Stigmatized Accents


Three months ago we revealed what was the GOP’s biggest nightmare: Donald Trump dominating the polls, which he did from the first days in the GOP presidential primary.

Since then, Trump’s ascent has only gotten steeper, forcing one after another political “expert”, talking head and pundit (it is unclear if the Huffington Post still covers Trump in its Entertainment section) to throw in the towel, and admit they have no idea how to read the American public.

Things only got worse for the GOP faithful when it was revealed that the man who was considered a frontrunner for the primary post, Jeb Bush, now appears to have run out of money. Earlier today Politico reported that Jeb Bush ordered across-the-board pay cuts to his struggling presidential campaign and warned staff that job functions would change.

Which brings me to a comment on the famous physicist Richard Feynman I posted a few hours back:

Feynman’s accent, one of America’s more stigmatized, becomes a strength rather than a weakness. It is a sad fact that we easily underestimate people because of their accents. But in Feynman’s case, this prejudice becomes an advantage: his students are perhaps disarmed, feeling they are talking to a man on the street rather than a stuffy professor.


But what stood out to me—and what makes this different from all the old!Feynman videos I’ve seen—is the persona his younger self projects. Born and raised in Queens, the young Feynman comes across, at least in accent and physical mannerisms, like some big mafia palooka straight out of central casting. Most likely, my startled reaction to this is due to Midwestern bias and being raised in an era where American regional differences in accent and culture have been largely flattened out. But it’s still fascinating … and amusing as hell to hear a guy who looks and sounds like he should be guarding hostages or threatening shop owners instead talking about gravitational theory.

Actually, Feynman was a famous safecracker. He would have fitted into New York’s underworld very easily, I imagine.

Now I suspect that that other notable New Yorker, Donald Trump, who hails from Brooklyn/Queens, may also have the same or similar ‘stigmatized’ accent as Feynman, and it may be this which acts as an impediment (and also an advantage) to his acceptance.

I’m sure if there was a British politician who sounded like he came from London’s East End gangland culture (Michael Caine?), I’d probably hesitate to put my cross next to his name. Or conversely, if I was sick enough of the UK political class (which I am), I’d be more than happy to put my cross next to it.

Which reminds me that Nigel Farage’s accent isn’t exactly Standard BBC English. And that might be a bit of a turn-off for the overly sensitive.

Various US and UK accents:

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29 Responses to Stigmatized Accents

  1. Tom says:

    Actually that was very interesting. For the US accents, she seemed to miss the Appalachian hill country accent and also for Pittsburgh, PA, they have a very distinct accent not spoken elsewhere that I have ever heard it. The English accents, isn’t within London there differences between, for example, West End and East End accents? Eastenders always spoke differently than BBC posh for example, it seemed to me. Very interesting videos, I’d never have thought of it.

  2. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    Her Norfolk accent is way off but Norfolk is notoriously difficult to ‘get right’ or ‘RitT’ as they do say round here. From the age of 7 I grew up in Norfolk, went to a rural village school in a village so remote that Churchill hid out EInstein there to keep him safe from SS Snatch Squads. Yet I can’t ‘do’ a Norfolk accent. Sure, I can understand it , even the ones from Upper Nosebleed but if I try and talk ‘norfolk’ i end up sounding even more retarded than the real speakers do or Australian or both.

  3. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    Did Einstein hide in the Norfolk fens?

    Not in the fens no, on the heath behind my school.
    In September 1933, Albert Einstein was brought to live in a small hut on Roughton Heath after fleeing Nazi Germany. Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson MP offered Einstein a refuge in Norfolk before he travelled to the USA. While here, he was sculpted by Jacob Epstein.[2] A blue plaque commemorating Einstein’s stay can be found at the entrance of the New Inn public house in the village.[3] On 7 October 1933, he set sail from Southampton, for a new life in the United States and never returned to Europe-Wiki

    • Frank Davis says:

      How fascinating. A bit more:

      A couple of miles southeast of Felbrigg Hall is the village of Roughton on the Norwich to Cromer road. Although the village is unremarkable, Roughton Heath just to the north was the unlikely residence of Albert Einstein for a few weeks in 1933. The celebrated German physicist was brought here under tight security to live in a small hut on the heath after fleeing Nazi Germany. Whilst living in his modest hut Einstein continued with important work that would later be put to use developing the world’s first atomic bomb. The scientist also found time to pose for a sculpture by Jacob Epstein. It was this brief episode by the Norfolk coast that provided inspiration for Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach. A blue plaque commemorating Einstein’s short-lived residence on the heath adorns the wall of the New Inn in Roughton village. The whereabouts of the hut itself is not known.

