Elements in Lit 201: Voices, Accents, and Languages

Filed in Elements in Lit , The Quirky Lover Posted on March 7, 2012 @ 1:00 pm 28 comments

While Stella is off jet-setting this week, her next Romance and Me post will be delayed, which means you get me two weeks in a row 🙂 After last week’s post about killing zombies, I’m not sure whether to run screaming from you readers or to embrace you all as kindred spirits, lol. I loved the comments on that post and will go with the hugging option.

Today, though, I think we’ll head in another direction altogether. A few of the books I’ve been reading or listening to recently have had me thinking about languages. Being an international blog, we still publish here in English though it isn’t necessarily all of our native tongues. I know that some of us Book Lovers still prefer to read/listen in English anyway, despite this.

But even within the English language, there are such variations which can really affect the way a book comes across. My first example comes from Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. It’s been much talked about recently, but the main information I’m looking at is that the author is from England but the book is set in Seattle, Washington. So what, right? Well, there are certain phrases used in the book that aren’t the norm here in North America. (I’m looking for an example now and can’t find it…but there were quite a few.) To me, this is just a matter of not doing enough research or paying attention to American made TV shows or movies to get the lingo right. Overall, if a story is captivating enough, you could look beyond the language errors and just read on. But it crept up a few too many times for me that it made me notice.

I’m sure this is something we’ve all come across when reading books written by authors from one place, that take place in another. I remember reading my first Sue Grafton book and was surprised by some of the slang used; things I’d never heard before, like “chodders” (which I eventually figured out meant underwear.) This seems to be maybe more of a regional thing that anything else.

From the audiobook stand point, having someone read to you with an accent can be a blessing and a curse. When discussing Kevin Hearne’s book Hexed with Susi (we both listened to the audio version, read by Luke Daniels), she mentioned that the German phrases were pronounced incorrectly. Sometimes, though, a book has so many different accents required that it would be hard for a hired reader to get them all right, all the time. I might be more forgiving of such mistakes because, first, I don’t know any better, and, second, I probably would do a worse job myself. Then again this doesn’t hold true when I hear the Scottish accent performed by a non-Scot. The mistakes drive me crazy… :p

When an audiobook is read in an accent by a legit speaker of the area, it can make for some fun too. Listening to The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, I’m tickled when the reader’s prim English voice delivers lines like, “a VD riddled whore”; call me silly, but this kind of thing makes me giggle. It may have something to do with the fact that the book is considered more literary also. Surely the hoity-toity of this world don’t say such words? 😉

I like that we can be exposed to so many different countries and cultures through reading, but we all have our quirks when it comes to our own languages, I guess. What I’m curious about is how you readers feel about the use of language in books, the use of accents in audios, etc.? Do you have any great experiences you want to share? Or any rants? (We love rants too 🙂 ) Do you read using an accent in your head? I will totally admit to trying, but it never sounds the same out loud :p

And to set the record straight, despite being Canadian, I don’t tend to over use the word “Eh?” nor do I say “aboot” 😀

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  • Sullivan McPig March 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I really dislike written accents I will confess. They jar me out of my reading, especially the Scottish and Irish accents and the so called old English accents.
    The worst I came across was a book where everyone, including the heroine was talking in an Irish accent, but the heroine thought without accent.

    • Jackie March 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      That’s strange! It can also be hard to figure out if an accent is even being used in book form, unless they’re written in French or things like, “he isnae hame” (my rough Scottish writing :p )

  • pattepoilue March 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    What? You don’t say aboot? I don’t believe you , you must be lying! 😉

    I tried using accents in my head too when reading but I suck so much at it it’s impossible. Reading Outlander was really hard accent wise LOL

    I’ve laughed quite a few times when coming across French used in English books. Sometimes it just doesn’t make ANY sense. I once listened to an audiobook with a french passage and I had to listen 10 times to get it.

    I like when accents are genuine in my narrators. If it’s forced it usually sounds awful . I must point out Bone’s British accent in Audiobook. OMG that was a horrid experience LOL Worst accent EVER.

    • Jackie March 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Lying, eh? I don’t know what you’re talkin’ aboot! 😀

      I find I mix up Irish and Scottish more, but in Outlander you had to go from Jaime’s Scots brogue to Claire’s (UK) English. Can still be tricky.

      I wonder if Canadian French would come across strangely to you also? I swear before the end of the year, I’m going to read a complete book in French!

      And can I just say? James Marsden can read to me in any accent, any time.

      • Alisha March 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        Speaking of fabulous fake English accents…James Marsden is delectable. If only they put him in the Night Huntress books, it’d be on!

        But Marsden makes for an awesome Harry Dresden, from the little snippets I’ve heard.

        **edit: dammit, i meant James Marsters. ALWAYS getting them mixed up! But both are tasty mofos.

        • pattepoilue March 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

          He’s a god to me! LMAO But funny enough in Buffy the French voice they gave Jame Marsters didn’t have an accent at all. So I’ve never heard is fake British accent!!

          • Alisha March 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

            It’s funny, cuz his accent is actually kinda wonky and over-the-top in the early parts of the series. I guess he got used to it or something, because it sounded much more yummy as time went on.

