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"I don't have an accent; I'm from England. This is just how words sound when they're pronounced properly."

The tendency of British characters in American works to speak with upper-class accents (the academic term is Received Pronunciation, more colloquially, it's called the Queen's English or BBC English,) even when played by actual Brits, who may well "posh up" their accent. It's a case of Britain Is Only London but even more so. It's like Britain Is Only Mayfair (a very high-class area of London).

This trope is about Hollywood thinking RP is the only British accent, or that it's the only one educated Britons use while everyone else talks like they had a Cockney jammed down their throats. To contrast, the trope is often lamented by Britons who speak one of myriad other accents available and rarely get recognition, and can fuel stereotypes and people assuming there's a (nonexistent) 'British accent'. As the page quote suggests, this might stem largely from the fact that many people think any 'non-rhotic' accent (where the 'r' is pronounced 'aa' as opposed to 'arr' in words like car and guard) is British. In reality, both the UK and the USA have their fair share of both rhotic and non-rhotic accents to go around.

On the other hand, this trope is heavily justified in Britain itself. If someone mentions a "correct" pronunciation or if they have "no accent", they do mean RP, which is both relatively "posh" and the formal "standard", also known as "Newscaster English". This is similar to how Americans say they have "no accent" when they are actually referring to Midwestern US pronunciation. Only so long ago, people paid for "elocution" lessons to learn to speak "properly", and actors from all over the UK were encouraged to lose their natural regional accents in favour of RP - for example, Patrick Stewart is a Yorkshireman by birth, but speaks like, well, Patrick Stewart. It should be mentioned, though, that modern RP is significantly less posh than the standard 'British' accent you will hear on American TV.

A common Running Gag among Britons (and somewhat Truth in Television) is that Americans will always assume any British accent other than the posh 1950s one is Australian[1]. Somewhat forgiveable with Estuary English, but completely bizarre when applied to Oop North. Referenced in, among other things, Top Gear. The Quintessential British Gentleman probably speaks this way.

Also consider that foreign speakers (at least in Europe) often learn this variety in school, especially at university, where RP is the standard. In other countries, like in Latin American ones, for obvious reasons, learn American English, and others, like those from the Sinosphere (China, Japan, South Korea, etc.) can't decide which one is the right one to teach.

Examples of I Am Very British include:


Anime and Manga

  • The English dub for Yu-Gi-Oh! gave Bakura a Very British accent as a cultural counterpart of his very polite speech patterns in the Japanese script.

    Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series (made and voice-acted by a Brit) parodies it to hell and back by giving him lines like "Cor blimey! That was a smashing manoeuvre! Good show, chaps!" and "Lashings of hot ginger beer for everyone! ...I'm British, you know."


Film

  • Keira Knightley in most of her movies. Not so much in Real Life.
  • Inglourious Basterds example: when Hicox is getting briefed for his mission, they all sound so British it hurts. Then you suddenly recognize Dr. Evil talking. Sort of Truth in Television -- there are still people in the UK who talk that way, they're just few and far between (see Stephen Fry for a famous example outside the Royal Family). Fifty years ago, even more people talked like that, and whilst the common solider would sound far more ordinary, the top brass would be more likely to be made up of the upper classes.
  • As was pointed out in an episode of QI, the classical British pilot of the movies talks in this fashion because the actors who played them were almost invariably upper class fellows like David Niven. In Real Life, the RAF of World War II drew most of their pilots from the middle classes, but ask anyone to do an impression of an RAF pilot and they're practically guaranteed to attempt a Received Pronunciation "Tally-ho." They also had pilots from a wide variety of other countries.
  • Selena Gomez in Monte Carlo when she's playing an American character pretending to be a different, British character, taken to an extreme when she momentarily forgets to do the accent and tries to retroactively make up for it. Also, the British character Gomez's character is pretending to be, also played by Gomez, but justified in that she is a posh heiress and her accent is more convincing than the American's.
  • The first half of Oliver!, where the difference is made stronger due to a juxtaposition of proper and Cockney.
  • Richard E. Grant's superposh accent in most of his films (e.g. as Withnail) stems from his childhood in colonial Swaziland speaking exaggeratedly upper-class "period English," overlaid with drama-school RP.
  • Field Marshall Bernard "Monty" Montgomery in Patton. Patton even mockingly imitates him in one scene.
  • Chris Egan's ridiculously poshed up accent in Letters To Juliet (Egan is Australian by the way). Even more noticeable when he's speaking with Vanessa Redgrave, whose accent is clearly what he was going for but doesn't quite make it.
  • William Moseley in Walden Media's The Chronicles of Narnia films speaks on a completely different level of British-ness than his fellow cast members (including his own siblings). With his few lines in Voyage of the Dawn Treader he still manages to out-Brit the rest of the cast.
    • Funnily enough Richard Dempsey who played the same character in the BBC adaptations of the books did exactly the same thing.


