Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brits Forced to Adopt Bad American Accents to Use iPhone Features; Dick Van Dyke Repeatedly Cited

The Register (Biting the Hand That Feeds IT), November 19, 2008, Google tells the world how to talk; Received Pronunciation not received, Scots scotched by Bill Ray

Google's voice search is, it turns out, optimised for North American accents and has distinct problems understanding proper English as the BBC defines it - forcing English users to adopt the kind of dodgy accents not usually seen outside a karaoke night.

Google's iPhone application warns users that "Voice Search only works in English, and works best for North American English accents", as noted by Cult of Mac, but one doesn't expect to have to adopt an septic twang just to get an internet search completed - though that appears to be the case.

The Telegraph reports that a Scot asking for iPhone was offered searches for Sex instead, while a Welsh accent delivered "gorillas" and "kitchen sink". Even a Surrey accent failed, delivering "my sister"...

Clearly we can't sit by and watch our very language be attacked in this way, and must petition the BBC to create their own Voice Search application that refuses to respond to any sound containing so much as a hint of regional inflection.

Meanwhile we'll have to content ourselves with laughing at iPhone users as they attempt American accents that would make Dick Van Dyke look accomplished.


The Independent, November 19th, 2008, Cyberclinic: Computer says "Sorry, didn't catch that" by Rhodri Marsden

In the past few days, British iPhone users have been bellowing into their phones in a range of timbres and accents that make them sound like they're auditioning for a place at Jon Culshaw's Elementary School of Impressionism. That's because Google have just launched a Voice Search facility for their Google Mobile App; it senses when you lift the iPhone to your head, it beeps, awaits for search data to emerge from your mouth - like, I dunno, maybe "BNP postcode search" and then presents the results on the screen for you. That theoretically saves you approximately 10 seconds that you would have spent keying stuff in on-screen, although in practice it only works if you adopt the kind of ludicrous transatlantic accent deployed by TV chef Robert Irvine (oblique reference there, I know, but if you don't indulge in TV cooking shows as much as I do, just replace "Robert Irvine" with "Dick van Dyke".)


Just wanted to point out that the traditional Dick Van Dyke joke falls apart when you're talking about doing an American accent, because he actually has one. Being an American and all.

THIS JUST IN: Joke Aged Over Four Decades Made New by Fresh Young Comic

The Telegraph, December 30, 2008, Stars who will shine in 2009: Kevin Bishop by Neil LaBute

My discovery of the year is the young actor/comedian Kevin Bishop. I had the pleasure of working with him on my play Fat Pig and through that experience discovered his work on British television, namely Star Stories and his own sketch comedy show, The Kevin Bishop Show. Trust me, this little bastard is quick as a whip and funny as hell. Like all good comics, his timing is impeccable and his eagerness to please is only outshone by his ability to do it. His creative mind leaves me breathless and his impression of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins puts me on the floor. Every time.


As the Teletubbies put it, "Again, again!"

Or, as they say on Just a Minute, "Repetition!"

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm not even going to make any excuses for being so poor at updating this blog...

The Sun, December 26, 2008, The Sun guide to the best films

THERE is no better day than Boxing Day to put your feet up and watch a movie on the box.

Many channels are packing today’s schedules with big films – so to help you choose which ones to watch, Sun film critic THE SNEAK has picked his festive favourites.

MARY POPPINS, ITV1, 3.25pm: Julie Andrews is magical as the singing nanny. Shame about Dick Van Dyke’s accent (1964). *****


D.V.D.'s accent is worse than a nice meal at a phony Irish place in the Poconos:

The Times, December 12, 2008, Escape to the Pocono Mountains by Darren Taffinder.

For dinner, we tried the nicer looking of two Irish pubs called Siamsa. Located on the site of an old bank, Siamsa was about as authentic as Dick van Dyke’s Cockney accent in Mary Poppins. However, what we ate was really nice...


The Watford Observer, December 8, 2008, London's Lions - A Mascot To Take Pride In by Catherine Cain

Consequently, last week, Australians were treated to the image of a spotty cockney yoof, taunting their national pride and laying down the gauntlet for 2012.

