Hugh Laurie, the quintessential Englishman, had millions of Americans believing that he was just as American as his television character Gregory House. It’s all in the accent it seems – the pronunciation; learning the phonology of a particular dialect and copying it. Hugh Laurie did it so well that he fooled millions and, even when it became widely known that he is not in fact American, his character of House was still accepted as being so.
What a bobby-dazzler you are Hugh. You’re a bottler! Of course, if I did meet Hugh and told him I thought he was a ‘bottler’ he would not be pleased and accept the compliment; instead, no doubt he would be extremely offended. The reason is that, even though we may be able to ‘trick’ people by sounding like we belong to a certain cultural/social group, it is our understanding (or misunderstanding) of the semantics and different ways of using words within that group which indicate ‘belonging’ and that is harder to replicate. For me a ‘bottler’ is Australian slang meaning that a person is exceptional – their blood is worth bottling. On the other hand, in English slang, a ‘bottler’ is a coward. (http://www.bbc.co.uk).
So then, apart from Standard English and regional dialects and different accents, we also have speech registers that are “varieties associated with particular contexts or purposes” (Borjars & Burridge, 2010, p. 8). Slang, regional idioms and colloquialisms are part of a socio-cultural speech register.
To illustrate this, I have chosen a YouTube video showing Hugh Laurie and Ellen DeGeneres baffling with their slang. Please enjoy.
Borjars, K. and Burridge, K. (2010). Introducing English grammar. (2ed). London: Hodder Education.