Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to speak American: A video guide

Have you ever wondered what the English language sounds like to non-speakers? Wonder no more.

Thanks to Jim Henson, my generation knows that to communicate with a Swede all you need to do is go "hurdy gurdy doody doo meatballs" while pointing at things and they'll understand exactly what you're talking about.

Now I know what to say when I finally meet Alexander Skarsgard.

How we all chortled at the Swedish Chef, feeling cosy and superior in our dominant Anglo universe! Little did we know that while we were all laughing it up at the Muppets, the rest of the non-English-speaking world was in hysterics over OUR crazy language.

Well, Italy was at least. Check out Prisecolinensinenciousol, a 1972 nonsense song by Italian singer Adriano Celentano meant to emulate the sound of American English:

Weirdly, this is the best pop song Italy ever produced.

Just like that Pink Floyd album matches up with The Wizard of Oz if you cue it up correctly, if you do just the right amount of LSD at the beginning of Prisecolinensinenciousol, you can understand every word. Turns out he's singing about his dog. True story.

Sadly after eight months here in America and many, many accent-related communication breakdowns, I have neither had any success with shouting "YOU CAN CALL ME THE SILVER PRISECOLINENSINENCIOUSOL, ALRIGHT?" while pointing at sandwiches. Maybe I should try meatballs.

When it comes to mimicking American English the Italians did alright, I guess (apart from those outfits), but I think Australian director Brian Fairbairn captured it best with 2011 short film Skwerl:


This week I'm going to try "I firmass the Pope for cream!" and see where it gets me.


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