Well, I think it was a cockney. Having heard a clip from the ’campaign’ I’m not sure that it wasn’t actually Dick Van Dyke reprising his seminal role as Bert the chimney sweep in
Moiry Poppins.


And a zillion others. I'll update more often in the new year. Now I'm going to go delete all the starred Dick Van Dyke links in my Gmail inbox.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A long post, but there's a pony in there somewhere...

Sadly, I lost an audio reference to Dick Van Dyke's accent a couple weeks ago due to my podcast listening habits -- I delete things as soon as I'm done listening to them, so the episode of The Now Show which had an extended joke about the infamous bad cockney accent is now long gone. Dang. It was a pretty good one, too. So good, in fact, that I told it to my girlfriend, which means that I was an American doing a sarcastic impression of a Brit doing an intentionally bad impression of an American doing a bad Cockney accent. You see how these things echo down the ages?


Working our way more or less backwards through the references, most recent to least, we'll start with this review of voice recognition software...

The Inquirer, August 15, 2008, 1:03 PM, "The FBI's technology just isn't good enough" by Nick Booth

While Naturally Speaking can recognise eight different US accents, it thinks there is only one British accent.

"Bloimey Mooray Poppuns," as language expert Dick Van Dyke once said. "Thoy thinks us fore-runners are all the soime!"


The following reference is pretty specific...

The Memphis Flyer, August 14th, 2008, "Of Mice & Menace: New Moon actors crash Harold Pinter's Birthday Party" by Chris Davis.

"The cast's collective ability to use a foreign accent is not one of the production's stronger points, and much of their generally good acting is subverted by bad diction. TheatreWorks veteran Mark Rutledge is appropriately mundane as Petey, a mousy presence whose boring daily rituals transform themselves into absurd comedy, but his weird pronunciations get in the way of otherwise honest work. The same might be said for Sylvia Wilson's interpretation of Meg, Petey's talkative, sweetly twisted wife whose utter simplicity, even during the play's more perverse moments, is ultimately winning, even if she sounds a bit like Dick Van Dyke on a combination of helium and lithium.


The Coventry Telegraph, Aug 15th, 2008, "Daniel's so happy to be in Bert's shoes" by Marion Mcmullen

The infamous mock Cockney accent aired by Dick Van Dyke in the Mary Poppins movie has been banished, but the dancing is more spectacular than ever."


The Sun, August 13th, 2008, Review of A Good Year.

Armed with the worst English accent since Dick Van Dyke, (Russell) Crowe plays Max Skinner, an odious bond trader forced to re-assess his soulless existence when he inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence.


The first sentence I've pulled here may be one of the stupidest things I've yet seen in a critique of D.V.D.'s accent.

The Star Online, August 6th, 2008, "Say that again, please" By Mumtaj Begum and Zack Yusof.

"Well, the thing is, while everyone kind of forgets that Hugh Laurie (House MD), Damien Lewis (Life), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) and, now, young Jim Sturgess starring in the upcoming film, 21, are actually from England, the same cannot be said of some of their American counterparts."

So, the thing is, kind of (*SIGH*) while some actors doing American accents are actually from England and you can forget their nationality, the same cannot be said of American actors doing English accents. (You know, except for the Americans who actually can do British accents.) Brilliant.

"Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Simply horrible. Need we say more? Van Dyke’s crime against the English accent is a heinous one indeed. Cockney, schmockney as they say."


I warned you that this movie would be back...

The Sun, August 8th, 2008, "Sneak review: Fred Clause"

Dick Van Dyke had an excuse for doing a terrible Cockney accent in Mary Poppins – he is American.

But how Brit Rachel Weisz can explain her 'you wot' effort in Fred Claus is anyone’s guess.

Even EastEnders would have to turn down the Oscar-winner. Thankfully, her role as Fred’s girlfriend is fairly limited.

Bonus marks for spelling "Claus" incorrectly.


This is an interesting article that manages to get about halfway through before trotting out the D.V.D. cliché. At least he shares billing with Guy Richie.

