Weekend Fluff: Chahlie Bit Me!

Stolen from Feministe, this totally kills me:

I think I am finally old enough to admit that yes, sometimes, when I was a kid? I would provoke my sister M. until she beat the crap out of me, then go screaming to my mom about how SHE HIT ME!!!!!!, conveniently leaving out the part where I had indeed started it, and did indeed know what I was in for.

In my defense, M. was bigger than me and usually didn’t need to hit me that hard, thank you very much. But in retrospect, I’m willing to admit there’s some possibility that I might have hit me that hard, too.

So as soon as I saw the older kid slowwwwly, deliberately stick his finger into his brother’s mouth, I started laughing, ’cause I knew exactly what was coming. And… yep! CHAHLIE! How dare you chomp down on that finger I just gave you for the express purpose of down-chomping?!? (And I wonder how many times exactly that sort of thing happened between M. and me before I got big enough to start being the one who started it. See, M.? I must have learned it from you! STILL ALL YOUR FAULT.)

The British accent is just the cherry on top. In case our UK readers weren’t aware of this, children with British accents are the cutest thing in the world, because only adults are supposed to have British accents.* I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of natural law, just so you know. I have friends who say they’ve always secretly wanted to adopt a little British boy, just to make him say, “Please, may I have some more toffee?” over and over. I can relate to that.

*For the record, children with pretty much any accent other than a higher-pitched, sloppier version of the standard American/Canadian broadcaster one — including American southern — crack me up. Because I’ve always lived in relatively accent-neutral places in the U.S. and Canada (sure, you can tell I’m from Chicago when I say “hot dog” or “Wisconsin,” and you can often tell I’ve spent half my life in Ontario when I say “out,” but those things don’t necessarily show up in little kids), I’ve never spent much time around children with any other kind. So in my head, only adults have accents other than a basic, flat midwestern one — ergo little kids with accents other than that sound like tiny adults, which is inherently funny.

63 thoughts on “Weekend Fluff: Chahlie Bit Me!

  1. What does accent neutral mean? Doesn’t everyone have an accent?

    I was told once that the whole of austraila had the same accent. Yet the untied states had ones that varied rather distinctively among different regions and sometimes by state, or even regions in states.

    I think though a midwest accent is often considered neutral because the way we say alot of words is how its seen in movies and on television, which also means the way its taught in speech coaching and things. I’ve never watched a movie where they weren’t actively trying to have a specific accent and found them saying words ‘funny’.

    But then most of my house hold is dyslexic, so people aren’t really sure where were from. I’ve just taken to saying canada because thats what people want to hear. Though all of us including my parents have lived in the chicago suburbs all our lives.

    and as for charlie I cracked up when he started laughing. congrats on having a smart older brother charlie. It will never be your fault, they have this incident on tape. you can now pull up youtube in your defense.

    p.s. I am full of words lately. sorry for dumping so many here.

  2. Yes, MarqueeMoon. The notion of any place that’s “accent neutral” is, to put it mildly, flawed. My brother is one of those people who persists in believing that he has “no accent” despite my repeated attempts (particulary when I was a Linguistics major) to explain to him why that was wrong. Thirty years later we still argue about it. :) EVERYone has an accent that reflects their environment and upbringing, whether or not they recognize it.

    That said, I do agree with Kate that British children are totally adorable. I’m lucky to have a whole passel of them in my family, many of whom gathered at their grandma’s (Robin’s sister’s) house last time we visited. Too, too cute.

  3. What does accent neutral mean? Doesn’t everyone have an accent?

    Yes. That’s why I specified “American/Canadian broadcaster” accent (i.e., a midwest or Ontario accent with the quirks hammered out), which is considered as “neutral” as it gets in the U.S. and Canada , though it obviously wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world.

    Also, everything I said about accents was VERY tongue-in-cheek.

  4. Sorry! I’m from China, so I honestly don’t know much (read: anything) about accents in North America.

  5. Oh, I wasn’t trying to snark at you, MarqueeMoon! And I’m sorry I said something that wouldn’t be clear to people who don’t get a ton of American TV. The accent stuff was mostly a joke, poking fun at my own insularity, but it was an unthinkingly U.S.-centric move to assume everyone would know what I meant by that.

  6. I learned how to talk from my British nanny when my family lived in England. Fifteen years after coming back to the States, I still have an accent despite spending twelve of those years in Nebraska. >.>

  7. Rachael has asked to watch the video three times now…do you think she’s taking notes for future attacks against Mikaela?

  8. I’m an American living in the UK, and my kids are growing up with an eclectic mix of English and American accents. To my ear, my daughter is sounding more British every day; to her teachers, she is a cute little American girl!

