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Why are fantasy world accents British?

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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 13:32
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
There might be a link to chivalry Apr 4, 2012

Fantasy might be linked to chivalry and medieval times. When we hear an accent associated with former times, namely British, it somehow removes us from our present circumstances.

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Sebastian Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:32
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
US English just doesn't sound that enchanting - it sounds too everyday and is too futuristic, ... Apr 4, 2012

... linguistically, for something that relates to an imaginative realm that (in the mind) is set in the past.

North American English sounds a bit broad also where emotional smarts are frequently needed for the player to step into a world and immerse themselves into it plus for them to succeed in psychologically challenging interaction with Non-Player Characters, I mean, in RPG dialogues.

That said, I do speak and write US English.

Sebastian


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:32
Chinese to English
Because fantasy, despite the name, is imaginatively impoverished Apr 4, 2012

It's all faux mediaeval codswallop (which Tolkien, at least, admitted). Fantasy with a little bit of imagination to it comes in whatever accent you want. Think Avatar (despite being a bit of a lame film, it had some pretty cool ideas) in American, District 9 in South African, zombie films from pretty much every country in the world...
"Fantasy" has come to mean specifically olde-worlde don't-know-much-about-history but thought I'd make a film about it anyway cash in on Tolkien craze and don't worry about plot because you can always invent another literal deus ex machina to resolve things at the end. Shame, really, because there's scope for lots more.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:32
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Villains Apr 4, 2012

The villains in American films, fantasy or otherwise, are often British. In fact there's a list of "Famous British Baddies" which includes Ian McKellan, Brian Blessed, the incomparable Alan Rickman and, on the female side, Miranda Richardson.
Snarl, sneer,
Jenny


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It just sounds right Apr 4, 2012

All that horse riding and stuff when the guy picks up the girl and puts her on the back and then goes around trying to kill a dragon. That's British, man.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Born to be bad Apr 4, 2012

Jenny Forbes wrote:

The villains in American films, fantasy or otherwise, are often British. In fact there's a list of "Famous British Baddies" which includes Ian McKellan, Brian Blessed, the incomparable Alan Rickman and, on the female side, Miranda Richardson.
Snarl, sneer,
Jenny


Villains are often given European accents in general ... for example the Die Hard movies...


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Neither fish nor fowl Apr 4, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

It's all faux mediaeval codswallop (which Tolkien, at least, admitted). Fantasy with a little bit of imagination to it comes in whatever accent you want. Think Avatar (despite being a bit of a lame film, it had some pretty cool ideas) in American, District 9 in South African, zombie films from pretty much every country in the world...
"Fantasy" has come to mean specifically olde-worlde don't-know-much-about-history but thought I'd make a film about it anyway cash in on Tolkien craze and don't worry about plot because you can always invent another literal deus ex machina to resolve things at the end. Shame, really, because there's scope for lots more.


Yes, Im afraid Brits are doomed to be cast as "olde-worlde", since that's where we hail from. I read an interesting article about how they put together the dialogue for Kevin Costner's Robin Hood to make it feel/sound "authentic" and it turns out it's almost completely invented, but unfortunately I can't find the link.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mixing is even worse! Apr 4, 2012

I remember this movie some 15 years ago in which D'Artagnan was the only actor with an American accent in the midst of a whole cast with a British accent. The result was so hilarious I could not concentrate on the story (not that it was particularly interesting)!

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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
It's quite simple Apr 6, 2012

Swords, dragons, dwarves, wizards etc. are from northern European lore which pre-dates the American English dialect, hence it seems silly when a dragon-slaying sword-bearing armour-clad bearded fellow speaks with a Californian accent. The most appalling example in my mind is Kevin Costner's Robin Hood, who both walked and talked more like a cowboy than a medieval Englishman.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Hebrew to English
Historical accuracy?? Apr 6, 2012

Agree with Simon really. When these things are set in a medieval/faux-medieval setting, what do you expect?

Let's not forget that in the middle ages, the only people speaking English were the English.**

America and its accents didn't even exist yet. Hence the incongruity of a medieval character with an accent anything other than English.

A lot of British people will not have heard of Game of Thrones.

Really? Because we're now onto the 2nd series and it's shown on Sky Atlantic every week....not to mention the ridiculously viral advertising for it....even if you don't watch it (I don't), there's a good chance you've heard of it. Who wrote that BBC article again?

**Although it would have been Middle English, obviously.

[Edited at 2012-04-06 17:28 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:32
Chinese to English
** Apr 6, 2012

"Although it would have been Middle English, obviously."

...which doesn't sound any more like modern English than modern American, so I don't think you can really claim it's historical accuracy.

But I'm loathe to complain - anything that puts more British English out there in prominent roles in major media is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Still... Apr 6, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

"Although it would have been Middle English, obviously."

...which doesn't sound any more like modern English than modern American, so I don't think you can really claim it's historical accuracy.



No doubt you are right, but it's about cultural associations in the minds of viewers. Even if modern UK English shares no more features with Middle English than American English does, it doesn't remove the story from what is perceived to be its natural habitat, as it were.


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:32
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Medieval cowboy Apr 6, 2012

Simon Bruni wrote:

Swords, dragons, dwarves, wizards etc. are from northern European lore which pre-dates the American English dialect, hence it seems silly when a dragon-slaying sword-bearing armour-clad bearded fellow speaks with a Californian accent. The most appalling example in my mind is Kevin Costner's Robin Hood, who both walked and talked more like a cowboy than a medieval Englishman.


And how many medieval Englishmen have you heard? Because you might be quite surprised...

Ty Kendall wrote:
America and its accents didn't even exist yet.


Neither did RP...

As I understand it, scholars believe that American English changed in pronounciation much less than British English (because change, in general, spreads from "the center"). Just take the most distingushing element of the two, i.e. rhoticity - Americans didn't acquire it, it's the British who lost it... The same goes for "hw", etc. In other words, the knight might feel quite at home on the range.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Hebrew to English
Medieval Englishmen Apr 6, 2012

Why weren't there any medieval Englishmen again, given that Æthelstan accomplished the first political union of England circa 927? In fact, you could argue that the English as a people/nation really began much earlier, don't forget that Bede envisioned a united people when he wrote Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum/Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731.

And who's talking about RP? Not me. English doesn't necessarily = RP!

There are far older English accents and dialects which still bear the marks of Viking invasions, the Norman Conquest etc which make them appropriate for something like Game of Thrones and its ilk.

As Simon correctly inferred, my point was that the only English (whatever its form) in the middle ages was "English" English i.e. English spoken in England.
To force the actors to learn their lines in Middle English would be a bit cruel, just for the sake of 100% historical accuracy, but having actors with Modern English accents is at least geographically accurate and as close as you're going to get.

Nothing sounds more ludicrous than a knight with a Texan drawl.

[Edited at 2012-04-06 19:22 GMT]


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:32
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Fantasy lands, right next to Europe Apr 6, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:
To force the actors to learn their lines in Middle English would be a bit cruel, just for the sake of 100% historical accuracy, but having actors with Modern English accents is at least geographically accurate and as close as you're going to get.


Well, I've just wrote that phonetically Modern English accents are certainly not closer to Middle English than other accents. Whether Westeros is geographically closer to Great Britain than to Americas is equally debatable...


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