Tag Archives: Accent

British Bus Driver Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Canadian/American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: New York City
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/18/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece:

Informant: 

*Speaking in an artificial British accent*

Bus driver pulls up to a bus stop, opens the door, looks out and there’s a guy standing there. This guy has one leg, three eyes, no arms. 

So the bus driver looks at him and says, “Aye aye aye, you look ‘armless.” 

Background: The informant was born in Canada and spent most of his life in America. The joke was originally told to him by his Welsh father who has a natural British accent. The joke reminds the informant of his childhood, a time when he didn’t understand the joke but still enjoyed his father saying it to him. 

Context: The piece was collected while I stayed with the informant and his family during a state mandated stay-at-home order. We are very good friends and have known each other for a long time, making the performance very casual. He and I were about to sit down for dinner with both of his parents when he turned to me and posed the joke before saying it to his dad and asking if he remembered it. The piece was collected in its natural performance setting. 

Analysis: The humor of the joke relies on an understanding of the phrase “Aye aye aye” being a homonym of “eye eye eye”. This is comical due to the potential interpretation of the phrase as both a British greeting and a reference to the man’s three eyes. The second part of the joke relies on the usage of the British accent to omit the /h/ phoneme in “harmless” so that it sounds identical to the word “armless,” referencing the man’s lack of arms. While the joke isn’t considered overwhelmingly humorous to the informant and audience, conjuring a smile rather than a laugh, the informant retells it as a memory of his father and British heritage. For me, hearing the joke was joyful because it symbolized family and quintessential “dad humor.”

Vermont Accents

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 01/15/17
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This is a description of the Vermont/Milton accent that is used in Northern Vermont. The informant is from Burlington, which is one of the larger cities in Vermont and the most metropolitan.

“Um so, people in vermont, its actually a very interesting socio-economic uh little raft, because it’s a lot of very old farming families that have been there forever, so a lot of french-candadian and irish old old old families, that like, live there, and then in 60s and 70s a lot of communes popped up, and so theres was like a lot of college educated upper middle class wealthy people who moved to vermont, and so theres kind of a lot of class divisions and dynamics working out there. Um, and it kind of, there’s a division between people who have the accent and those that don’t, and the further isolated you get, the thicker the accent is, and the most isolated is in the islands of vermont, um, and that’s Milton, but if you live there is “Mil’un”, because you don’t say the T and you really hit the vowels, um, so we make, they are the butt of everyone’s jokes, the people up in the boonies,  up in the fucking islands, who like cannot speak a word of english and you can’t understand it, um, they’re seen as the dumbest hillbillies and just the like biggest idiots in all of vermont and there’s a lot of big idiots in vermont, um, and they, people do their accents, so I don’t have an accent because my parents are from upstate new york and i have a very upstate new york accent but the vermont accent is a lot of dropped T’s, Vermon’”

 

Analysis: When speaking about Vermont, it was clear that informant knew a lot about how the differences in class affect how vernacular speech is disseminated between communities. She was aware that living where she did and having the parents that she did created a difference between her and the other Vermonters who had been there for generations. She was also able to perform the accent although she doesn’t speak with it.

Desprit Idjit

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American - (Welsh)
Age: 53
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Winnetka, IL
Date of Performance/Collection: Saturday March 26th, 2016
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

Me: Where did the term come from?

L: A crazy woman named Shawna that was leading a tour around Ireland through the ring of Kerry on a huge coach bus. Every time the coach would get stuck, by some car not making room for the coach, or some person walking in front of the coach, in the middle of a sentence explaining what we were seeing at the time, she would blurt out, “Desprit ijit!”

Me: What does it mean?

L: It means a person that is so clueless and is not paying attention, so in English it would be a desperate idiot. Someone who is painfully stupid. It was really more of a pronunciation thing because she had a thick Irish accent. She repeated it throughout our entire trip probably six or seven times a day. So, there were a lot of idiots.

Me: Do you still use the phrase?

L: Desprit ijit? Yeah. All the time. It’s the funniest thing, it cracks everyone up. I use it when I’m driving a lot. But you have to say it with the accent because otherwise it just isn’t as funny.

L talks about how a random phrase that some people in the U.S. likely use, though it sounds different due to the accent, has become so funny to her. The accent of the tour guide and the phrase she said constantly, “desprit ijit,” was so funny to L, and she liked it so much that she has started to use it on a daily basis. She exudes Shawna, the tour guide’s, personality when she get behind the wheel because she has to deal with “deprit ijits” who just don’t know how to drive.