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As an American, a large part of my impoverished experience of British accents comes from ancient BBC comedy imports on PBS. I'd very much like to identify the regional accents the following actors are using:

All four have distinct ways of speaking (not necessarily the same, but then that's the problem, I can't tell).

Which accent does each of these four use?

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... I'd like to add Alan Cumming to this list. I can not figure out his accent. –  user8790 May 17 '11 at 21:33
    
@Roger he is Scottish but generally does generic odd accent in films –  mgb May 17 '11 at 23:06
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Apart from Onslow, which is close to the actor's native Liverpool accent, the others are 'generic countryside' — pretty much the same as if an American actor was asked to do 'southern' or 'redneck'

The standard country bumpkin accent is normally west county/sommerset - or at least you just have to pronounce it zummerset and say oo-arrgh a lot.

Interesting aside the english actor who played Darth Vader (David Prowse) is from that area and has a strong west country accent - not quite in keeping with the dark lord of the sith. Even more aside, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Austrian, wasn't chosen to dub his own films into German - because to a German the Austrian accent is the standard country bumpkin.

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Really? Not recognizably Yorkshire or Cornwall or something? (not that I would know). Even Alice Tinker, the ...um... slow girl? –  Mitch May 18 '11 at 0:44
    
Absolutely not Yorkshire. That's a completely different accent. –  Marcin Jun 18 '11 at 23:45
    
The story about David Prowse being from the west country is interesting, and presumably a reason why they got James Earl Jones to do Darth Vader's voice. "The foorrce be strong in this 'un. Oi'l take him meself" :) –  tinyd Jul 28 '11 at 15:21
    
@tinyd - yep, jokes about him and "tractor beams" are staple of Radio4's The Now Show. –  mgb Jul 28 '11 at 15:53
    
@Martin Excellent stuff! I haven't heard that show –  tinyd Jul 28 '11 at 16:09
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I'm not convinced about this. Accents do vary, and actors often take immense trouble: John Gielgud once said his proudest moment was being accused of speaking with one village's accent when the character was supposed to come from a village ten miles away. Yes, Somerset -or 'Mummerzet'- is the easiest for an amateur, but others are easily distinguishable. 'The Vicar of Dibley' is recognizably set in a southern county, but not very far west: I'd plump for Oxfordshire myself but without certainty. Onslow is certainly Merseyside. (Hampshire people, of course, speak the purest English imaginable, and have no accent at all:) )

My point (insofar as there is one) is that accents are instantly recognizable to the locals, and your spoken English will identify you as coming from (or having learnt the language from) a certain region/class. Certainly most Americans can't tell the difference between English accents; but then I know English people who fondly imagine they can do "an American accent" that wavers from California to Canada, with a few word choices from the Deep South.

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There is a difference between Gielgud doing an accent and these cheap sitcoms. In the Yorkshire dales the accent changes completely from hamlet to hamlet. Where farmers one dale (valley) would go to one market and those a field away would go to another you have completely different dialect words and accents. –  mgb Jun 18 '11 at 22:29
    
+1 for the Hampshire comment in all it's absurdity! (I'm from Portsmouth [Pawtsmuff]) –  MattDavey Sep 16 '11 at 15:53
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