I don't know if you've ever run into it, but there's a thing on YouTube called the "accent tag". It's a list of vocabulary words and questions that you're supposed to answer on camera in whatever your native accent is, basically to show people on other parts of the planet how you talk. Most of them are pretty ordinary, but occasionally you get a fantastic mashup.

This young lady here popped up when I was searching for "transatlantic accent". She has not actually got one -- it's a specific regionless accent, popular among actors and some of the American upper classes prior to and during WWII -- but she dubbed hers this, as she picked it up accompanying her father on a lot of ocean crossings as a kid.




The word list is really just a collection of shibboleths, and it's very heavily biased towards American regional accents. "Wash" turns into "warsh" in Missouri; "caramel", "New Orleans", "mayonnaise", and "syrup" all have different numbers of syllables in different accents, particularly in most of the Southern ones; "aunt", "roof", "route", and "pecan" have different vowels from north to south; etc etc etc.

The questions are a little more interesting. She's amusingly confused by a lot of them. They're designed to evoke answers whose names are very strongly regionalized, and are also heavily biased towards Americans.

The list:


  1. What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?

    This is an American thing, so far as I know, which is why she has no idea what they're talking about. It's considered a teenage prank. It's also one of the traditional responses to someone who hands out crap candy -- or refuses to humor you at all -- when you're trick-or-treating, which is also an American thing, albeit one we've since exported to anywhere people are willing to dress up funny to get free candy. Depending on where you live, it's called "TPing", "papering" or "(house) wrapping".

  2. What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?


    She's correct in that they're asking about wood lice, but the reason the question is on here is that Americans have several different vernacular names for them depending on where you're from. They exist all across the North American continent. We used to find them in the swimming pool from time to time in Phoenix. My father, from New England, called them "pillbugs". My mother, from Missouri/Illinois, used "roly-poly". I'm not sure what the proper regionalism was for Arizona, but I suspect my mother's was the odd term out here, since I was an adult before I realized it wasn't just a sing-song baby-talk name for them. I use "pillbug", and have since before I moved back to Boston; I say the rats have assumed "pillbug-form" when they curl up to sleep with their noses tucked under their bellies to keep their faces warm.

  3. What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?


    There's sort of a good-natured rivalry between "soda" and "pop" among Americans. My mother seems to have picked up the New Englandism "soda" from my father, and so did I; in Arizona, and most places west of the Mississippi, the customary word is "pop". There are a few places in the Deep South where carbonated soft drinks were generically called "coke", but it seems to have died, or at least be dying out, with the generation before mine. "Soft drinks" are also used for the general class, usually in places like restaurants where they need to be distinguished from alcoholic beverages. "Fizzy drink" is a Britishism, and while Americans would know what she was talking about, they would parse it as "fizzy (adjective describing a) drink (noun)", rather than as a set phrase.

  4. What do you call gym shoes?


    Americans use "tennis shoes" and "sneakers". (Technically, "tennis shoes" are specifically the kind with grippy rubber soles in white, which were originally used because black rubber soles marked up the courts. It's been generalized in American English, though.) "Trainers" is a Britishism, and it's probably worth noting that it covers a broader range than "sneakers" or "tennis shoes" does in AmE. "Trainers" to a Brit also covers the light canvas things sometimes called "plimsolls", whereas to an American, those would be "chucks" (short for Chuck Taylors) or "Converse" (one of the most famous brands). "Sneakers" are heavier athletic shoes with padding, like the kind you'd jog in.

  5. What do you say to address a group of people?


    She has no idea what they're getting at here, but does inadvertently answer it anyway when talking about time machines: She uses "you guys" to address a group of people. Americans can get pretty iffy about just using "you" to talk to a lot of people at once, without resolving the ambiguity between the singular and plural uses of the pronoun. There are a bunch of ad hoc constructions in use; "you guys", which she says in a distinctly American accent, is probably the most common. I picked up "y'all" (a contraction of "you all", which is sometimes used in full) from my mother's St Louis, MO, accent, which has a lot of features in common with various Southern accents. You can also use "all y'all," in things like "all y'all are welcome to come to the party with me," to emphasize that the entire group is invited all at once, rather than just extending the invitation to any arbitrary member of that group who cares to take you up on it.

  6. What do you call the kind of spider (or spider-like creature) that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?


    The name I know is "daddy long-legs", and the only thing I've seen it applied to is the cellar spider, otherwise known as the carpenter spider or vibrating spider, for the way they sit and resonate on their little webs. They live pretty much everywhere. Creepy and alien-looking but harmless to humans -- and to the cats, who occasionally used them as toys and snacks. I have a soft spot for them, as they're not harmless to black widow spiders, whom they eat. Black widows are the aggressive douchebags of the spider world, building sloppy webs wherever they want to and biting anything that looks at them funny. They are the spider equivalent of the unwashed redneck sitting on the porch with a shotgun full of rock salt on one knee and a beer on the other, shouting "git offa MAH LAND!", except instead of 'mah land' substitute 'those shoes you inadvertently left on the porch overnight'. The deserts of the southwestern US run a close second to the Outback in terms of how vocal Mother Nature is about wanting you to suffer.

  7. What do you call your grandparents?


    This varies widely throughout the English-speaking world. "Grandma"/"Grandpa" (or regional variants like "Gramma"/"Grampa") is probably the popular one here. There's a vocal minority for "Nan(n)a" and "Non(n)i" and the like, which come from languages like Italian, common among immigrants in the early 20th c. Americans don't really use "Gran" or "Nan"; those are Britishisms.

  8. What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?


    The umbrella term is probably "shopping cart" in the US, although there are other regional names. If you're specifically in a supermarket, it might be a "grocery cart". (Pronounced groSery or groSH'ry, depending on region.) My St Louis born-and-bred grandmother used to call it a "buggy", which is an old fashioned term coined by analogy to "baby buggy", i.e., a slang term for a baby carriage/pram. "Shopping trolley" is distinctly Commonwealth, and if you said it in the US, you'd get some odd looks. A trolley, to an American, is a streetcar or a tram.

  9. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?


    Well, I call it "kitsune no yomeiri", but that's because I've had a lot of Japanese classes over the years. ("Kitsune no yomeiri" = "the fox-spirit's wedding". The story goes that if it rains while the sun is shining, the kitsune women get to go out and claim their husband of choice.) There are a variety of different folkloric explanations that the question is probably trying to get at, but so far as I know the generic term in English is "sunshower".

  10. What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

    The generic term is "remote control", often shortened to "remote". In very casual parlance, it's sometimes a "channel changer". The odd term I think they're trying to get at here is "clicker", which is almost more of an age test than a regional accent test. "Clicker" comes from the very earliest television remotes, which used tiny hammers to whack tiny chimes to produce ultrasonic tones that told the TV what to do. The only audible noise was a 'click', hence the name. In theory, anyway. I can hear panicky rats (~20kHz) and CRT deflection whine (~25kHz), so it probably would have driven me bonkers.
Her accent is indeed kind of a cheerful chutney of American and British noises, but I would bet that at least one of her parents is from the Midlands somewhere. There are a few places where she pronounces a hard /g/ at the end of an -ing verb, which is a distinctive characteristic of the regional accent. So far as I know, it's strongest Merseyside (listen to any of the Beatles); she's not very sing-song Norfolk-y, and the southern English accents mainly use /n/ for the final diphthong instead. If her father was a ship's captain running a transatlantic route, then somewhere in the general vicinity of Liverpool would do it.

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