Aussie Life

Aussie Language

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

A new study by researchers at the University of Western Australia shows that the most trusted accent in Australia is (surprise reveal)… the Australian accent! The researchers asked their volunteers to rate six recorded speeches by three male speakers in terms of trustworthiness.The topic they spoke about was bungee jumping. (Why bungee jumping? Ask me something easier, like… is there intelligent life on other planets?) The speakers had three different accents: Australian, British and Swedish. (Why Swedish? File that alongside bungee jumping). The author of the study, Dr Cyril Grueter said ‘both British and Swedish English [accents] received lower trustworthiness ratings; so the boundary isn’t drawn between native speakers and non-native speakers but between Australian English speakers and other English speakers’. Dr Grueter did not explain why this should be so, so I’ll suggest an explanation. In fact, two. The first is the obvious one that we are tribal, and we trust the members of our tribe more than we trust others. The second possible reason is more interesting—we speak a demotic accent that flattens out differences. This is unlike Britain, where you identify which class you belong to in society the minute you open your mouth. But the Australian accent runs across all classes and is broadly inclusive. There is evidence that the Australian accent developed very quickly—by the 1830s, just fifty years after the first settlement. And it was produced by what linguists call ‘flattening down’. The settlement contained people from all over the British Isles, all marked by regional accents. To make themselves understood by those around them they consciously flattened out the differences in their pronunciations. This became even more pronounced in their children. With the result that an early visitor called the Australian accent ‘the most pure English on earth’, meaning untainted by the many British regional accents. And, with some ups and downs, it’s been that way ever since. So the Aussie accent is not just a tribal indicator, it’s also the voice ‘of the people’—of all the people. No wonder it conveys a bucket-load of trustworthiness.

‘Book burning’ refers to the ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials for ideological purposes. May 10, 1933 is perhaps the most famous book burning in history when the Nazis burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of ‘un-German’ books, bringing in an era of state censorship and control of culture. But if you thought the horror of book burning was over, think again. In Canada they have held a ceremonial book burning in the name of indigenous reconciliation. The Providence Catholic School Board removed around 4,700 books from school shelves and held a symbolic burning of about 30 copies of these books—including Tintin in America and Asterix and the Indians because (they said) they contained ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘outmoded history’. The book burning happened back in 2019 but has only just come to light following a Radio Canada investigation. Apparently no one involved in this book burning stopped to think that the books they were complaining about are comic books—not serious treatises on political theory or propaganda urging violence — just comic books. The people who did this would make the Nazis proud!

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