Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Features and More

Language experts weigh in: Has Meghan Markle copped a British accent?

A viral Twitter video from the June visit of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle in your Twitter feed), to chat with the crowds in Chester has the interwebs debating. Has she picked up a slight British accent?

"Allo princess" mocked a headline from the U.Kí.s Guardian, while a linguist on Yahoo News argued that anyone hearing a veddy, veddy British lilt is experiencing a "trick of the brain."

Luckily, we have Camilla Vasquez, Ph.D. Sheís a Fulbright scholar and professor at the University of South Floridaís vaunted department of applied linguistics, with a current area of research that includes how people talk about language, and accent-related issues.

"Itís unlikely that she would acquire an entire accent very quickly," Vasquez observes.

But ask the larger question: What is an accent?

"Itís a collection of lots and lots of tiny little sounds and language features that we produce," she says. "So over time itís pretty normal if you are immersed in an environment where people speak a certain way that you would adopt some of those characteristics of the speech of the local community."

When the California-born duchess sounded eerily like Bridget Jones when she said, "Thank yeeew" to a well-wisher, eyebrows went up.

And when she said, "Oh, did you?" when a person in the crowd told her they used to watch Suits, Londoners said that sounded like their slang.

And when she added, "Yes, we all had a great day, I think. The sun was shining for us," she sounded just so royal and fancy.

The professor isnít buying it. Poppycock, as the British might say.

"Just like they are commenting if she is crossing her legs or not, or holding her husbandís hand in public, the language is also a feature they can comment on because it says something about her social identity, so it becomes the locus for this discussion. I think most would say no, not yet, but probably over time, she may, and thatís normal."

But maybe the argle-bargle says more about us.

Dennis Preston, a professor of linguistics at Oklahoma State University, told Yahoo News that not only has Meghan not ditched her California twang, but it would be a linguistic phenomenon if she had.

Prestonís explanation: "Itís your brain playing a trick on you."

She married an Englishman, she lives in England and sheís hanging with the queen. The context gets in our way, he says.

"People speak quickly and we donít have time to decode each sound, so the brain tells us what to hear," he said. "Essentially, our brain gets in the way of our ear. So we hear what we expect to hear, rather than what we actually do."

Vasquez has another theory, one she is careful to stress is pure speculation. Donít forget that the duchess is an actor.

"As a performer, you are used to using your voice as a tool to create different identities so you might be even more attuned and more sensitive to picking up those different nuances than you or I would be."

Like all of us, Vasquez admits:

"Thatís just my own pet hypothesis."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

Comments
Swizzle it: The tool bartenders turn to for a certain kind of cocktail

Swizzle it: The tool bartenders turn to for a certain kind of cocktail

TAMPA It’s a long stick with an irregular claw at the end, something a little macabre, like a skeletal monkey arm or a ritual tool made out of a chicken foot. It is crafted from the wood of the Quararibea turbinata tree, an aromatic and perenn...
Published: 09/19/18
Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream look to the '80s and classics for horror nostalgia

Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream look to the '80s and classics for horror nostalgia

A thin guy with perfectly Purple Rain era Prince curly mullet hair, blood dripping from his mouth to the front of his puffy shirt, struts past a group of theme park guests onto the streets of "New York City." With Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam blaring in t...
Published: 09/18/18
What’s that bug gunk on your car? There’s an app for that

What’s that bug gunk on your car? There’s an app for that

Florida is rich in biomass. It’s got a lot of bugs. You’re driving down the highway, and all of a sudden — splat — a bug smacks your windshield, leaving a gooey glob on the glass. That’s the end of it from the bug’...
Published: 09/18/18
Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

All right, okay, enough, I get it: You all hate pumpkin spice. But I’ve got one request as we head into fall: Can you just let us have this? There are many things on which to heap anger and despair right now, but please, that thing does not n...
Published: 09/18/18
Where to find kid-friendly, not-so-scary Halloween fun

Where to find kid-friendly, not-so-scary Halloween fun

Spare the gore and take the kids to these family-friendly Halloween parties planned at theme parks and attractions in the coming weeks.Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writerCreatures of the Night at ZooTampa The weekend nighttime Halloween party at...
Published: 09/18/18
A brown rice salad with asparagus thatís a hearty side dish

A brown rice salad with asparagus thatís a hearty side dish

This fresh, hearty side dish will stand out among its richer, creamier counterparts when the holidays roll around. We achieved perfectly cooked brown rice by boiling it in abundant water. Sprinkling the rice with bright lemon juice while it was still...
Published: 09/18/18
Restaurant review: The Local doesn't stand out enough above its Tampa neighbors to make an impact

Restaurant review: The Local doesn't stand out enough above its Tampa neighbors to make an impact

TAMPA Do you have this debate? "Florida is not in the South." "Um, look at a map." I guess I am in the former camp: It seems Florida gets more Southern the more north and west you go, accents only creeping in as reliably as boiled peanuts up on the ...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18
Tampa Bay chefs get fresh platform at Bucs home games

Tampa Bay chefs get fresh platform at Bucs home games

TAMPA ó It was almost like a sitcom spit take. People in Buccaneers-red and Eagles-midnight green would walk up to the makeshift kitchen in the West Stadium Club, look at the huge poster of chef/restaurateur John Rivers, then glance at the guy in the...
Published: 09/17/18
Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

In keeping with our objective of trying to make family meals a little easier this back-to-school season, our judges figured premade meatballs could serve as a basis for a variety of meals. This week, we sampled 10 brands of frozen Italian meatballs f...
Published: 09/17/18
Actor in Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream commercial projectile vomits on SheiKra and it's no act

Actor in Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream commercial projectile vomits on SheiKra and it's no act

One of the most popular features of Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream, the annual scarefest that opens next Friday, is that you never know when a ghoul will show up next to you on the roller coasters. Some will even be on the trams that run from the...
Published: 09/14/18