Attitudes towards accent variation

Rugger   Saturday, August 23, 2003, 02:14 GMT
'Yobbo' is a slang term for an agressive and uncouth person. The stereotyped image of a 'yobbo' (the Australian version of the American redneck) is a man with a mullet hairdo, wearing a tank-top, flannel, double plugger sandals, tattoos, and holding a beer, with a thick Aussie accent (encompassing all the slang). His jokes are centered around beer, blokes, sport and relationships. The Australian 'yobbo' is generally someone from rural (the outback) or lower/working class background, but I don't think the yobbo accent can really be limited to any particular Australian geographical area. The Australian image internationally tends to be the 'yobbo' image - i.e. the beer drinking bloke wearing a tank-top and putting a shrimp on the barbie.

There are distinct variations in the Australian accent. Firstly, there are slight accent variations between the Australian states. People in Adelaid (South Australia) have a more "Englishy" slur in their Aussie accent (i.e. pronounciation of certain words are the British pronounciations and not the Aussie pronounciation used in the other states), and this is likely due to the influence of the large English expat community in Adelaid. The Tasmanian accent is very much like the New Zealand accent when it comes to the ponounciation of vowels. The more north you go in Australia, the more broader and slower the Aussie accent becomes, thus people in Brisbane (Queensland) tend to have broad Aussie accents than those from Melbourne (Victoria).

Secondly, there are variations in the Aussie accent depending on factors such as education, family ethnicity, etc. There is the more cultivated Australian accent that is close to RP and the educated accent of people that have attended University (or private schools). For example, compare the accent of Australian actors Geoffery Rush or Judy Davis, whose Australian accents are more cultivated, with the accents of Steve Irwin or Paul Hogan, whose accents are more broad and filled with slang. As mentioned in my previous post, there is also the ethnic Australian accent, such as the "Wog" accent or Asian influenced Australian accent.

Ryan, there aren't many aboriginal people living in the inner city areas of Melbourne (although there are aboriginal communities in Victoria in the more bushland areas) and so I have had very little oppertunity to personally listen to the aboriginal Aussie accent. However, there are many prominant aboriginal figures in polotics and TV programes, and so from the media I have gathered that the quality of english and accent of any single aboriginal Australian depends on their personal background (e.g. socio-economic history, education history, etc.). Aboriginals that have been brought up in the city areas have the mainstream Australian accent of the area they live in. Note, that in the past many aboriginal children were taken from their parents and brought up with white Australian families, and are known today as the "stolen generation". Aboriginese that live in the bush or outback areas and speak their native tongues tend to speak broken english, or at least with an Aussie accent greatly influenced by their abroginal languages.
Rugger   Saturday, August 23, 2003, 04:05 GMT
Here's an article I found in The Age news papper on the "Wog" accent:

"Decoding the Melbourne iccent"
by Virginia Trioli

A boy alights heavily from the No. 72 tram. Shimmy hanging out, laces undone, schoolbag so big he looks like an ant carrying a crumb. A swarm of schoolmates follow him as they lug up the hill, bellowing. Their conversation, roughly recorded, goes something like this:

"Ah fugen kehller maht."

"Whahr? Woihr?"

"Uhh, whahmah farghen sposadouh?"

The translation, as best as I can manage, is:

"I'll f---in' kill you, mate."

"What? Why?"

"Well, what am I f---in' supposed to do?"

Even as a one-time student of languages and dialects, I found reaching this interpretation a challenge. I spent morning after morning, Margaret Mead-like, observing this subgroup of Melbourne youth: the schoolboy wog. They won't mind me calling them that; it's a badge worn proudly, and this dialect has manifestly been developed in defiance of the Skip way of talking, which is vanilla, of course. Instead, this mob of boys, of mostly Italian, Greek, Lebanese and even Asian descent, have their own strutting lingo, part American homeboy, part Sylvester Stallone, part Conan the Barbarian. It is close to impenetrable, as is beautifully demonstrated by the SBS TV show Pizza.

This is an observation one could never have mentioned in allegedly classless Melbourne until Kath and Kim came along. This city is divided into socioeconomic layers of accents and dialects like a school-fete trifle: the creamy custard of the Brighton (pron. "Brahton") accent, the wobbly jelly of footballers talk ("yeah/no we played well": "yeah/no I was pretty pleased") and the crispness of the fading squattocracy ("Come hyar reyt now!").