        • Jackie March 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

          As you can see, I made that same mistake, lol. It’s Marsters :-p (<--reminding myself) And seriously, when "Harry" starts talking about sexy things...whoa! It's just awesome *fans face*

          • Alisha March 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

            Now there’s a reason to get back into the series. Stopped reading halfway through book two. Maybe a little JM is all that’s needed to keep the momentum going. ^_^

      • pattepoilue March 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        @Jackie You will! I know you will *waves her pompoms*
        Oh my indeed Canadian French sounds all kind of weird to me LOL I don’t always understand either Bwhahahaah

        @Alisha I will have to try and watched a few episode in English to see that. It’s bound to be fun *g*

    • Sullivan McPig March 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      Did you ever see the movie Man in the Iron Mask? That poor Gerard Depardieu: he was the only one pronouncing all the French names like they should be pronounced while the other actors kept butchering them :-p
      And don’t get me started on when people try to speak Dutch.

      • Jackie March 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm

        Do you mean the one with Leo DiCaprio? I saw it in the theatres but couldn’t even tell you what happened, I was laughing so hard through the whole thing. Thank goodness there was no one else there 😀

      • pattepoilue March 8, 2012 at 4:34 am

        I’ve never seen this movies in English =P I’ll have to fix that.

  • Alisha March 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I have to add accents in my head when reading. Just part and parcel of being such an accent freak. But this means that, when reading books featuring accents I can’t create easily, I pull myself out of the story cuz what I envision is so sucky. ^_^ Case in point, any Australian accent…it’s so beautifully unique and particular that when I try to recreate it (in my head or aloud), I just sound silly.

    Likewise, it is kind of weird when a book set in the States featuring characters speaking American English uses odd colloquialisms (“Oh you’re taking the piss!”). Of course, I only notice it as a speaker of AmE myself. I wonder if British English speakers get the same feeling when reading, say, an historical romance or contemp set in Britain?

    Part of the reason why I’m still lukewarm on audiobooks is because the voicing used for the characters can sometimes be so far flung from what I’d expected as to be majorly distracting. Caro, you’re dead-on about Bones. What. The. Deuce.

    • pattepoilue March 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      LOL I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who was shocked! Seriously It couldn’t have been worse. UGH

    • Jackie March 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      Ha! We love your affinity for languages too, Alisha 🙂 And, yeah, Australian might be one of the hardest ones to pull off well (for the non-Aussies.)

      We’re talking Jeaniene Frost’s Bones here, right? I really want to read those books but will definitely do it in book form now.

      • pattepoilue March 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

        Yes do that! the audiobook left me scarred LOL

  • Sheree March 8, 2012 at 1:05 am

    When I read, every character has the ubiquitous California accent (i.e., none) even the Brits and the Aussies. I make no effort to be accurate; I read too quickly anyway.

    As for readers, I like some more than others. My absolute favorite is George Guidall. Also, I vastly prefer Stephen Fry to Jim Dale for the Harry Potter books; for some reason, the latter’s Hermione really bugs me.

    • pattepoilue March 8, 2012 at 9:36 am

      I loved Stephen Fry’s narration <3

      • Jackie March 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

        Now, I’m frantically looking for the Harry Potter audios…

        Just saw on Audible that Colin Firth narrates The End of the Affair. That would be neat to listen to also 🙂 (Funny thing though: they don’t have that version available.)

  • Ailsa March 8, 2012 at 4:31 am

    I must point out Bone’s British accent in Audiobook. OMG that was a horrid experience LOL Worst accent EVER.

    OMG yes! I was going to use this as an example too. Bones’ “English” accent is SO NOT RIGHT. Just no. Ugh. (You can tell I feel kind of strongly about that 😉 )

    It really annoys me when someone tries to write an English accent and overuses slang words, or just has the characters using phrases that don’t fit.
    Same with Scottish – I was born & raised here, I know Scottish accents – and it can really jar me out of a story when an author has characters say something that doesn’t fit. Or, worse, is inconsistent – if they’re going to have someone use a word that’s written with an accent (for example, ‘aye’, although I haven’t seen it done with that one), then the character needs to say aye all the way through, they can’t suddenly switch to saying yes.

    • pattepoilue March 8, 2012 at 7:23 am

      I hear you! Inconsistency is a big problem. I once read a book where the hero had a very pronounced Scottish accent when he talked but when he thought he was thinking normally. I think the author didn’t think this through LOL

  • aurian March 8, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I do like reading with accents, the old scottish words for example, and the lass and lad thing. The cockney and other london slum accepts are more difficult, but it will have to fit the book.
    I have never listened to a whole audiobook, I prefer reading myself. My best friend has tried to convert me, but to no avail.

    I have met James Masters once, and he signed his photograph as Spike for me, which is a treasured item in my room at the office ;). He just should have been taller … He can sing as well, I love that musical episode in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    • pattepoilue March 8, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Ohhhhhh I’m jealous! I completely fell for his voice while listening to his audiobooks. *drools*

  • sienny March 8, 2012 at 7:32 am

    accents.. hate them, but love them. i hate them when i can’t understand what the hell are they talkin’ about, but i try to imagine them in my mind just to get more feeling of the book.

    but i never try on an audiobook. i confess i got a little scared to try one, i prefer imagine the book’s cast voices in my head than listen them and found out it didn’t sound as good as i thought it would.

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