    She has started instructing me on the correct pronunciation of “pants” and “can’t”, however. I can’t mimic an English accent without sounding like a large plum is in my mouth, so the results of her efforts are dire.

    I’ve lived here for almost 9 years, and I still melt a little bit when a toddler comes out with a cute little English accent. You’re not alone, Kate!

  9. Kate, as an oldest child I can only say a)I knew it! and, b) shame on you!

    Ah! There’s a linguist in the house. Thank goodness. Elayne, if you don’t mind, what’s the word for a way of speaking so quirky it essentially belongs to one person? If that makes any sense. Somebody told me once about 20 years ago and I’ve unaccountably forgotten.

  10. I am a sucker for an accent, especially if it is British, but then I am such an Anglophile. When I was younger my Dad had an apprentice chef with him for a year. He was from the Basque region between France and Spain. He had such a lovely accent. Thinking about it makes me a bit weak. He was not bad looking either, now that I reflect.
    I am in the Ozarks, southwest Missouri to be exact, but when talking to people on the phone, it seems to always be assumed I am on one of the coasts for some reason. I have even had people tell me I speak in a manner befitting someone who was raised in England I just don’t have the actual accent. But there are days, when I am tired, and I can’t pronounce anything correctly. Everything drops from my mouth with this almost buzzing whine to it. That is, imo, common in this part of Missouri. Very nasally, whiny and as if they are speaking lazily, the language.
    I don’t know if any of that makes sense at all.

    I loved this video, I used to torment my little sister something fierce, but once she got older she became a force to be reckoned with. She buried my little brother in dirt ( like you would sand ) we to this day don’t know how the dug the hole or any of that ( he wasn’t old enough ) When discovered, she calmly explained that he WANTED to be buried in the dirt and she was just being a kind and considerate big sister in helping him out.
    Of course there was that time she tried to throttle the boy next door. They had such a love hate relationship, One minute they are fighting tooth and nail. Then all of a sudden its too quiet and my mom and his walked in to the both of them buck ass naked looking at each other. ( they were six ? or there abouts) It was completely harmless, but funny as could be.Both mothers were mortified in the moment, but later it became a favored part of the tale when these two as youngsters are ever discussed.

  11. ahh, sibling antics.

    my (now ex) brother-in-law claimed I was the youngest person he’d ever met with a discernible Chicago accent. (I was 7 years old when he and my sister started dating.) I still have a “thicker” midwestern accent than most, even after living in Colorado for nearly ten years (following half and half Chicago area/various parts of WIsconsin).

  12. I was told once that the whole of austraila had the same accent.

    Oh, it doesn’t. I assure you. Just living in WA as an expat, I can tell when patients come in from Country Towns versus the city.

    I’ve lived in quite a few English-speaking countries, and regional accents are pretty diverse.

  13. You ought to watch Charlie and Lola on Disney. Cutest little British accents all over the place. :)

    I’m also from the heart of the midwest, where the closest we get to a discernibly specific accent is saying “warshed”.

  14. I think I am finally old enough to admit that yes, sometimes, when I was a kid? I would provoke my sister M. until she beat the crap out of me, then go screaming to my mom about how SHE HIT ME!!!!!!

    Younger sisters are so annoying, seriously :P

  15. this might come across as slightly offensive, but quite often i find that little american girls in the media tend to talk with a really REALLY high pitched voice. I wonder, is that normal? does the american accent lend itself to being high pitched, or is it just the fashion to teach little girls to talk like that? little girls with english accents hardly ever have really high voice, so it amuses me/annoys me somewhat.

    Ive come across adults with american accents where i just cant listen to them speak because it sounds so artificially high it does my head in.

    other than that, the american accent amuses mein general. i can pick it out of a crowded noisy room in an instant, and i love listening to the way americans speak. american kids are adorable, and for some reason american kids that are acting always seem like better actors than their english counterparts. its bizarre. an english child actor NEVER sounds genuine to me, but american ones always do. I guess its something to do with the inflections in the voice, i cant discern the emotions as well in an american accent because im not used to it.

    also, my sister was greatly resented by my older brother when she was born, so the usual sibling torture would occur. later on, my sister wouldnt even provoke him, but she sometimes would sit down/lie down, and start crying. when my mother came to see what was going on, my sister would just point to my brother and he’d get immediately told off. hohoho.

  16. Pingback: Exactly « riddlebiddle

  17. Sniper, it looks like Elayne hasn’t responded yet, but since I’m also a linguist, I thought I’d pipe up. I believe the word you’re looking for is idiolect.

