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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Accent (02/21/13)

TITLE: Accent-uating Our Communication Problems
By Noel Mitaxa
~7th Place


“Do you speak English?”

A simple question from any tourist.

But even a positive answer is an entrée to a smorgasbord of accents: some clear; some less clear. Linguists however, have reduced this menu to a choice of only two courses: rhotic and non-rhotic.

Rhotic speakers pronounce almost every “r” in any word or phrase. Non-rhotic speakers only pronounce an “r” if it precedes a vowel sound in the same word or phrase. If they say “butter,” rhotic ears might hear “butta,” unless they also say “butter and bread.”

Rhotic speech embraces North America; and Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans for whom English is a second language—possibly courtesy of post-war US influence.

“America and Britain are separated by a common language;” according to Oscar Wilde. Yet a strong rhotic burr clearly identifies a Cornish or Somerset accent; and could anything be more rhotic than the rolling “r” that grrrreets visitorrrrs to Scotland?

Non-rhotic speaking pervades the rest of England; as well as ex-British colonies in Africa, Australia and New Zealand; with another outcrop across New England—most notably in Boston.

And since Australia is a popular tourist destination, this background information may simplify any readers’ plans to come here...

Even after two hundred and thirty years of European settlement on a landmass almost as large as mainland USA; our population is passed by California, New York State, Texas and Florida. Fewer people means fewer accents, although South Australians and Tasmanians shorten “oo” to make “school” rhyme with “full.” They also join with New South Welshmen in pronouncing “castle” as “cah-sel,” even though “cassel” works just fine everywhere else. Queenslanders also finish most sentences with “hey;” yet civil war is unlikely to erupt despite these communication barriers.

Our speech pattern is also so terse that Rodgers and Hammerstein could never have been an Australian success. Curly McLain could never launch Oklahoma, singing: “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” No, he’d stroll onto the stage with his hands in pockets, look around and say: “G’day!”

We also vandalise vowels, flattening them so “ay” sounds like a long “i” (which cood mike things a bit confusing.) Our “eye” sound slurs to “oy”or “oi,” and we ignore non-vital consonants—a ‘consonant’ puzzle to visitors.

Back in the early sixties, English author Monica Dickens was at a book-signing in Sydney. A lady approached her with a copy. “Emma Chisett,” Ms. Dickens heard her say, so smiling warmly, she inscribed the flyleaf, “to Emma Chisset,” and passed it back to her.

A puzzled frown met her smile. “No! Emma Chisset?” she repeated. What she really meant was, “How much is it?”

Hearing of this exchange, Sydney advertising agent Alistair Morrison was inspired to publish a satire on Aussie speech patterns: “Let Stalk Strine” by Afferbeck Lauder - from Sinny University.” (Necessary translation: “Let’s Talk Australian,” by Alphabetical Order, from Sydney University!) One memorable entry was “Aorta: the vessel which carries the life-blood of Strine public opinion—as in “Aorta do sumpin about awlese crooks!” 1

You'll find a translation for this and the following two italicised paragraphs in my footnotes. But I’ll offer two clues: that “yoozel” means “You’ll,” and “yooze” is plural of “you.”

Yoozel hafta read this necks bitta loud so yooze can pick up the 'funettix.' (Intrestin word that one, doancha reckon? Coz if ‘funettix’ wuz spelt how it sounds, phua phorrinas’d beacon phused about how ow words phit tugetha.)2

Oil troy to ixpline how yooken tawk loik an Ustrieyan, jess loik me. Ozzie Inglish is diffrent coz we doan open ow mouths much. Probly cozza vawla floys that keep buzzin aroun’ awl ova the plice, but also coz flappin ya jor aroun tikes more effut. Annif we see too many lettas, we jess get riddavem.3

So now, if you’re planning to visit or want to migrate Downunder, you have a handle on how we speak.

PS. We also have a terse, one-word translation of “Relax over the next couple of days, and I hope to see you fit and well on Monday.”

It’s “Avagoodweegend!”


1 “They ought to do something about all these criminals!”

2 “You’ll have to read this next bit aloud so you can pick up the phonetics. (Interesting word that one, don’t you reckon? Because if ‘phonetics’ were spelled how it sounds, fewer foreigners would be confused about how our words fit together.)

3 I’ll try to explain how you can talk like an Australian, just like me. Aussie English is different because we don’t open our mouths much. Probably because of all the flies that keep buzzing around all over the place, but also because flapping your jaw around takes more effort. And if we see too many letters, we just get rid of them.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Loren T. Lowery02/28/13
This was such an enjoyable read - thank-you for the smiles. I loved the Oscar Wilde quote - so fitting into your approach to this subject. And not in the least slight regarding "G'day" I'll still take Rodgers and Hammerstein's interpretation of what a "beautiful morning" it is. This brings back memories of my first reading of "Br'er Rabbit" when I was about six. Oh the time I had trying to understand - but so rewarding waddling through it all.
Danielle King 02/28/13
By gum lad, tha can spout when tha wants to. Tha's a reight noelitall! And just for the record, I interpreted all your funny oz-words before the translation at the end.

This is an entertaining read,nicely done and interesting. And it was perfect for the topic.