Den of Geek, July 31, 2008, "The Children's Film Foundation: Andrew recalls the heyday of a film company dedicated to the younger viewer" by Andrew Roberts

Mary Field, the CFF’s Chief Executive believed that provincial audiences would not understand regional dialects - and so the CFF promoted RP speech. To a 2008 filmgoer this can make the dialogue of a CFF film sound utterly hilarious, but then after a bout of either The Goonies (a film with possibly the most garbled actors in the history of English-speaking cinema) or the public school mockney of the Guy Ritchie/Dick Van Dyke School of Dialect, a 1950s CFF offering can be very refreshing contrast. Filming was often carried out during the school holidays and a fast growing lead actor often provided a real challenge to the enterprising film maker.


Macleans, July 30th, 2008, "How Do You Cast a Musical?" by Jaime Weinman

"What musical would you nominate as the next one for this reality-show format? I’m going with Eliza Doolittle and Higgins from My Fair Lady — the opportunities for hilarious Dick Van Dyke-esque Cockney accents, and non-singing actors trying to sound like Rex Harrison, are infinite."

Much like the infinite variety of complaints about D.V.D.'s accent.


Here's one from the butt of many jokes on The News Quiz, Jeremy Clarkson:

The Sunday Times, July 27th, 2008, "By ’eck, our funny accents are the envy of the world" by Jeremy Clarkson

"And no. You cannot try to adopt a Yorkshire accent because unless you are from Yorkshire you will shorten the word 'the' to a 't', like Robert Carlyle did in The Full Monty. That’s wrong. Dick Van Dyke wrong. Ray Winstone’s Cold Mountain Deep South... London wrong. Sean Connery in everything he’s ever done wrong. In Yorkshire the word 'the' is replaced by the briefest pause and a small nod of the head."

Dear GOD, the Brits are specific, aren't they?


The Times, July 26, 2008, "Questions answered: Flapping kit, regional accents and Welsh names"

Q: From Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard in Gone with the Wind to Jude Law in Cold Mountain, British actors have been able to pull off US Southern accents quite well. Other regional accents work, but not so convincingly. Why is this?

A: As you move north through Wales, the accent becomes harsher and less musical on the ear. The same is true in Ireland, as it is in England — the softness of the West Country burr dissipates rapidly as you travel north. The same is true in America. Why this should be I know not, but softer, gentler accents are much easier to imitate than their harsher northern cousins.

Huw Beynon, Llandeilo

Historically, many of the immigrants to the Southern United States were from the West Country of England, Scotland or Ireland. The Southern accent that then developed retained some features of British accents, including the vowel distinction between 'caught' and 'cot'. Many Americans pronounce these words the same but in the South they are largely distinct. Southern Americans also tend to preserve the distinction between 'furry' and 'hurry' whereas most Americans do not. The distinct rhythm of Southern American English also makes it easier to imitate. It is, of course, easier for actors to imitate an accent that has identical features to their own accent but it also depends on the individual’s ability to hear and reproduce accurately the accent they must learn. For example, Hugh Laurie’s American accent in House is excellent whereas Dick van Dyke’s Cockney accent in
Mary Poppins is regarded as one of the worst attempts at an accent ever.

Rebecca Stevens, Cambridge"


The Times, July 22nd, 2008, "Home Movies: The test of what makes a film British is bafflingly subjective"

"Yesterday the UK Film Council triumphantly announced that “British films were a $3 billion hit last year”. The use of dollars as the denomination is a bit of a giveaway. The announcement simply prompts the question - what is a British film?

The answer is that instead of being determined by the proportion of the budget spent in this country, the Government has introduced a cultural test. This means that the nationality of the actors and characters, whether the film is 'based on British subject matter' and whether the film is set in the UK are all taken into account when the film's nationality - and thus its eligibility for a generous tax break - is being considered.

Take Narnia. The latest instalment was mainly filmed in the Czech Republic, but it is still a British film. One reason is that Narnia, as Variety puts it, 'is an imaginary place but suffused with a British sensibility'. A small inter-departmental working party is now hard at work determining whether Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent in
Mary Poppins is or is not British.'

A ministry, perhaps?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some Catching-Up to Do...