      Here’s the sculpture:

      Einstein in 1933 by Sir Jacob Epstein

      The famous physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) fled Germany in 1933, and was staying in a refugee camp in Britain when Epstein made this portrait bust. However, Einstein left to take up a professorship at Princeton before it was completed. Epstein later described Einstein’s ‘wild hair floating in the wind’ and wrote that ‘his glance contained a mixture of the humane, the humorous, and the profound. This was a combination that delighted me. He resembled the ageing Rembrandt’.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I suppose that for 3 or 4 weeks he must have been a regular at the New Inn, sitting with a beer and smoking a pipe as he pored over equations.

      • Frank Davis says:

        In 1933, Albert Einstein was forced to flee Germany pursued by Nazi assassins. During his flight, he sat for a portrait by sculptor Jacob Epstein. The result is regarded as one of the finest portrait busts in 20th-century art – and is currently on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds. How this sculpture came to be is one of the most dramatic stories in the history of art.

        The story begins in summer 1933. Einstein had been falsely associated with a book entitled The Brown Book of Hitler Terror which outlined some of the worst Nazi atrocities to date. German newspapers printed shocking stories about “Einstein’s infamy” and dismissed his Theory of Relativity as “Jewish physics”. One newspaper featured a large photograph on its front cover with the words “Not Yet Hanged” emblazoned across it, and a reward of £1,000 was offered by Hitler for the assassination of the physicist.

        The real threat to Einstein’s life became unbearable, and fearing for the safety of those who had hidden him in Belgium, he made the heartbreaking decision to leave his family and friends behind in Europe for the sanctuary of America.

        A plan was hatched by Einstein’s wife Elsa to have him secretly smuggled out of Belgium, to England in his first step towards reaching America. She contacted the Naval Commander and MP Oliver Locker-Lampson, a member of the UK’s refugee committee, to arrange Einstein’s covert rescue.

        Locker-Lampson convinced a reporter from the Sunday Express to travel by boat to collect Einstein under the cover of night. With the mission a success, Einstein was taken to a small secluded shack on the outskirts of the seaside town of Cromer on the east coast.

        Once safe, there was a bizarre mixture of secrecy and publicity about Einstein’s newly-found refuge. While his location was kept a closely-guarded secret, pictures were released to the Press showing Einstein posing with two attractive women holding large hunting shotguns, with Locker-Lampson’s words in the caption: “If any unauthorised person comes near they will get a charge of buckshot.”

        It was here, holed up in a shed somewhere on the Norfolk coast, that Einstein was to wait until arrangements could be made for him to leave for America. In a remarkable twist, Locker-Lampson saw fit to arrange for the noted Jewish sculptor Jacob Epstein to make a portrait of the scientist – perhaps fearing that Einstein, still with a bounty on his head, may not have the opportunity to pose for a portrait again.

        Einstein spent two hours a day for a week sitting for the portrait. Epstein found it difficult to create the portrait because Einstein was such a heavy smoker, and the shack was so small and dingy that it made it difficult to see.

        Einstein was in good humour throughout the sitting. Epstein said: “He enjoyed a joke and had many a jibe at the Nazi professors, one hundred of whom in a book had condemned his theory. ‘Were I wrong,’ he said, ‘one professor would have been quite enough’.” Because time was short, the artist considered the portrait to be unfinished. However, others regard it as one of Epstein’s greatest achievements – it is a sculpture that flickers with life and insight, and marks a dramatic period in the lives of two great men.

        Read more:

  4. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    Whilst living in his modest hut Einstein continued with important work

    Unkind tongues, such as mine own, contend that Einstein’s time in Norfolk convinced him of the reality of time travel….

    He almost certainly sat in the New Inn (ie ‘New’ because it was built in the C17 after the ‘old’ Inn burnt down) drinking and smoking but I doubt he would have been able to chat much with the local yokels. Even as recent as the 1970s the local accent was heavy like sodden clay soil. Took me months to understand what the farmer’s kids were saying. If the Headmaster hadn’t been Welsh and fluent in RP….

