Drunken Australians and the Truth About Their Accents

There’s a new story circulating on the inter-web right now which tells us that the Australian accent came about because the European settlers to Australia were all drunk and so they passed on their slurred speech to their children.

Apparently these settlers would come home from a hard day herding kangaroo or sheering rabbits or something and get drunk on a case of VB then talk in slurred vowels to their children who’d adopt the same drunken style when they spoke.

But in the words of the renowned linguist David Crystal it’s “complete bollocks”.

In his refutation blog he goes on to cite the reasons rationally and carefully.

  • the author of the “drunken” story is by no means an expert in the study of historical sociolinguistics and phonetics
  • there is no evidence at all that Australian settlers got drunk and spoke to their children like tha
  • drunken speech has little in common with the examples the author cited which do not actual support the case the author is trying to make

and so on.

But being rational, thoughtful and scientific has no place in the modern media and responses like Crystal’s have been utterly ignored for the far more salacious idea that Australians were all drunk.

Because a drunken Australian fits the stereotype, you see. It’s easy to handle and the average Daily Mail reader can just about understand it*.

So… when you see a story on the interweb about how an accent is forced by drunkenness or laziness or the weather or whatever… treat it with scepticism it deserves…

* the irony is palpable: to help denounce one stereotype I’m using another, namely the “Daily Mail reader” stereotype which has it that all Daily Mail readers have barely double-digit IQs and the reasoning power of onion.

Posted in English.

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