PC Preview, June 28, 2008, review of "Crysis: Warhead" videogame by Will Porter

While we're at it, those who wondered if Psycho's accent was a product of the Dick Van Dyke school of pavement art jabbering can rest easy that his voice actor actually is British too - so British in fact that IMDb informs he's been in Emmerdale, Peak Practice and Grange Hill.

The Star, Jul 19, 2008, "Putting the junk back in junket" by Bill Brioux

This dialect coach has perfected accents for everybody from Al Pacino in Scarface to Academy Award winner Forrest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. Too bad he didn't coach Cockney-challenged Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. "I had absolutely nothing to do with that," he declares.

The Guardian, July 20, 2008, "The Open, final round - as it happened" by Barry Glendenning

Has any thespian ever made a more ham-fisted attempt to do an English accent than his abysmal effort as Daphne's brother in Frasier? He made Dick van Dyke sound like Harry Redknapp.

BBC web page, July 21, 2008, "How not to do an American accent" by

The three words haunting the performer, driving hour after hour of dialect practice, are "Dick", "Van" and "Dyke".

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, it was not.


CAPTION: The American's "strike a light, guv'nor" Cockney caricature in Mary Poppins is widely regarded as delivering the worst film accent of all time.


Not only is my performance dreadful, there is clearly much too much of it; my overacting makes Dick Van Dyke's infamous turn look like a masterclass of subtlety and technique.

That's a lot of mentions of D.V.D. in one article, isn't it?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brits Continue Mentioning Dick Van Dyke's Accent Even Though I Haven't Posted In Weeks.

TimesOnline, June 7, 2008, "Podcast of the week: the satirical charms of The Bugle" by Chris Campling

My favourite segment, though, is the one in which Oliver actually pretends to be an American, in an accent so awful that it’s a mirror image of Dick Van Dyke’s “Cockney” in Mary Poppins. Stung by the criticism, Oliver establishes his bona fides: “Waddaya mean?” he says in his normal voice. “I left my apartment, and went down to my automobile, which was parked by the sidewalk. I opened the trunk, and found it full of potato chips.” It’s uncannily authentic.

Those Brits, as you know, are expert judges of American accents.

(By the way, in the mirror image universe, Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent is really good. Also, Spock has a goatee.)

Den of Geek, May 6, 2008, "Luv-A-Duck! Guy Ritchie gets his mockney claws into Sherlock Holmes" by John Moore

I will, of course, be having nightmares for the next year or so about the complete mess this movie could be, I refuse to forget the car-crash that was The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Meanwhile, Hollywood extras are no-doubt polishing up their best Eliza Doolittle impressions for their turns of the streets of London as we speak. Expect Dick Van Dyke-ness and Vinnie Jones, somewhere. It's bound to happen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hack Worthy Indeed

Yesterday's story on the Radio Times poll about Brits doing American accents was so good that both the BBC and The Sun picked up the story. It must be important when stodgy old Auntie Beeb and a sensationalist red top cover it, right?

Both included the quote from Helen Hackworthy about Dick Van Dyke's accent.

Just as Dick Van Dyke struggled with his English accent in Mary Poppins, so too are some Brits failing to pull off convincing American accents.”

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,9678 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day

Monday, May 26, 2008

British Survey About Bad American Accents Cites D.V.D.

This came in today via Google alerts.

Michelle Ryan 'has worst US accent'

Michelle Ryan's turn as the Bionic Woman has won her top place in a poll of the worst attempts at US accents.

The former EastEnder, 24, starred as Jaime Sommers in last year's remake of the 1970s cult series before it was cancelled because of the US writers' strike.

Eddie Izzard made second place for his role as Wayne Malloy in The Riches.

Anna Friel was next for her performance as Charlotte "Chuck" Charles, who comes back from the dead in Pushing Daisies.

Fourth place went to Hugh Laurie in his Golden Globe-winning role as Dr Gregory House in House.

Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot?! Hugh Laurie's accent fools most Americans!

Lancashire-born Ian McShane is next for his role as Al Swearengen in Deadwood.

The top 10 was completed by Essex-born Sean Maguire in The Class, Minnie Driver in The Riches, Joely Richardson in Nip/Tuck, Louise Lombard in CSI; Crime Scene Investigation, and Dominic West in crime drama The Wire.