    • nisakiman says:

      When I first got back to UK in ’79 after nearly a decade in Asia and Australia, I used to frequent a pub called ‘The Warwick Castle’, in Maida Vale, London. (It was a great pub. Probably closed or a shadow of its former self since the smoking ban.) One of the guys I drank with regularly there was Geordie John, a lovely guy. But I think it must have taken six months before I could actually understand what he was saying, his accent was so thick. And of course, it’s not just an accent – it’s a dialect, with many words and phrases peculiar to the region. And that applies to many parts of the UK. I would guess that whatever raping, pillaging tribe hit that particular part of the country left its linguistic legacy.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    Eating Red Meat Is Just As Bad As Smoking A Cigarette: WHO

    The WHO is set to release a report naming processed red meat as carcinogenic to humans, and fresh red meat as “probably” carcinogenic.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      International health experts are set to list processed meat among the most cancer-causing substances in the world, including arsenic and asbestos. The World Health Organization (WHO) will also be listing fresh red meat in the “encyclopedia of carcinogens,” ranked as only slightly less dangerous than preserved products such as bacon, sausages, and burgers.

      The report is set to release Monday and will be a shock to the meat industry — everyone, from farmers to fast food chains, will be affected by the news. The WHO issued a warning about sugar overconsumption last year, resulting in a fall in sugar sales, which could be an indicator of what’s to come for the meat industry. The ruling could lead to warning labels and altered dietary guidelines to signal the issue.

      The Department of Health’s advisers said both processed and fresh red meat “probably” cause cancer, but the WHO will be placing processed meat in the “carcinogenic to humans” category, along with cigarettes and alcohol. The decision was made after scientists from around the world met up to review evidence on the matter.

      The North American Meat Institute claimed the report was neither logical nor necessary.

      “Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by International Agency for Research (IARC) and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard,’” Barry Carpenter, president of the North American Meat Institute, told the Daily Mail. “IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air, sit near a sun-filled window, drink wine or coffee, eat grilled food, or apply aloe vera.”

      Barry said that the risks and benefits of a food or behavior must be weighed together before telling everyone what to do.

      Current guidelines include the recommendation that adults eat no more than 70g of red meat a day, and the World Cancer Research Fund said that processed meat should be avoided altogether.

      I believe the WHO finally buried their own reputation right up their anus with their brains,this should bring international scrutiny of the WHO and hopefully is abolishion as a entity.

    • slugbop007 says:

      Here is a link to a natural foods advocacy site that will that has also mastered the art of fearmongering.

  6. harleyrider1978 says:

    Up in smoke | Neos Kosmos

    Greece’s smoking ban for indoor public spaces, first introduced in September 2010, has all but gone up in smoke.

    23 Oct 2015


    Greece’s smoking ban for indoor public spaces, first introduced in September 2010, has all but gone up in smoke. Despite government pledges of vigilance and fines, smokers continue to light up in the vast majority of restaurants, bars and cafes.

    Anti-smoking laws are only respected in public transport, medical facilities (though not always) and a small number of good, and usually pricey, restaurants. The ban appears to be completely ignored in the country’s tavernas, cafes and bars. Inspections by state authorities have eased dramatically.

    “Since the municipal police force was disbanded, inspections have only been carried out if someone makes a complaint to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO),” Attica Regional Authority officials told Kathimerini.

    Meanwhile, a four-digit telephone hotline where people could make complaints about alleged ban violations or get information is long out of order.

    Currently, a body of public health inspectors set up to carry out on-site inspections only act upon complaints regarding ban violations in hospitals. Recently, a unit visited the Metaxa Cancer Hospital in Piraeus on two occasions to stop visitors from smoking on the premises of the clinic.

    Of course one can find exceptions to the rule, as a small minority of smokers choose to respect the official restrictions, even if those are largely breached.
    “Our venue was recently booked for an engagement party. We left it up to the guests to decide whether they would light up inside the hall. To my surprise, everyone would pop out for a smoke,” a restaurant-owner in Piraeus told the newspaper. “When I asked why, they said there were kids inside the room and that it would not be fair for non-smokers to put up with cigarette smoke,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Health Ministry officials are examining ways to enforce the existing restrictions. “We need to bring the issue back into focus,” Ioannis Baskozos, general secretary of public health, told Kathimerini. “Different priorities may be put forward because of the state that the nation is in, but protecting [public health] from smoking is important,” he said.

