. I eventually did 😉 I don’t think I even knew what an Irishman was back then. Accent or otherwise.

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  2. Madeline Iva March 9, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Supposedly our North American sound is the result of British meets Eastern Seaboard Native Americans who drawl. They speak more in the back of their throat than the British do. You can hear it/feel it in your own throat when you say Native American names like Mohawk, Pawtucket, Ogunquit, Pocahontus vs. British names which are all at the front of the mouth like Devin, Keswick, London, Sussex, etc. The Native American names used as examples here are all east coat names–not sure it’s the same with tribe languages out west, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was very different.

    I would theorize that accents can delight us in the same way a good story pleases us – although you can kind of guess what to expect when you read a romance, you’re still surprised when it happens exactly the way it does. There is a difference between your hazy expectation of an accent and it’s actual execution. That gap between our expectation and surprise is entertaining to us. It’s our adult version of peek-a-boo.

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    • Kemberlee March 10, 2015 at 5:18 am #

      I know what you mean by back of the throat vs front of the mouth. Some people have very soft accents which come from the front of the mouth. People who speak from back of the throat tend to breathe more deeply through their diaphragm and can project their voice better. That leads to which languages one can pick up easily.

      Probably the reason why I haven’t picked up an Irish accent in the 18 years I’ve been here is that I’m a back of the throat speaker and Irish is front of the mouth. Much of the language can be very soft and come from near the mouth rather than the throat. Probably why I feel I sound ‘fake’ when I try any of the Irish dialects but if playing with an Eastern European accent, I’m pretty OK with it. So French (sorry three years wasted learning), Spanish, Irish, etc are all out. Maybe I should go back and relearn some German…or meet some Eastern European fiends who can teach me Polish or Lithuanian. (Pols and Liths are the second largest nationality after the Irish living in Ireland).

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  3. Kel March 9, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    Accents are interesting, more interesting to me is general word usage. Some people with lovely accents are rather inarticulate; I don’t find that at all attractive. I think specific accents remind me of home growing up, and that’s what I like about them.

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  4. Kiersten Hallie Krum March 9, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Just to clarify, by “The Dingle” I meant The Dingle Peninsula not a euphemism for man parts. Personally, I love The Dingle…both meanings.

    That’s hilarious about your Irish husband, though. While searching for information on the attractiveness of accents, one forum poster was an Irishman who lamented that after a while, being loved mainly for his accent got old. Poor dear wanted a woman who saw beyond his accent to the real him. Of course, that didn’t stop him from enjoying all their attentions in the meanwhile. Can’t say I blame him. If I were a guy on the prowl, so to speak, I’d learn how to speak in a flawless accent from somewhere like Ireland. Easy money on the bar scene.

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    • Kemberlee March 9, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      That’s just the thing. You *never* hear anyone calling the Dingle Peninsula ‘The Dingle.’ It’s like saying ‘The Dublin,’ or ‘The London.’

      It’s just ‘Dingle’ if you’re talking about Dingle town. If you’re talking about going onto the peninsula, then it’s just ‘onto Dingle’ or ‘going onto Dingle.’

      Yeah, men are funny. I can understand the man you mention wanting to be loved for being a man rather than an Irish man. I’m sure when he was young and randy, he really loved it. As an adult who’s hopefully more in tune with his emotions, he can see through the accent thing. It goes both ways though.

      Men love Irish women too. I used to know a an American guy who married an Irish woman. Long story short, he treated her like crap but loved saying he was married to an Irish woman. And the year he dumped her in Ireland with their five kids and he was back in the US, he loved adding on that they had a home in Ireland. Jerk. lol

      I’ve been with my hubs for so long I barely hear his accent anymore. Certain words give me a slap, but mostly I don’t even hear it anymore. Being an American in Ireland has been interesting in the accent regard. “You don’t have an Irish accent” I hear. “Don’t I? I wonder what happened to it.” “Are you Irish? You’re not Irish. Where are you from?” “Well, I’m from up the road.” “No, really, where were you born?” “Where I was born is not where I’m from…” 😉

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  5. Kemberlee March 9, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    OMG Pleaaaaase tell me the author didn’t use “The Dingle” in her book. That’s so wrong!

    Yeah, Americans love accents. Just not our own lol When I bring my Irish husband home, everyone falls all over him. Forget me being home. It’s him my family and friends fawn over. They ask him the craziest stuff just to hear him talk LOL And even though he’s from Cork City, famed for the famous lyrical accent, his is actually very flat. But everyone still loves it.

    My family is retired from business now, but when we were open, we had a lot of people from around the world in on a daily basis. Accents galore. It was great. We loved all of them. And after I started dating then married my Irish hubs, my dad would keep his ears open for the Irish accent in particular, then share a few ‘in jokes’ only people who know Ireland would know. He had a blast. The California accent is about as flat as you can get, but it didn’t matter what the accent was, as long as it was outside of the Americas.

    I must admit, I do love an accent myself. Maybe I’m just too used to the Cork accents, but I find I like a more traditional country accent. There are SO many regions around Ireland, and all the accents are different. Some are very harsh (like in the North) and some are very soft (like the east), some are lyrical (south), some are fairly flat (south Dublin), some are brash (north Dublin), some very recognizable as Irish (the west)…and dozens more. Love them all. And have used some of them, to a small degree, in my books, most of which are set in various parts of Ireland. I slip in just enough of the region’s general accent to flavor the story. I’ve read some books where one of the protagonists has a really strong accent all the way through and it just grates by chapter three. {cringe}

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