“Your accent is the knocker on the door to who you are,” explains Dr. Einurhed, lead researcher of a multi-year, multi-person, multi-conclusion, multi-multi study focussing on that subject (accents, not door-knockers). “It says ‘Hey I’m fancy’, or ‘Hey, I’m loud and obnoxious’, or ‘Hey, I’m just a plain old knob’. So when you change that significantly over a short period of time what you’re really saying is ‘I’m not very sure of myself so I’m happy to try out other people’s knockers’.”
Her in-depth study canvassed communities of global expats living as far afield as the International Space Station, and in as bizarre a circumstance as something called ‘yacht-crew’, in which people of mixed nationalities agree to live on other peoples’ boats and go wherever they are told, sometimes for years or even decades, all while doing something known as ‘living the dream’.
Over the course of days, weeks, months, and years, the study compared the accents of subjects with a standard accent from their respective country, and then assigned each individual a value of ‘accent degradation’ according to how much their intonation, inflection, and slang-usage had changed over the length of time the subject had been away from home.
“Yacht crew were off the charts. In many cases we were unable to tell where an individual was from by their accent as it had changed so drastically. It was like we were speaking to international spies, or chameleons, or just plain wannabes.” Says Dr. Einurhed, adding that what really stood out was the short timespan it took for crew to completely change their original accent. “We interviewed individuals who had been onboard less than 45 minutes and had gone from ‘Whimsically Canadian’ to ‘Full-Ocker Australian’, and swore a bloody oath at us when we asked why the change? Struth!”
The most common accent switch sited was from ‘South African accented English’ to ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’. “If I hear one more person call me China,” says the California-based doctor, turning a deep shade of purple, “They’s gettin’ a smack right in the North and South.”
In her preliminary report released in this month’s issue of ‘Poser’, Dr. Einurhed tentatively concludes that the driving force behind making a rapid and holistic accent change is a strong desire to fit in, coupled with weak moral fibre. “By definition expats have all left home and travelled great distances. While in some cases this is done to broaden horizons and challenge one’s self, it is also often done to escape either a perceived threat to one’s independence – such as an overbearing mother – or a real threat, such as child support payments. Either way, as someone on the run, it can behoove an escapee – I mean expat – to take on a new persona. This allows them to both reinvent themselves and become harder to track.
In an exciting development, the team has also revealed that in some cases they encountered yacht crew who didn’t seem to be speaking any known language at all. Often these subjects worked on the bridge as first or second officers, and seemed to have adapted a form of communication consisting entirely of acronyms. If verified, this will be the first new language of the 21st century, and will give the team the opportunity to name the newly discovered tongue. While initially close-mouthed about the prospective title they hope to use for their discovery, over a few pints it was revealed that they intend to call the language: ‘MUTE’, standing for Meaningless Unintelligible Theoretical English.