  18. Gingembre: you don’t know how close you are to the truth. I’ve often commented that it was a good thing I first went to the UK as a married woman, because I would have had way too much random sex with people because I thought their accents were utterly to die for.

  19. I was told once that the whole of austraila had the same accent.

    I’m an American who worked abroad giving tours for a while. I once had an Australian couple on the tour, a woman from one of the big cities and her husband from… lord only knows where. Scottish heritage, apparently, and some sort of out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere upbringing. I could not understand a word the guy said — the wife had to translate for me, and she was so natural and quick with it that I got the impression she was used to doing so.

    Ive come across adults with american accents where i just cant listen to them speak because it sounds so artificially high it does my head in.

    I think American accents lend themselves to a nasally whine a bit more than other English-language accents, so it’s easier to pitch it higher. Plus, we’re loud, and I think if you have a high voice it’s easier vocally to pitch it even higher to be heard over others, which reinforces the habit. Plus there’s a cultural “girliness” that comes across with the loud, rising inflection, exclamatory speech patterns (which also then is the cultural code for flamboyant gay men).

    Is vocal “girliness” different in Australia or other English-speaking countries? That would be interesting to look at.

  20. What American Accent do you Have? http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_have

    me? The Inland North, right on the head!

    I came out “Midland,” and going to my point above, the description is this:

    “You have a Midland accent” is just another way of saying “you don’t have an accent.” You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

    And btw, I’d be super curious to find out how non-American Shapelings do on the “What American accent do you have?” quiz.

    Sniper, it looks like Elayne hasn’t responded yet, but since I’m also a linguist, I thought I’d pipe up. I believe the word you’re looking for is idiolect.

    Dammit! You beat me to it! I’m not a linguist, but I remembered that word from a linguistics class in college. I was gonna look all smart and shit.

    I think American accents lend themselves to a nasally whine a bit more than other English-language accents

    I never really thought about that, but then, since one of the few things that makes a midwestern (especially Chicago) accent NOT “neutral” by American standards is that we can get waaaay more nasally than others, I’m probably inured to it.

  21. Oh, and again, not a linguist, but…

    To my ear, my daughter is sounding more British every day; to her teachers, she is a cute little American girl!

    From what I understand, she probably IS sounding more British every day. Once kids hit school, peers shape their accents much more than parents do — which is why most people end up with regional accents reflecting where they grew up, not where their parents are from, if the two are different.

    Having said that, I read about some study years ago done on kids who grew up around New York but had southern parents or something… There were quirks in how they pronounced certain words that seemed to come from the specific combination, not from either where their parents grew up or where they did. Weird.

  22. There were quirks in how they pronounced certain words that seemed to come from the specific combination, not from either where their parents grew up or where they did. Weird.

    I had a roommate who had majored i n linguistics and was TAing a course in American dialects. He had me come in to speak in front of his class so they could play “Identify this dialect.” One of the students went through a whole, “Well, she says this word this way, but this other word this way, and she doesn’t use this particular vowel shift, so I’m guessing: She grew up in or near a major city in the midwest, but moved to the South — probably Atlanta or nearby — when she was growing up, and she’s been in the Northeast for several years now.”

    Which was exactly right. I had never met this kid. It was spooky.

  23. Midland for me. I remember a test like this that was linked to some graduate student study that was about 4 times longer, but now I can’t remember where it was. Here goes an hour or so on Google fruitlessly searching…

  24. its bizarre. an english child actor NEVER sounds genuine to me, but american ones always do. I guess its something to do with the inflections in the voice, i cant discern the emotions as well in an american accent because im not used to it.

    I suspect that it’s just because you’re not used to it. I think British actors are phenomenally better than American actors, probably for the same reasons, and even child actors. I despise American child actors, or, rather, the system that exploits them and glorifies sexualization of children.

    I’ve often commented that it was a good thing I first went to the UK as a married woman, because I would have had way too much random sex with people because I thought their accents were utterly to die for.

    Heh. The new pizza delivery boy came by one night and he was sorta average looking, a little tousled, short–and when he opened his mouth and spoke in his adolescent British accent, I swear to God, he morphed into Hugh Grant. He got a really good tip. Later that evening I warned my husband that he might have, erm, competition if I did indeed go to England for a month-long rotation.

    Oh, and I was an eldest child with five siblings. You taunters? Evil. Like WW evil.

  25. And I speak in West. Where my “accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you’re a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent.” Maybe that’s why British pizza boys get me all bothered. :)

  26. My husband and I are Ontarian and BC-ian, with a Vancouver-born preschooler. He has elements of a Boston accent, I kid you not. No fucking clue where he got that from.