Helen Hackworthy, the editor of, which carried out the poll, said: "Just as Dick Van Dyke struggled with his English accent in Mary Poppins, so too are some Brits failing to pull off convincing American accents."

Just over 3,000 fans were polled on the Radio Times website.

I really like this story; Brits polled Brits to see who does the worst American accent, and then used it as an excuse to complain about Dick Van Dyke's cockney! Wow!

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,9677 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

5 days

Friday, May 23, 2008

An Avalanche of D.V.D. Accent News

Oh dear. I've let these things pile up for a month now. Duty calls; I shall wax roth, and let the Brit press, en masse, feel my wrath! En Garde, you rascals of the fourth estate!

(Ooh, I've come over all swashbuckly!)


The Independent, May 11. 2008, "Noises Off: casting director Nina Gold on English roles going to foreigners"

What defines any actor playing "foreign" is that they must be exceptionally brilliant to pull it off – you don't want to get into Dick Van Dyke territory. The actors have to work harder because to get into the character they have to get into their voice – which means they have to get to grips with the accent and then be able to speak in that accent without thinking about it. If they are hardworking and talented, then good luck to them.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,962 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

19 days


Next, while this has nothing to do with Dick Van Dyke's accent, how could I resist the possibility of an Indian remake of Mary Poppins?

Sunday, May 11, 2008, "My movie is not a copy" by Prithwish Ganguly

Kunal Kohli claims that his next film is not a remake of a Mary Poppins even though the story sounds similar...

...speculations are rife that by the look of the plot of the film, it seems to be a carbon copy of the 1964 Hollywood film Mary Poppins. However, Kunal, who has previously directed films like Hum Tum and Fanaa is not on the defense.

“I think it is very premature for anyone to say that my film is a copy of Mary Poppins,” he said.

He goes on the front foot and challenges that the movie is entirely different from the Hollywood blockbuster.

“I advice people to see my film first and then draw conclusions. I’m telling you openly that my film is not a remake of Mary Poppins. It is an entirely different movie and has nothing to do with the English film,” Kunal said.

In the Hollywood film, a magic nanny (Mary Poppins) comes into the life of a banker and bails him and his family out of trouble. On the other hand, interestingly, Kunal Kohli’s film has Saif playing a rich man with four orphans and Rani plays an angel who comes in their lives to save the day. Sounds similar doesn’t it?

“Just wait for the film to release. You will understand,” says Kunal.


Burmingham Mail, May 12 2008, "West Ham United 2 Aston Villa 2" by Bill Howell

They travel about as well in the capital as Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent as chimney sweep Burt in Mary Poppins.

(American translation: Dick Van Dyke's accent is so bad that it merits comparison to a football team scoring poorly during away games.)

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,963 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day


The Observer, May 18 2008, "Who could be Nancy? Missing TV panel member Zoe Tyler has her say here" Interview by Katie Toms

What about the favourite, Jessie?

It's obvious Andrew [Lloyd Webber] likes her, but last week I thought her singing was very weak. They did a section on English accents and she sounded like Dick van Dyke. The only option for her if she wins is to keep her broad Irish accent.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,969 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

6 days


Tottenham, Wood Green and Edmonton Journal, May 21, 2008, "REVIEW: CASSANDRA'S DREAM"

You wonder whether Farrell and McGregor are having similar thoughts by getting involved with the film - although neither are blameless, sporting the kind of ludicrous cockney accents that would make Dick Van Dyke giggle.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,9672 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

3 days

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Red Top Paper Says D.V.D.'s Accent Sounds Like He Comes from a Posh Girls' School

The Daily Star, April 22, 2008, "Lily's Gav Tribute"

Lily, 22, who as we know is master of complicated rhymes and the kind of Dick Van Dyke vocals they practise at Roedean, entitled the ditty From Barry to Billericay.

Apparently funny because Roedean is a fancy girls' school.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,943 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

2 days


Now, we hear from an American college student:

The Daily Titan (Cal State Fullerton), April 23, 2008, "THE LONDONER: A few tips on how to survive in the U.K." by Erin Tobin

As my trip to England draws to a close, here's a list of things, in no particular order, that my peers and I have really taken to heart over the last few months.

