Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today in news language: Whaddaya, nuts?

Looks like a little confusion on the Language Arts Desk over at New York's Hometown Newspaper. The thug in question speaks "perfect English" on the front; inside,* he has something called a "North American accent," but on Twitter, it's "unaccented English." Given the interest last month in the accent of evil -- "linguistic experts studying the voice on the YouTube clip believed the voice bore a definite British accent, most likely from London," the same reporter wrote -- what could it possibly be?

The story doesn't make things much clearer:

The newest voice of Islamic State terrorism sounds alarmingly like a son of the Midwest.

Alarmingly? What did he do, say "Missouruh" at graduation or something?

A newly released Islamic State propaganda film ends with the gun-toting jihadist speaking in perfect English, raising speculation that he’s a homegrown Muslim militant.

The man with the North American accent then joins in a mass execution.

Which sounds a bit like backtracking -- from Midwestern to "perfect" and then back to, um, "North American." Wonder what that could mean?

While his identity remains a secret, his inflections indicate he’s likely from either the United States or Canada.

There were suggestions the terrorist could come from Minnesota, home to a cadre of at least 15 homegrown terrorists who left to join the ongoing fighting in Syria.

OK. Guess we're ruling out the Bootheel, Maine and Texas, then -- though I'd still like to know who the "inflections" indicate Canada to, or where the "suggestions" came from. (Junior league players, take note: you don't need the passive voice to avoid responsibility.)

Given New York's role as center of the known universe, it's especially cool to see a New York paper tossing around ideas like "unaccented" and "perfect." The AP Stylebook's quaint instructions on "dialect" remain unchanged from the original 1977 version:
When there is a compelling reason to use dialect, words or phrases are spelled phonetically, and apostrophes show missing letters or sounds: "Din't ya yoosta live at Toidy-Toid Street and Sekun' Amya? Across from da moom pictures?"
There is, of course, a lot more going on these days in the language of news and the language of political violence. But it does seem worth pondering whether the Daily News looks anything at all up before it turns the adjective-slingers loose to make mayhem in the fear centers of the brain.

* Given that the URL still says "unaccented English," this one might have been changed upon reflection. Alas.

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Anonymous raYb said...

That's just somebody filling up space with words to support a nonsensical assumption.
Perfect English is in the ear of the behearer. London perfect English" being quite different from Jamaican "perfect English" and from Australian "perfect English."
Everyone has an accent. Oddly, I didn't have one when I lived down South, but moving above the Mason-Dixon Line gave me one. Must have been the latitude.

12:24 PM, September 22, 2014  

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