    I used to nanny for a 2-yr old girl with an English mother, and her accent was all over the place between mine and her mum’s. We’d play with the language; for lunch I’d ask her if she wanted “wadder” or “whoa-tah” to drink, and she’d choose one or the other, giggling all the while.

  27. I’ll pipe in here and second (third?) the perception about Americans sounding more nasally than many Brits. I lived in northern England for a while, and found that when my British friends were trying to mimic me, they always went WAY nasally. And apparently we say, “Oh my God” a lot, but to the tune of “Ahh Mah Gahhd.” They also enunciate WILDLY, speak much louder, and generally move their lips more to mimic an American accent. It got old real quick.

  28. “And apparently we say, “Oh my God” a lot, but to the tune of “Ahh Mah Gahhd.””

    I say it “Ooh Mai GAWD!” It drives my Grandda (a lifelong Londoner) crazy when I talk to him on the phone. He always remarks that I speak properly, except for when I say that because it makes me “sound American.”

    I usually point out that I -am- American, but he says my Nana (the British nanny) didn’t teach me to talk that way, and I must have picked it up from those loudmouthed American military kids I went to school with once I was back on this side of the pond. That aside, my British accent is so strong that a lot of people don’t believe I’m actually from Nebraska. ^_^;

  29. It’s funny, I was *totally* thinking the phrase “OH MY GAWD!” in my head when I wrote that bit about nasal American accents. Though I had put a Jersey accent on it in my head, rather than midwestern, but either one will do!

  30. Heh, I love how I rarely comment here, and when I do, it’s on the ‘fluffy’ posts! Perhaps I get too intimidated by all the wonderful, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head commenters to post a simple ‘me too!’ every time…

    Aaaanyway, as per Kate’s request, I’ve just gone and done the ‘What American Accent do you Have?’ quiz. I’m Australian – Sydney, specifially – and apparently have a Northeastern (Jersey, Conneticut, New York Rhode Island) accent. Though if y’all heard me talk, you’d probably ask where in the UK I’m from, since that’s what happened when I visited New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve always thought a Boston/Massachusetts accent came closest to sharing Australian accent qualities.

  31. Okay, I know I said over at Shakesville that I am immune to the charm of babies, but apparently I was DEAD WRONG because little bitin’ Chahlie is the cutest thing I have ever seen. Zomg.

    Occhiblu, I would love to get Henry Higgins-ed by a class like that! I’ve lived in several differently accented regions of the US and am a complete mutt by now. I’d love to see if a roomful linguistic students could pick that up.

  32. Okay, I know I said over at Shakesville that I am immune to the charm of babies, but apparently I was DEAD WRONG because little bitin’ Chahlie is the cutest thing I have ever seen

    DON’T LIE, BABY HATER.

  33. I’m Canadian, and I got this one:

    “North Central” is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw “Fargo” you probably didn’t think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot

    Hehe! Except I don’t think I sound like the people in Fargo.

    My husband and I are Ontarian and BC-ian, with a Vancouver-born preschooler. He has elements of a Boston accent, I kid you not. No fucking clue where he got that from.

    My sister did too, when she was in preschool. She outgrew it though.

  34. I showed this to my sister, and we both agreed: we did this, too. We alternated provoker/attacker roles, though. But my sister did jump on my back once and bite me when she was three. Children being children: so cute (but so obnoxious!).

  35. When I lived in Arkansas, all the people just sounded, well, southern. But as I made southern friends, I became aware that they didn’t think they all sounded alike. A friend of mine would comment about particular people, “Man, he is CuuuunTREE!”

    But I couldn’t tell.

  36. As an older brother, I got wise to the game. When Mom told me I’d be punished if I ever hit my sister again, I persuaded Mom to also punish my sister if she ever hit ME, even though I was nearly four years older.

    Speaking of Midwestern accents, I nearly fell off my chair laughing when a Japanese friend living in Minnesota said, “Oh, yah” with a Japanese accent. Fargo by way of Kyushu–it was priceless.

  37. Idiolect! Yes! Thank you.

    Dang. That’s been bugging me since 1988.

    I think that accent quiz is Messed Up. I scored Boston although I’m from Northwestern Canada and have only lived in the U.S. for 7 years – in Colorado. I’ve never even been to Bostom.

  38. I just sat here saying “We’re going to WisCAHNsin” and “You want a AHT dog?” over and over. Now I’m self conscious of the way I say Wisconsin and hot dog.