Ellen Carr 03/01/13
Well done! Kath and Kim udbe proudaya! (Aussies will know who Kath and Kim are.)Good to hear a bit of the 'science' behind the accent. But really - we Aussies don't have an accent! Everyone else does!
Virgil Youngblood 03/01/13
Howdy pod'ner! That was right friendly advice you gave. Shore 'nuff enjoyed it, by gum.
Fiona Stevenson03/01/13
Yes, shortly after we came to Australia we were joined by friends who struggled with the accent. A workmate of my husband's asked if they didn't speak English, and didn't undersand when he replied, "They speak English. They just don't speak 'Strine'!" Well done.
God bless you.
Alicia Renkema03/02/13
I have always loved accents, they are so fun! Aussie and English accents have always been my favorite. I wish you could have seen me reading your "Aussie-talk" in the paragraph where you had the 3rd footnote. You had it written out phonetically just right, that I even sounded like an Aussie for a few moments there! This was a fun read even if I didn't understand all of it. I know I will go back and re-read this. Thanks for writing this masterfully amusing, but factual piece, Blessings...
lynn gipson 03/02/13
I am smiling right now. The mystery of accents is something I have always wondered about. Growing up in Georgia, Tennessee, and now living in Mississippi, I have my own accent. You'd have to read "You Might Be a Redneck" (I think that is the name) to understand my dialect.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Excellent reading.
Carolyn Ancell03/02/13
Oh my, did this bring back memories! Twenty years ago I was in Australia for six weeks doing a solo performance and teaching tour of Christian sacred dance. I remember my hosts repeatedly trying to teach me to pronounce G'day mate with a true Aussie sound, but they kept telling me I had an accent! So many good memories. Thank you! Fun article to read, especially the bit about Emma Chisset.
C D Swanson 03/02/13
You continue to amaze me with your entries. You really need to take your speel on tour. I can see you on The Tonight Show doing this sort of thing. You may indeed have two callings my friend.

You are the "major attraction" in this forum...so many fans. LOL, nicely done as always, I enjoyed it for sure!

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/02/13
You took me from HUH? at the beginning to patting myself on the back by the end because I was getting it without the footnotes! i'm so proud of myself, especially since i've been working hard to get you for a long time. :) You did a great job and it's always nice to have a good chuckle 'fore bed. :) (I have noticed your challenges are that way out there sense of humor that borders on sardonic and facetious or really intensely emotional ones--chew on that for a bit! :) You had me seriously laughing.
Judith Gayle Smith03/02/13
Well you certainly make me feel better about my accent! Born in Ohio, I have been accused of speaking faster and more wordy than most. Spending time on Route 66 was intoxicating - waiting for two words to be said, and falling asleep while waiting. The Panhandle. Sigh. I think I love you - you made my heart tickle!

Because He lives and loves,

Beth LaBuff 03/02/13
I was completely engrossed and entertained by the accent and language. You've explained in such a way that even someone like me could understand it. :) Perfect title + fascinating writing = immense enjoyment! Thanks!
Cheryl Harrison03/03/13
Loaded with information. I've always been fond of the Australian accent. It's totally different than this Texas girl's drawl! Thanks for writing.
Lillian Rhoades 03/03/13
Sometime back I remember another faithwriter asking about how to write dialogue. You are a pro at it!
Bea Edwards 03/04/13
Priceless! Big ear to ear grin-especially after reading your explanation why Aussies don't open there mouths very wide to speak. Can't wait to meet a few Aussies at the conference...I'll be watching your lips.
As always your unique, creative, and entertaining wit did just that-charmed my socks off!
Myrna Noyes03/05/13
:D What a fun and informative piece! :D Reading "Aussie" is like learning a new language! You did a great job with this, and I too got a laugh out of the "Emma Chisset" story and the bit about not opening the mouth too wide 'cuz of the flies! :)
Danielle King 03/07/13
CONGRATULATIONS!!! I told you so!
Loren T. Lowery03/07/13
This was too good to not be recognized. Congratulations on your EC, Noel.
Beth LaBuff 03/07/13
Congrats, Noel. As you know, Tilman enjoyed this immensely! :)
Alicia Renkema03/07/13
I agree with C.D. I think it was who said that you probably have two callings. I would love to see you on the tonight show doing your bit. You could teach the audience all 'Aussie-speak.' Congrats on your win, you have such an amazing style. Blessings...
PamFord Davis 03/07/13
Noel, as usual you are informative and entertaining. This is wonderful. In the 1960's there was a popular Johnny Tillotson song titled "Poetry in Motion" (with the phrase in the lyrics). A friend heard it as "Oh, a tree in motion!"

Wing His Words,
Judith Gayle Smith03/07/13
Thank you for glorifying God with your true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy winning entry! God bless you.

Love and verbal hugs, Judi

KJV Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
lynn gipson 03/07/13
Congratulations on the HC and EC! Excellent job!
Olawale Ogunsola03/08/13
Congratulations for your perfect (7th) overall placing on March 7. March (Match?) forward to win more.
I love your writings and encouragement. You are a sure source of inspiration.
Ellen Carr 03/08/13
Congratulations Noel on your EC. Well-deserved!It's good that you've taught all the non-Aussies how to talk and understand 'Strine'.
C D Swanson 03/08/13
Congratulations Noel!!!
God bless my friend~
Claudia Thomason03/08/13
This was delightful. Thanks for sharing the lesson in speaking Aussie. I have always loved listening to Australians talk - didn't matter what they said either. Congratulations on your ED and HC on this deserving article.