Live Action TV

  • Dollhouse: The Trope Namer is Adelle DeWitt, who is played by British actress Olivia Williams, but with a poshed-up accent. Under the influence of a drug, she says "Still you have to admit, I am... very British.".
  • Travers in CSI: Miami. Notably once pronounced "Derby" as "deer-bee".
  • Peyton in CSI New York
  • Averted with Daphne in Frasier, who speaks with a Mancunian accent. Or rather, what is supposed to be a Mancunian accent. Averted with almost every British character in Frasier, though Daphne's family suffer a greater accent-drift than she does, making you wonder if they're doing it on purpose.
  • Buffy: Giles and Wesley and well pretty much any watcher really. Also found in Angel. At least for Giles, it's eventually made clear that the accent is something of a put-on for the character as well as the actor. Wesley's accent, however, gets less posh the more time he spends in America.
    • Band Candy shows that Giles' real accent is the same as his actor's real accent. He just does the more posh one to fit in more with the other Watchers.
    • Even vampires such as Spike (or Spoik) and Drusilla play up to stereotypes with their silly accents. But because they are basically Victorian nutters, it works.
      • Much like Giles, Spike's accent is shown in a flashback to be entirely fake and that he had a different accent (also British, but much different) before he decided to use the one he currently uses to sound more badass. James Marsters (Spike) actually based it on the real accent of Anthony Stewart Head (Giles).
    • The Watchers Council being entirely full of posh dudes in tweed who speak like some variation upon Rex Harrison. Even the surly 'lower class' henchmen have this ludicrous 'pip pip cheerio God Save the Queen!' dialogue.
      • This troper theorizes that they're doing the same thing Giles does. They're putting on a fake accent to sound more posh.
    • Depends also on the writer - some simply write amusing scenarios and get the actors to flesh it out. Joss Whedon went to a renowned English independent school so has direct experience of such prim, tweedy characters. Others (such as Jane Espenson in particular) attempt to introduce British "slang" and end up sounded daft because they are unfamiliar with this type of dialogue.
    • Averted for all of roughly two seconds in 'Hush' with Giles' Liverpudlian girlfriend Olivia.
  • In another Joss Whedon show, the only British people there speak in a Cockney accent. One episode involves River Tam faking it really, really badly.
  • Also Dr Helen Magnus from Sanctuary. Justified because she is very old so it's her real accent, not a put-on.
  • Marcus from Babylon 5, in an attempt to sound Arthurian.
  • Bones:
    • Anyone aside the main cast in "Yanks in the U.K."
    • Averted later on by Mr Nigel Murrey who speaks in his own Midlands accent throughout his appearances on the show.
  • The Daily Show -- It just goes to show the power of the trope that in this bit on UK politics, Jon Stewart completes Gordon Brown's sentences in a posh accent. Brown is Scottish.
    • For those of us who can't access the video or aren't familiar with Gordon Brown, this is Brown's real accent. Compare that to the Very British accent if you can.
      • Bear in mind that Jon very rarely tries to do legitimate impressions of people, and usually goes straight to the nearest stereotype due to Rule of Funny.
  • Higgins in Magnum, P.I.
  • In one episode of Murder, She Wrote we have a father-daughter pair where the daughter is a social-climbing gold digger who has taught herself to speak like a lady, where the father still speaks like a workingman.
  • Wee Britain in Arrested Development is an entire neighborhood of Very British People, with the only possible exception being Rita's uncle, who is played by a Canadian and sounds more Australian than British.


Professional Wrestling

  • Katarina Waters aka Katie Lea Burchill/Winter has an RP accent but did posh herself up considerably when she was in WWE and then again in TNA. Any non-kayfabe interviews will show a big difference between her real accent and the one she uses in promos. Possibly justified because in professional wrestling, the wrestlers are taught to speak slowly in promos and annunciate so that the audience can hear them clearly.
  • William Regal poshed up his Manchester accent when he was first in WWE as his character was meant to be a proper British upper class twit and would naturally have a posh accent. He dropped this around 2004-ish and has used his normal accent ever since.
  • Booker T and Sharmell gave themselves over the top British accents when they became King Booker and Queen Sharmell and started acting like bumbling upper class twits.
  • Layla El is British but has lived in America for a long time so her accent has faded quite a bit but she did posh herself up when she hooked up with William Regal as his "Queen". She did a similar thing when she formed Lay Cool as a listen to one of her promos from then and a regular interview will show a huge difference.


Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid usually plays this straight where British characters have British accents, with varying levels of justification. Major Zero is an ex-SAS man from Exeter and Liquid Snake is... well, Liquid Snake. Slightly less justified is the supposedly Mancunian Strangelove. The only exception is the Praying Mantis advert narrator.
  • The Icarus from Sacrifice is an obvious 'stereotypical RAF pilot' reference and speaks in an extremely posh upper class accent (in contrast to the rest of the Yeomen, who mostly speak with various lower-class accents from both Britain and the USA).


Web Original

 "You're the tickity-tock of Big Ben's cock, sir!"

Western Animation

  • South Park - Zig-Zagging Trope - First, Pip has this accent. In The Snuke, the Queen has one too, but her underlings don't. They also give Gordon Brown a London accent that sounds a bit like their version of Russell Crowe even though he's from Scotland. Finally, they don't give Richard Dawkins this accent even though he does have one (and complained about the lack of it in the episode).
  • On Phineas and Ferb Lawrence Fletcher, the dad, has this, but Ferb seems not to, though as a child that has spent his formative years in the United States he can reasonably not have one.
  • In an episode of Pinky and The Brain where Pinky assembles the world leaders, Prime Minister John Major has a stereotypical English accent instead of the South London accent he has in real life.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine: Extremely noticeable with Gordon in later episodes. He is even based on the same model as the Flying Scotsman, an actual steam locomotive that was manufactured in Britain.
  • One of the Sports Popples, Big Kick, talks in a British accent.

Notes

  1. ...and to add to the confusion, a posh Australian accent sounds very similar to a posh British one...
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