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The Accent on Englishness

© 2008 Belinda Kroll

Originally posted at Graham Carter’s website ( http://www.grahamcarter.net )

What is the American female's perception of the English male? Ask almost any American female with a pulse what she thinks is the most attractive accent a man can have, and you will invariably hear "English." This, with a sudden fluttering of the hand as the female in question fans herself while imagining the iconic sopping wetness of Colin Firth, the impish grin of Jude Law, the bumbling charm of Hugh Grant, the sultry tones of Orlando Bloom, the tortured stares of Matthew MacFadyen, the geeky enthusiasm of David Tennant (oops, Scottish!), the incredulous exclamations of Jack Davenport, the blue-eyed wonder of James McAvoy (OK, so he's Scottish, too)… You will also hear that, despite the running joke of bad teeth, the accent trumps everything. The man can lack social grace, any sense of style, and possibly not know how to groom himself. Yet, once he opens that mouth of his and speaks the woman's name with his clipped, slightly ironic accent (for all Englishmen sound moderately amused by some recent irony), he has her adoring attention for the next ten minutes, at least. (All right, I'll admit I'm one of the aforementioned ladies, though I temper my attraction, I hope, with the realization that the accent is not everything. Just mostly everything.)

Why is this the case, you ask? I reply with another question: How many American men, that you know of, use a multi-syllabic word to express surprised pleasure? Examples include "brilliant", "excellent", and "terrific". I can't name one, and I've been surrounded by them my entire life. There is something about the English accent which makes an American female swoon, both because of its novelty, and the assumption that all English men are highly intelligent (see above, with the multi-syllabic expressions of pleasure). It is assumed that all Englishmen are impressively literate, having read at least one Shakespearean play and—pay attention, this is important—understood it. An Englishman drinks tea, and does not worry whether this is masculine or not (a personal attraction of mine). Additionally, all Englishmen must be gentlemen, because they are all viscounts, earls, and, if you're very lucky, dukes, in disguise. Or at least related to one. He will always get the door for you, hold your umbrella when it rains, offer to dance with you in a manner that doesn't bring lewd acts to mind, and greet your mother politely and congenially, thus ensuring her opinion that he is perfect. Because the fact of the matter is, thanks to the English accent, American women assume the

Englishman is perfect… if only because the American male most definitely is not. Now, let's face facts: the historical romance industry here in America is firmly rooted in the belief that the formal, murmured tones of the English hero has every heroine swooning happily ever after. And American women eat these stories up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime snack. Is it any wonder, then, that the English male is so tightly wound into the fantasies of American females? Especially when we see them in interviews acting just like their romantic fiction counterparts? Who knew a man could be so clever and cute at the same time? Can anyone blame us poor American females? I should think not. We never stood a chance.

Belinda Kroll is an American historical fiction writer with a focus on sweet romance with paranormal elements. She is the mind behind Worderella Writes ( http://worderella.com ). She is currently working on a Victorian novel set in 1887 Compton Beauchamp, England.

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