Kath and Kim nailed this at their first attempt. The tortured accent of the aspirational working class mirrors the stretched vowels of the insecure upper-middle class. Ergo, we see Kath and Kim greeting posh, helmet-haired boutique owners (also played by Jane Turner and Gina Riley).

K+K: "Hoi."

HH: "Haai."

Once heard, you can never miss it, and the layered soundscape of Melbourne accents opens up before you. Henry Higgins, where are you now?

Just as Eliza Doolittle found that doors opened at the sound of the right vowels, the passage and transition of Melbourne accents and dialect track the shift of wealth and education through the suburbs. Everyone knows a woman who would have once been described as being of rude birth but who now speaks in the fluting tones of the Prince of Wales. Higgins would spot her immediately as a fake, except that the notion of authenticity simply does not apply in Australia: no one has a greater claim on one accent over another as a birthright.

The new-generation wog accent is a great example and is a genuine curiosity: these young boys speak nothing like their European parents, or the general Anglo-Saxon population. They retain the thick, tongued qualities their parents give to consonants such as T and D, but the halting quality has gone and swearwords have shifted a gear to a hair-raising new level.


To read more of the article go to:

P.S. Skip is the term ethnic Australians use to call Anglo-Saxon Australians. Kath and Kim is a recent Australian comedy show parodying two working class women.
mjd   Monday, August 25, 2003, 05:25 GMT
To all of those who complained about the New York City accent: Do we sound like that to you in New Jersey too? (I'm not talking about the stereotypical Jersey accent, but how we really sound).
Hythloday   Monday, August 25, 2003, 10:02 GMT
I've got to say that as a Brit I have no problem with the working-class NYC accent (I can't tell the difference between Brooklyn, Queens and NJ variants, though.) In fact, most Brits appear to think that the NYC accent sounds tough and quite cool. When I was in NY last, a real 'Noo Yoik' bar keep couldn't understand a word I said. I had to ask for three beers about eight times until someone else at the bar stepped in and helped me out. I also made the mistake of asking someone for directions to the 'bloke's bogs'. Needless to say, he didn't have a clue what I was talking about!
Mike   Friday, August 29, 2003, 04:01 GMT
I think this question falls into this discussion, so I`ll try it. I originate from Delaware. 36 yrs. there. I pronounce the word "water" so it sounds like "wooder." I never thought anything of it until I moved to Arizona, where people usually don`t even understand it. Has anyone ever come across this? Until I got here I had never been corrected and I`ve lived in PA,SC,and FL since leaving DE. Just curious.
Amarda   Monday, September 01, 2003, 13:20 GMT
Well im from Australia and i didn't go to a private school or university but i have always been told i talk like a snob! And I do not do this on purpose,I've been told ever since i was a kid that i talk like i am family do not talk like this either,it's only me.

Personally i don't understand why people oversea's think we talk like paul hogan because very few people i know talk that fact no one i know talks that way!
Jack Doolan   Thursday, September 11, 2003, 23:27 GMT
The first time I encountered the word "yobbo", it was in an English boy's annual printed about 1960. It is probably not an "Australian" word.

Australians do not talk about "shrimp" except as a nickname for a small person. Some restaurants that give themselves airs might call them that. Generally best avoided.

It's always been "prawns", but the Hogan tourist advertisements changed "prawn" to "shrimp" to avoid confusing the residents of Peoria.
Ryan   Friday, September 12, 2003, 03:57 GMT
I think I read before that "yobbo" is actually an old Cockney slang term.

What's in an accent?   Friday, September 12, 2003, 12:41 GMT
All this talk about accents. It's the people who count and the way they behave to others. That's the really only important thing in life, in my opinion.
Jamie On   Friday, September 12, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Yobbo is definately a Cockney word. It's been absorbed into mainstream English though, it's a disparaging way to talk about a young person who is violent and rebellious.

On accents: they don't make any difference. If you judge someone just on how they pronounce a certain sound you are sad indeed.
Hythloday   Friday, September 12, 2003, 21:37 GMT
Yobbo is from the back-slang for boy. Let me know if you have never heard of back-slang.
wassabi   Saturday, September 13, 2003, 05:57 GMT
accents are accents, being a canadian (stereotypically neutral) i like all, don't hate any, don't favour any