There have been a few questions of late asking for help identifying accents of TV and movie characters. This one about Downton Abbey got 7 upvotes and 0 downvotes, but was closed as "too localized". This one about Inglourious Basterds is still open as of now. This much older question about various actors was voted +5 and received two upvoted answers.

Should we accept questions asking about the accents of fictional characters?

How about the accents of real public figures?

  • Yeah it is a great topic. We should accept such questions. Mar 1, 2013 at 4:59
  • Downton Abbey has been reopened (as of March 1).
    – J.R.
    Mar 1, 2013 at 23:42
  • 1
    I like the concept of questions about real accents much better than questions about faked accents in movies.
    – Mr Lister
    Mar 2, 2013 at 17:05

3 Answers 3


I think that they're fine. The Downton Abbey question is probably NARQ for being overly broad as it asks for the identification of an entire cast of characters. The Brad Pitt question is fine, IMO. Ideally though, both these questions should have provided a link to a sample of the accent.

That said, I don't think either question would be out of place on http://movies.stackexchange.com which accepts questions on both movies and television programs.

  • 1
    I agree. While not necessarily off-topic here, I think it would be more appropriate to ask questions about accent of TV & Movie characters on movies.stackexchange.com, since the accents aren't guaranteed to have any "real-world" correlation or justification.
    – ghoppe
    Mar 1, 2013 at 16:23

Pronunciation is on-topic, so accents probably are. I see nothing wrong with asking about the accents of public figures, or even anonymous "vox pop" interviewees if there is an example to listen to1.

However, asking about portrayals of fictional characters is probably off-topic: that would be a question about the actor's interpretation. A well-known example would be Dick van Dyke's "Mockney" [false Cockney] in Mary Poppins.

In the specific case of Downton Abbey, or indeed any dramatic production, the actors are portraying how things might have been said in their particular setting, and even then they are only making an attempt to do so (which might be more or less successful). To attempt to regularise that here is out of scope: the question should be directed to the production team as only they can provide an authoritative answer.

1 Care needs to be taken with copyright: a link to a clip on a broadcaster's website should be fine.

  • 2
    +1: I've probably been one of the most vociferous in not wanting ELU to concern itself with (usually, fanciful) creative interpretations of accents. Like all Brits, I find some of Hollywood's finest are frankly ludicrous when they try to portray our various regional or "class-based" accents and dialectal phrasings. Not that they usually care about "accuracy" anyway - they're interested in how they come across to people who don't know the target accent. But like you I have no real problem with the accents of public figures (except they may sometimes be Too Localised! :) Mar 1, 2013 at 22:33
  • I'm hesitant about this, because it has the potential to degenerate into offensive generalizations e.g. "ignorant" Southern or rural U.S. accents, "elitist" or "Imperialist" or "Colonial" British accents, and sooner or later, some Yiddishe-themed inquiry that is not Jewish-friendly. Movies SE is a better fit, but EL&U is already being bashed for our supposed fussiness. Sigh... I guess it is acceptable but I'd suggest keeping an eye on it, so that stereotypes are identified yet not perpetuated. Mar 2, 2013 at 1:59

This is one of those areas where I'm likely to find myself more concerned with how the question is asked than what the subject is about.

In other words, a question about accents wouldn't necessarily be out-of-bounds by default, but I'd hope it would be carefully crafted and somewhat researched.

I'm not a big fan of the Inglorious Basterds question as it is now:

Which accent has Brad Pitt adopted in the movie Inglourious Basterds for the role of Lieutenant Aldo Raine?

I'd be more accepting of the question if the O.P. at least at mentioned something about the character and the accent – for example, where is this character supposedly from? (This information is readily found here.) It might also be helpful to include a link so that those unfamiliar with the accent could have a listen.

Also, it's not very clear what the question is really asking about. What is the accent? It seems like any of these answers could be considered correct to some extent:

  • An American accent
  • A southern U.S. accent
  • An Appalachian accent
  • A Tennessean accent
  • A hillbilly/redneck accent
  • An Allegheny accent

But I figured that out just by reading the character's description in an IMDB database, and listening to 25 seconds of a YouTube clip.

It might be better to ask something more along the lines of:

I know the Aldo Raine character is from Tennessee. Does his accent seem accurately portrayed?

or, if the O.P. has something different in mind, be more specific about the question.

  • 2
    That's a reasonable point of view (rewriting the question)...except...what if you don't know where to start from? I can pretty accurately say that Pitt's rendition is a very poor attempt at a hillbilly accent, which culturally sounds right but doesn't really sound like people from the Tennessee area. And others can judge this answer by voting. This fits very well within the strictures of ELU questions. Is the suggestion then that "Does Pitt's accent accurately reflect where he is supposed to come from?". What if you don't know (from the plot) where he is supposed to have come from?
    – Mitch
    Mar 2, 2013 at 2:26
  • 1
    @Mitch: Unless I know more about what the O.P. really wants to know, it's hard for me to say for sure what should be asked. But, in the case you describe, one could always say something along the lines of, "I can't figure out where the character is supposed to be from; I've done some research, but none of the sources I checked gave any indication. Would this character's accent give any clue as to where they are from?" I think that's better than, "Which accent does this character use?"
    – J.R.
    Mar 2, 2013 at 4:21

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