-Some things just look better spelled with a "u," regardless of what the spell-check says.

-Just because it's England, where they speak English, doesn't mean you'll understand anything anyone is saying.

-English accents are cute on everyone, no what matter age, location or gender - except for drunk Americans.

-Countrywide, it is agreed that Dick Van Dyke has the worst English accent in the world.

Really?! I never would have guessed! I mean, considering the following:

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,944 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Alison Moyet Can't Do an American Accent, Just Like D.V.D.

The Sunday Mail, Apr 20 2008, "Alison Moyet reunites with Vince Clarke for first time in 16 years", by Billy Sloan

She also tried her hand at acting and appeared in hit musical Chicago in London's West End, playing kailer Mama Morton opposite Denise Van OUten as Roxy Hart.

She said: "I'd always hated musicals. They're a bit naff. And me and an American accent didn't go too well together - it was all a bit too Dick Van Dyke."

Mind you, I'm not a professional language coach, but I think I see your your problem, Alison. The reason you couldn't successfully do an American accent was because he was attempting a cockney accent!

And what's up with those typos? "kailer"? "OUten"? For a moment there, I thought I was reading the Guardian.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,941 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I have corrected the "Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins" counter for the first time in a while. I just kept adding the total number of days since the last mention of Dick Van Dyke's accent to the time elapsed since premiere number, and I drifted way the hell off. I hope nobody was incommoded by my laxity this important matter, and if you were, I apologize.

Onward and downward.

There is a bit of bad news directly related to Mr. Van Dyke, and a bit of sad but inevitable news only tangentially related to him, and I have no desire to make jokes about either.

First, it seems Mr. Van Dyke's long-time companion Michelle Triola has cancer.

MARY POPPINS star DICK VAN DYKE's long-time partner MICHELLE TRIOLA is battling potentially-fatal lung cancer. Triola, 74, underwent surgery at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on 10 April (08), where she had part of her lung removed. The 82-year-old actor reveals it is too soon to tell how successful the operation was, but he remains confident she will recover. He tells the National Enquirer, "I couldn't really ask Michelle how she was feeling because she was still stoned out of her mind - just too far gone when they wheeled her back from surgery. Michelle had to have the upper lobe of a lung removed, but the doctors think she's clean."

We here at the MODVDA wish them both well.

As for the sad-but-inevitable news, Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men" animators died this week.

Johnston's work included such memorable moments as... the penguin-waiters serving Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins" (1964).

Okay, I didn't mean for this post to be such a downer, but it is what it is, and now I've got to make the transition to the silly again, and I'm not really a writer with enough wit and style to make that shift in any clever way.

Still, I can take some pride in being a writer who recognizes a stale cliché when he sees one.

Oh look, there's one!

The Times, April 19. 2008, "My Week: George W. Bush" by Hugo Rifkind

My first meeting of the week, with the dude in the dress. Definitely not the Jap. “Bless you, my son,” he says.

“Fank you, my son,” I say, putting him at ease with my best Dick Van Dyke accent. He just looks at me. My aide studies the ceiling. Maybe it wasn’t so good.

You see, the joke here is that the President of the United States is so stupid that he thinks he should address the Pope, whom he is confusing with the Prime Minister of England, in an English accent which he thinks is authentic, but it's really Dick Van Dyke's Accent! See all the levels of comedy there? Oh deary me, that is so very satirical that I may have to sit down and mop my brow and fan myself as I recover from the deep belly laughs which so recently seized me.

I'm okay now.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,940 days

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

14 days

Monday, April 7, 2008

This Fortnight in Dick Van Dyke's Accent

I only know of two people who read this blog -- my barber and a friend -- so here's an apology to my readers (plural!) for not posting in a while. It would be a bit much to call my readers (plural!) "my public", wouldn't it?

Up The Saddlers (Football Club fan site), March 28, 2008, "Southend vs Walsall Preview" by Neil

Down to Sarfend tomorrow. Sarfend, the playground of the Cockneys. What a depressing thought that is – thousands of people trying desperately not to sound like Dick Van Dyke on crack – or should that be trying to sound like him?

