Thursday, September 21, 2006

Me And My Voice

I grew up on a steady diet of American tv from a very young age. My parents, while never resorting to the TV as a babysitter or substitute for parenting, allowed me the freedom to enjoy the box purely as an evening activity when outdoor sports were not possible.

Because of this, I don’t remember watching very many cartoons when I was very young. I didn’t get into Transformers, M.A.S.K. or GI Joe until a much later stage. I didn’t even watch Bosco, that primary source of Irish children’s television, though my younger brother developed the fascinating to watch ability to quote each line up to 3 seconds ahead of particular episodes having watched them to death! On the other hand, I do remember playing as The A-Team while I was just in play-school, putting me at only four-years old when I was watching it! That’s about the only thing I remember from that early point in my life, along with an almost Freudian love for my play-school teacher. She was amazing.

I still remember watching The A-Team, MacGyver, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, Street Hawk and many more when they were all primetime shows on RTE. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad and mom, watching explosions and action, watching B.A. make a tank out of a few sheets of metal or MacGyver… well, macgyvering (yes, it’s a verb, they used it on Stargate) gadgets from duct-tape and rubber tubing. I remember being allowed to stay up until the very late time of 9pm just so I could watch these shows to the end. And they were all great.

As well as bestowing upon me an avid interest in action/adventure shows, the ability to use ordinary gadgets in extraordinary ways, a desire to be the hero whenever possible and the love of writing cross-over fan fiction (A-Team versus MacGyver: One Warehouse, No Way Out, Lots of Gadgets. Someone’s About to Have a Plan Come Together) watching all those American shows had an unexpected side-effect. It left me with an unusual accent that has the slightest twinge of American in it.

It comes as no surprise when Irish people ask me how long I’ve been living in Ireland. When I tell them I was born and raised here, the next question is often how long I spent in America . This inevitably leads to shock when I inform them that I’ve never set foot on American soil. I’ve never even been in one of the embassies! It all comes from too much TV as a kid.

But what is surprising is when Americans ask me the same question. This has happened twice recently, and it got me thinking. I’m not trying to say that the Americans in question were foolish for thinking I was from their side of the Atlantic. They seemed like very nice people during the short while we spoke. No. This isn’t a “look at the stoopid American” post. I quiet like Americans. This is an “I have an unusual accent” post, nothing else.

Personally, I like it. I have a very easy to understand voice with no strong accent. You might say that my voice has a “travelled” quality to it, as if I have spent a lot of time abroad. It certainly doesn’t sound like I’m a country boy that grew up on an island. But the truth is, I haven’t. I’ve rarely been outside Ireland. And even when I have been, it’s only been to England !

So is this the way of the future? A new, universal accent for all. Our children watch almost entirely American TV from a very early age. Barney, Elmo, and Bear in the Big Blue House have replaced Bosco as the primary form of preschool edutainment. Am I the first in a new wave of mixed accents? Will we see more and more Irish and European children growing up using American phrases?

Honestly, I don’t know. I just wanted to post about my unusual vocal qualities and the effect of TV on me. That last part is hardly cause for concern. All that action/adventure hasn’t caused me to go out shooting people (yet), or made me aggressive in any way. It hasn’t made me want to run off and join a secret organisation testing new super-bikes kitted out with turbo boost and lasers... actually, it has, but it turns they’re really hard to find. Unfortunately it hasn’t made me into an ace mechanic, a bomb disposal expert, a government agent, an undercover spy or even (my true desire) a qualified teacher. Oh well. Guess I just need to watch some more!


Cian said...

Hmmm . . . interesting theory. For a long time now I've been annoyed by our society's eagerness to be as American as possible. I have no problem with progress or the American culture in it's own right I just wish that, instead of the saturating our culture with American sitcoms, we put a little more effort into developing more European ones that don't suck. We, as Europeans, have a good tradition of comedy: Fr. Ted; Faulty Towers; Black Books, The Green Wing etc. So why are we so eager for crap like King of Queens?

I have to say though that I've never thought of your accent as particularly strange. Well, I remember one day we were all talking about accents and you made some claim about yours. I disagreed and rather than arguing my point, I asked "Denis, what comes after 7?"
You replied "ayet . . . you bastard."

I don't remember ever thinking your accent had a foreign twang, but I understand how it might come across that way, I think it might be mainly your phraseology; our group (I suppose gamers and sci-fi/comic fans in general) tend to use more typically American words than others (dude, cool, awesome etc.).

Denis said...

True. And I have to agree with you on the "number after 7". After all, I might not entirely sound like a country boy, but I am one! Oh, and reading that made me laugh. A lot.

Still, I just found it odd that in two weeks two seperate groups of Americans mistook me for American, or at least for someone who had spent time there. And last year, when I was at a comic con in Dublin, I had a guy ask me how long I was here for on holidays.

Agreed also on the point of more homegrown TV. Dispite the phenomenal success of things like Friends, British and Irish comedy is just better. Grittier. Willing to do comedy American networks would be horified at showing.

Though, on that point, have you seen Studio 60? It's ace. Actually with the internet and torrent sites so popular now, more and more American shows are available over here.

Mark said...

I guess now that I think of it, you do sound ever so slightly american.

I have been shocked by your accent in the past, though, or more correctly, by your lack of an accent. This was when I met your family.

The rest of your family have VERY strong country/tipperary accents. What's amazing is that you don't have a trace of that, or at least not until you multiply four by two.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any of Studio 60 but it does look good. To be honest I'm trying not to watch TV at all, I generally don't get home from work till about 8/8.30 so by the time get some food in me and get down to unwinding, it's probably after 9. If I put on TV then that's it for the night, I'll be a complete zombie until I get into work the next day.