Charlize on the influence of climate (and Guinness) on linguistics

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/02/03 15:39 -05:00, original URI:

Charlize Theron was on Conan the other night, and she had a few interesting words to say about accents and tricks on picking up accents. The bit of the interview went something like this:

Conan: We're back, sitting here with Charlize Theron, and I wanted to ask you something. You've had so much success as an actor, and one of the things you can do that really impresses me because I can't do it is that you can do these great dialects. You are able to pick up when you are doing a character --
Charlize: You did a very good Irish accent there.
Conan: I was doing the Luck Charms guy.
{insert bad 'pirate' Irishisms}
Conan: If I was ever in a real movie, people would be horrified because everyone else would be acting realistic and they'd say "Here comes the Irish guy"
{more bad 'pirate' Irishisms}
Conan: So uh, no it wouldn't be good. But you've um... what was the hardest dialect to master so far, for you.
Charlize: For me, it was Minnesota, the Minnesota accent.
{looks at someone in the audience who responded to this}
Are you from Minnesota? It's a touch one, I tell you! But then, I worked with someone in Los Angeles, because usually I get it pretty fast. It didn't happen.
Conan: It's a subtle accent, is that what it is?
Charlize: It's not, no. I mean, yeah there's always subtleties, you don't want to overdo it, you know? But, it's just very specific.
Conan: Right.
Charlize: But then, I got off the plane, and landed in Minnesota in the heart of the winter. I spoke like a Minnesotian [sic?], just like that.
Conan: So being in the cold weather automatically made you speak --
Charlize: It made complete sense why they speak that way, yes. Because their O's are very tight, and really rounded, and when you get out you're like "Oh, it's cold!" and everything is clipped, it's very cold. And then if you think of a Southern accent, all you have to do is go to the South, and sit in a rocking chair, and drink a Mint Julep, and be in the heat, and all of the sudden you start speaking like a Southerner. I swear to God, it's weather dependent, I'm telling you.
Conan: Right, so you're thinking if you can get in that climate you can actually speak in that voice.
Charlize: If you go to Ireland, you'll speak that way. After four Guinness you'll be fine.

 There was a bit more on Guinness after that, though nothing else related to language. :-)

Now it is worth noting that no one of the Walsh family on Beverly Hills, 90210 ever showed even the least bit of a Minnesota accident. Of course Charlize was unavailable to help them (being 15 during the formative years when the accent would have been most important to have).

Perhaps Victoria Principal (who had a Southern accent that was not entirely awful) in the first few seasons of Dallas could have helped out.

Ah well, it's too late anyway. It was just fun to see someone who isn't a linguistic talking about things like tight and rounded vowels. Though I am not entirely sure she is using the right terminology here. :-)


This post brought to you by  (U+0aa3, a.k.a. GUJARATI LETTER NNA)

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