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent: 10 days

Now, on to a completely gratuitous D.V.D. accent mention as the lead-in to a trivia question:

The Huddersfield Examiner, April 5th, 2008

In the film Mary Poppins, Dick van Dyke’s “Cockney” accent has been much mocked ever since; but what species of bird shown in the film was an American one masquerading as British?

Usually the part after the "but" is supposed to have something to do with the part before it. May I suggest, "Dick Van Dyke wasn't the only American pretending to be British in Mary Poppins; what American species of bird in the film also tried unsuccessfully to pass as British?" Or something.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent: 8 days

The Spoof, April 6, 2008, "Johnny Depp Says He Has Always Been A Big Fan Of Dick" by Duncan Whitehead

Johnny Depp has finally admitted what many have suspected for years, he is not only a big fan of Dick but he embraces Dick and wishes that there was more Dick on TV.

Actor Dick Van Dyke is thrilled by the news.

"I loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins" said Depp "Van Dyke has that cockney accent down to a tee. It's nearly as good as mine, I based my accent on his. I wish he was on TV more than he is."

Van Dyke, who is not George Clooney's father, despite their resemblance says he is a big fan of Depp. "I love Johnny's movies, especially the Matrix and Speed. He is one of Hollywood's brightest young stars."

Bleugh. Not exactly Private Eye, is it? As Homer Simpson once shouted at his TV: "BE FUNNIER!"

Okay, that clinches it. I have posted two links to D.V.D. references in "The Spoof" (here's the first), and they have both been horrible. No more quotes on this blog from the unfunny "Spoof". You hear that, Spoof? A blog that comments on how boring it is to complain about Dick Van Dyke's accent has decided that your boring references to Dick Van Dyke's accent are too boring to post.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent: 1 day

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This Week in Dick Van Dyke's Accent

The Independent, March 18. 2008, "Miles Kington Remembered: A flaming yarn about Elvis and his Bruce Wayne shoes" by Miles Kington

"I knew a bloke once who swore that when Americans try to imitate Cockney, it comes out pure Australian, which goes to show that Australian is just a mixture of ..."

"It doesn't show anything of the sort," said another. "If Americans spoke like Australians when they tried to speak like Cockneys, then how come in Mary Poppins Dick van Dyke didn't sound Australian, instead of the fake Cockney he did sound like?"

"Because he wasn't good enough even to sound like an Australian.

There was a reflective pause for laughter.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,868 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

11 days


Variety, March 19th, 2008, "Gabbers at Geffen fund-raiser; Roma Downey, Julie Andrews attend" by Mia McNiece

At the Geffen Playhouse's annual fund-raiser, Backstage at the Geffen, held Monday in Westwood, stars spilled behind-the-scenes secrets and there was no holding back.

Thesp Roma Downey recalled an incident early in her career when a Broadway co-star was too inebriated to perform, while Julie Andrews drew the loudest laughs recounting the time her "My Fair Lady" co-star Rex Harrison loudly passed gas onstage while saying "He was a windy fellow."

The event, which honored Annette Bening and Disney's Robert Iger, was co-hosted by Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, who received the loudest applause when he performed the "Mary Poppins" classic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,869 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cockney Accent Not Exclusively Sold as a Caricature and Gimmick.

Second Supper, Undated, Review of Calvin Harris: I Created Disco

This album could be partially described as a form of “arcade disco”, and Calvin Harris has his Atari beats down. This smarmy beast eats bleeps and shits funk. And it’s neat. Really, the only irritating aspects that I found on the disc were in the Dick van Dyke chimney-sweep vocals, the tea wiv tha guvnah Cockney that makes acts like The Streets so damned quaint and cute. Still, there’s a difference here, being that Harris doesn’t seem to be selling the accent as caricature and gimmick – at least not exclusively.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8597 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

12 days

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dick Van Dyke's Accent Vs. Zombies!

The New York Sun, February 26, 2008, "They Came From Another Land" by Grady Hendrix.