    Baskozos met last week with Panayiotis Behrakis, chairman of the National Steering Committee for Tobacco Control and president of the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, to discuss the issue.

    An action group will be set up in the coming weeks with the participation of KEELPNO, the National School of Public Health and the Hellenic Cancer Society.

    Source: Kathimerini

    • slugbop007 says:

      Bully for the Greeks!

    • beobrigitte says:

      Greece’s smoking ban for indoor public spaces, first introduced in September 2010, has all but gone up in smoke. Despite government pledges of vigilance and fines, smokers continue to light up in the vast majority of restaurants, bars and cafes.

      Thanks, Harley! I still have a lot of holiday days to take – and was undecided about Greece. I was told that the Greek do treat their customer as kings – just as they did prior to the smoking ban but suspected that I would still be treated as a leper.

      I shall spend a few days somewhere on a Greek island!!!

    • churchmouse says:

      Thanks, harleyrider, for the kind mention — and for your comments, which are much appreciated!

      I have published a few posts countering Stoptober within the past few days and will continue on Monday evening UK time through to the 29th or 30th.

      Your comments — as well as those from Frank and his readers — are most welcome.

  7. roobeedoo2 says:

    A survey…

    The results…

    Scroll down… keep going ;)

    Exactly the same! Either people are more honest in online surveys or the NHS is throwing a huge amount of good money after bad in its unrelenting persecution of smokers. Probably both ;)

  8. churchmouse says:

    At university, I knew a number of people from Queens — fellow students.

    They were fascinating to be around. Yes, they brought their upbringing (modest, perhaps, but no safecracking or other crime!) as well as their subsequent thoughtful reflections thanks to secondary and higher education.

    Richard Feynman is no mystery either in terms of accent or philosophical/scientific development. :)

  9. beobrigitte says:

    Stigmatized Accents…
    I’m sure if there was a British politician who sounded like he came from London’s East End gangland culture (Michael Caine?), I’d probably hesitate to put my cross next to his name.

    Under NO circumstance would my cross go next to his name!! In all the years I had to travel through London I have only had 1 good experience. A woman did help me ONCE. The rest I have filed under ‘forgettable experiences’.

    I do live with people whose accent is still being stigmatized – and there are a lot of jokes about it!. I am trying to think of one bad experience in all the years I have been here……. still thinking.
    Probably the one we all laughed the most about was it. Being 7 month pregnant (and shortly before moving into own property) I still shared a house with 6 other people. One night there was only the landlord’s girlfriend and me in the house. Around the time I woke up during pregnancy (approx. 4 am) for my cup of chocolate + cigarettes I heard this almighty scream. So I went downstairs and found that there was a burglar in the house. For some obscure reason I spotted the landlord’s baseball bat, I grabbed it and ran to the open door where I could see some guy who took off the minute he saw me. So I threw the baseball bat after him and there was a weird sound of “clonk”.
    The police who came out thought I was nuts and assumed it was my huge belly that made him/?them leg it. (Even the no-so-honest-living-makers have honours!!!)

    The only politician I can think off in my area would be Paul Nuttall. The remarkable thing about him is what I know of the people around here – a warmth and never giving up.
    “We have had pubs in this country for a millennium now and what we’re finding at the moment is that 29 a week are closing and there’s been over 10,000 close since 2007. In many ways a pub is the hub of a local community.

    “When a pub closes part of a local community dies. It’s something we should be proud of and something we should preserve.

    Paul Nuttall may well be a non-smoker but he CAN SEE WHAT THE SMOKING BAN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR!!

    Scousers may be ‘poor’ and have endured the ‘posh’ arseholes waving their full wallets at them during football matches. But this does not deter them. They crack a joke and continue as they are. They never forget.

    • churchmouse says:

      Same with the men and women from Queens.

      I knew a guy at university who lived in Sunnyside (very much a working class district in Queens). His mother — an Irish immigrant (1950s) — worked as a waitress in Manhattan. One night in the 1970s, she waited on Andy Warhol and his retinue. She told her son (my friend), ‘Andy Warhol, what an a—hole.’

      I really like Andy Warhol, but that did make me laugh.

      She was a very nice woman. I met her and her husband (they married before they emigrated) once during a university parents’ weekend. Salt of the earth.

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