  39. Oh and my sister still owes me a trip to the circus from the time she tried to bribe me into not telling on her for having her boyfriend in the house. She’s nine years older so there was a lot of emotional and physical abuse that I totally deserved. I was a total narc. :D

  40. People from Wisconsin say it Wuh-skansin. The syllable break is noticeably between the i and the s.

    The speech patterns (not accents! People in eastern ND/MN don’t have an accent!) in “Fargo” were exaggerated – basically, they made young people sound like old people. Those trying to imitate usually get “yeah” wrong, saying it like “yah”. Actually it has two distinct syllables – “Yeah-ahh.”

    Living in the UK now, I can attest that little English children do indeed sound both adorable and incongruous. And yes, most people I meet do ask if I’m Canadian – but I always assume that’s just because “American” to a Canadian is an insult, and they’re erring on the side of caution.

  41. People from Wisconsin say it Wuh-skansin. The syllable break is noticeably between the i and the s.

    Yep, pretty much how Chicagoans say it. With an extra nasally “skahn.”

  42. I scored “Northeast” on the quiz, which probably helps explain why everyone when I was growing up in Maryland thought I had a weird accent (often they thought it was British). Because they said “banana” like “baneana” and I said it like… “banana.” Same with “seandwich.”

    Americans do sound shriller and more nasal (and much louder) to me when I’m not in America, IIRC. I got so cringey about it when I was in England for summer school several years ago that when a professor thought I was Canadian, I was insanely flattered.

  43. I come from the very edge of the Appalachian mountains in NC, and now live in DC. That area must have a very, very specific type of accent: once a total stranger stopped me in Dupont Circle and IDed me as being from North Carolina. Another time I was with my Dad, who’s lived in NC all his life, at the Cathedral, and a random stranger stopped and pegged his accent not only down to the state, but to the county. And the stranger was from Florida! I don’t know much about linguistics, but I’d bet that area has a certain blend of Appalachian and Southern accents that’s distinctive.

    I work in an office that’s mostly made up of foreign-born folks, and we sometimes have issues understanding each other. My Southern accent is relatively mild, but they say I speak really fast so that probably doesn’t help. The women with British accents are my favorite to listen to, though!

  44. Sniper, you are most definitely not alone. I am not getting a damn thing done tonight, because I keep going back to watch it over and over again. Like I keep opening the fridge and expecting there to be more there. WHY ISN’T THERE MORE THERE YET? This clip should be the pilot to a long-running series.

  45. This clip should be the pilot to a long-running series.

    Hell, yes. “Chahlie’s Crawling!” “Neville and Chahlie Play Football”, “Neville and Chahlie Meet a Puppy”…

    I’ve decided that big brother is called Neville. Or maybe Simon.

  46. In college I nannied for a family that was here from the UK.

    One of my favorite memories of that time was when I took the kids to the zoo. The 5 year old wanted a huge ice cream sundae for a snack and I didn’t want him to ruin his dinner so I offered him a lemon icee instead.

    David did not approve of that option. So I walked through the zoo with a 5 year old British boy saying in his perfect accent “But I don’t fancy a lemon ice – I fancy a proper ice cream.”

    I knew he was upset – but with that perfect little accent and turn of phrase (‘fancy a proper ice cream’) I just though it was hysterical.

  47. FJ, I knew you would score differently from me, because as I was taking that quiz I kept thinking, “Well, all these words sound the same to me, but I know they don’t to FJ because we used to argue about it all the time in college!” I (like Kate) got Midlands, which is a bit weird since I don’t have any Chicago or Canada in my accent, but whatevs.

  48. So I walked through the zoo with a 5 year old British boy saying in his perfect accent “But I don’t fancy a lemon ice – I fancy a proper ice cream.”

    OH MY GOD, that would KILL ME.

  49. Midwest people most certainly do have an accent – one that a quiz like that doesn’t pick up, IMO. I don’t think it’s the Midwest accent that is used on TV. I think it’s more of a west-coast accent that is used on TV.

    Regarding the US accent sounding nasally and higher pitched, I couldn’t figure out what people were talking about, until I tried to do my version of an English accent, and noticed that I took it way down. That’s part of the reason the accent sounds snooty to a lot of folks over here – when you deepen your voice, it makes it seem like you are trying to sound more important.

    I love Scottish and Irish accents. YUM!

  50. Yes, Sniper it worked! But did you see the tags? “Harry”, “Charlie”, etc. As much as I love the idea of big brother being a “Simon,” looks like he’s more of a Harry…

  51. I know a woman who’s a children’s speech coach. On the first day of school she brought in a jar of grape jelly and asked each kid what it was, trying to pinpoint their speech pathologies by how they pronounced the word “jelly.”

    When she got to the last kid, she asked him what it was and he said, in a perfect little British accent, “Plum preserves.” I like to imagine him wearing a tweed sportcoat and short pants.

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