Accents: In defence of Joey Barton and Schteve McClaren

 

Long before the infamous clip of Schteve McLaren talking "Dutch" emerged, my family used to take delight when my stepfather phoned Dutch friends. Within seconds his accent would shift from Wigan to the Netherlands while we all giggled next to him.

As with Schteve and Monsieur Joéy Bàrton – who was roundly mocked for the Allo, Allo Franglish accent he deployed in a press conference for his side Marseille on Monday – it's hard to believe that adapting our accents to our surroundings is anything but an unconscious decision. Barton certainly took the ribbing in good humour ("Good moaning," he tweeted yesterday morning). But, as lexicographer and Countdown's Susie Dent pointed out on BBC 5 Live, "there's an evolutionary need to be understood... I think Joey Barton was being quite pragmatic".

Others pointed in Joey's defence to a 1975 paper by Stanford linguist Charles A Ferguson which investigated the reasons for "English foreigner talk", a phenomenon that goes back "over long periods of time". So, before you laugh at Joey, who has spent four months trying to integrate in France, just imagine what you sounded like last time you asked for a "A bottle? Of, er, your rioja" on your holidays.

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