The blogosphere doesn’t seem to have picked up on a recent presser from a couple of Macquarie Uni speech scientists. Their study has apparently revealed that the Australian accent is moving away from “the stereotypical broad Australian English – a la Paul Hogan” to a more generalised form.
“Part of the reason is that the stereotypical accent has been stigmatised because it sounds really ocker,” researcher Felicity Cox said. “People want to be more generally known as Australian but not carry those connotations of ockerism.” She said, “people are determined not to sound like Paul Hogan, the Crocodile Hunter or Kath and Kim. ”
Well, they may be determined but a hell of a lot of them still do – and why not?
Kath’s and Kim’s accents actually sound pretty mainstream to me. It’s not the accent so much as the malapropisms that set them apart. Even the famous “look at moiye” line – though stressed for effect – is middle Australia incarnate. Here’s what they think about Steve Irwin: “When we think of the broad stereotypical type we think of people like Steve Irwin. That accent is a kind of a caricature of an Australian. It’s not real. It’s also associated with something stereotypically Australian – from the past perhaps.”
Strike a light! Waddarya? It’s not Steve’s accent that’s distinctive, it’s more the Wallaby on speed approach he has in presenting it.
The good doctors compared the voices of several elderly Australian blokes recorded in the 1960’s with the teenagers of today. They were surprised to find that the old guys – all in their 80″s at the time, largely rural dwelling and from less than impressive socio-economic circumstances – didn’t sound all that much like – well – Steve Irwin, I guess. They weren’t all that broad. It got them thinking about when “broad” began to happen. Maybe in the First World War?
Maybe it just evolved. Probably it still is.
There’s nothing in the news release about regional versus metropolitan accents – they claimed that no-one in Sydney speaks broad anymore, but they haven’t met my neighbour Joyce. I did catch one of the researchers on the ABC suggesting that people in Sydney say “Beeh” for Beer while people in Perth say “Be-ah.” Interesting, but it’s hardly the rich cultural distictiveness of your Southern drawl is it?
They also observed that only Juanita Phillips still speaks with “correct” pronunciation – OK, they didn’t mention Juanita but they did say that relatively few of us do. They wondered whether it was the Republic that had led to the demise of the Queen’s english. I wondered where they’d been not to know that having the piss taken unmercifully out of one for sounding like David Flint was probably a far more potent antidote.
The teenagers all spoke a kind of generalised Oz which, we’re assured, is in no way becoming American – or Kiwi. Indeed the Australian and NZ accents are apparently diverging – at lightning speed whenever Helen Clark appears on Australian electronic media.
They also claim that there’s no discernible accent difference between private and public school kids which might alarm North Shore parents forking out the first tranche of 2005 school fees. What’s the point in paying for SCEGGS if she’s going to sound like someone aspiring to lead the ALP?
There was also no mention of migrant influences on Oz english. They should have heard this exchange outside the Illawarra Rd Woolworths in Marrickville last night. A carload of Leb boys roars up, one leaps out and heads inside. His mate yells after him – “Hey Ibrahim maaate! Get some fockin chikos maaate!”
It was almost Lawsonian.