Author Archives: Ben Trawick-Smith

About Ben Trawick-Smith

Ben Trawick-Smith began his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.

John Oliver and Contemporary Brumminess

Like many HBO subscribers, I’ve become a fan of John Oliver, a British comedian who brings journalistic rigor to the “news parody” genre. He particularly excels at trans-Atlantic humor, injecting British wit into American jokes (“you’ve constructed a straw-man so … Continue reading

Share

Posted in British English | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Iggy Azalea and Ethnolect Appropriation

A few years back, I was talking to an Irish musician about the American blues. I found it strange that British and Irish musicians, particularly those honing their chops in the 1960s, seemed more taken with the form than Americans. “Well,” the … Continue reading

Share

Posted in American English | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

“Fargo” Redux: Dialect Work in TV’s Renaissance

When Fargo was released in 1996, “Minnesota speech” was largely unknown to the majority of the American populace. With a handful of exceptions, the dialect had little representation in popular culture. The film’s appeal lies not only in the quality of … Continue reading

Share

Posted in American English | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Australian Broad-A

Speaking of Shane Jenek/Courtney Act (the Australian drag queen that served as the topic of my last post), I noticed that he uses a “short-a” in words like dance, France, and demand. That is, Jenek pronounces “dance” with the same vowel as … Continue reading

Share

Posted in Australian English | Tagged , | 18 Comments

“Courtney Act” and Non-Rhotic Puns

This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race featured Courtney Act (aka Shane Jenek), a renowned drag performer from Brisbane, Australia. In an early episode, Act/Jenek laments that Americans don’t get the pun in his stage name, which sounds similar to “caught in … Continue reading

Share

Posted in Australian English | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Urban Southern English

A reader wrote me recently with a question about his “fading” Southern accent: I am a native, fourth generation Georgian who has lived in Roanoke, Virginia for two years. Before then I spent three years in Austin, Texas; two in … Continue reading

Share

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 13 Comments

Jim Hawkin’s “Blues”

I recently read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a story I greatly enjoy as a child. The novel’s pirates speak with a dialect I find puzzling as an adult reader: is it the West Country of the early chapters’ setting (akin to … Continue reading

Share

Posted in British English | Tagged | 5 Comments

Reformed Views on Spelling Reform

Back in college, I obsessed over English spelling reform. Why deal with silent gh’s, I figured, when things can be so much cleaner? So I started inventing phonetically-precise alphabets, ending up with results like this: Tu bii or not tu … Continue reading

Share

Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 29 Comments

“Jersey” or “Jersey?”

About a week ago, my wife and I went to a fancy grocery store and splurged on an expensive bottle of half-and-half. As we were putting away our haul, I read the description on the back of the bottle and … Continue reading

Share

Posted in American English | Tagged | 14 Comments

New Mexican Spanish

Wikipedia has many excellent entries on regional dialects. I’m wary of taking all its information at face value, but the site provides good links to relevant sociolinguistics texts that would be tricky for laypeople to track down otherwise. That being … Continue reading

Share

Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 16 Comments