A review of the new DVD release of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue:

Ray Lovelock, sounding like he's been dubbed by Dick Van Dyke doing his "Mary Poppins" accent, plays George, an antiques dealer heading for his country house when a fragile young woman named Edna (Cristina Galbo) backs over his motorbike in a service station. She's on her way to see her photographer brother-in-law, who's holed up in a remote cottage trying to dry out his drug-addicted wife. George bullies Edna into giving him a ride, but their detour sends them crashing into a rapidly growing gaggle of corpses re-animated by an ultrasonic pest control machine and a fascist police inspector (the legendary character actor Arthur Kennedy).

Damn! Why am I not watching this movie right now?

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8585 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

5 days

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Australian Says: "Dick Van Dyke's Accent Is Not As Bad As A Slit Throat."

The Age, February 21, 2008, "Warning: the following is rated MA15+" by Danny Katz

Even musicals have become MA15+. There was a time when musicals didn't get any more blood-curdling than Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent in Mary Poppins. But I took the kids to see the new Sweeney Todd movie at the George in St Kilda, and it was a full-throated, all-singing Sondheim masterpiece, accompanied by full-throated, all-slitting geysers of blood pumping out of necks, spurt-spurt-spurting like rotating golf-course sprinklers that you're not allowed to use any more.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8580 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

12 days

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Kind Of" and "Sort Of" are The New "Um" and "Er"

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of my favorites is the Guardian's daily news podcast. Over the past year, I've noticed a new and irritating substitute for the pause -- the words "kind of" and "sort of". (My girlfriend, who is studying Speech Language Pathology, tells me these verbal placeholders are called "maze behaviors.") It tends to turn up in only in spoken (as opposed to written) British English, and is mostly occurs among younger people. Older Brits, no matter their social class, don't do this, but young journalists are all over this one, and it drives me nuts.

Now, mind you, there's nothing wrong with using "kind of" or "sort of" when you're presenting an analogy or a metaphor -- if you were to refer to your brain as a "kind of biological computer," that's a perfectly acceptable usage. It is a computer -- kind of -- and it is therefore, a kind of computer. Fine. The usage I object to is when the speaker sets one of these phrases off with wee verbal commas, "...your brain is a, kind of, biological computer..." When I hear that, I start to wonder if the speaker knows whether the brain is biological or not.

Here are some examples I collected last year. I could collect new examples, but I've been sitting on these for a while...

In May of last year, talking about the high prices of theme park admissions, Rebecca Smithers said:

" have to, kind of, look quite carefully at the figures, actually, I mean, the catch 22 is really on the, sort of, cutoff price for children..."

"...for the most popular rides, the real, sort of, white-knuckle rides..."

"...a fast track ticket, which is what Disneyland offers, which allows you to, sort of, jump right to the head of the queue..."

So was she talking about not looking carefully at something that isn't quite a cutoff price, a popular nearly exciting ride, and doing something resembling a jump to get to the head of the queue?

You get the idea.

Also in May of last year, Larry Elliott said:

"...inflation has remained pretty steady at between, sort of, two or three percent..."

"Sort of" two percent must be either one or three percent (but not actually two), and "sort of" three percent must be either two or four percent (but not actually three), yeah? So, let's see, it's now between one and four percent, but not two or three percent. I think.

Ugh. Good at maths, bad at Englishs, apparently.

The absolute nadir of the lot has to be Guardian movie critic Xan Brooks. Dear me. He hasn't been on the podcast much lately, but his spoken review last year of My Blueberry Nights, directed by Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai is the most astounding example of this verbal tic I've heard so far. Brace yourself.

"...(Wong Kar Wai) is a real, kind of, revered foreign language director, who is, basically, branching out and making this American film that also marks the screen debut of the singer Nora Jones, and she plays a, sort of, lovelorn twenty-something who, kind of, jets off in search of herself in classic, kind of, American road movie style."

"It's not a very demanding role, because she just, basically, kind of, has to look at a lot of things, and, kind of, smile and frown on command..."

"I found it a horrible, kind of, winsome, mash of American genre tropes, from the, sort of, smoky bars to the open-top sports car. It all felt a little bit, kind of, just, knocked off."

"...which is a really, kind of, admirable thing, and yet the actual, kind of, finished result, I think, falls into a lot of those same traps."

"It's got a, kind of, a charm to its, sort of, you know, unabashed romantic style, but it also has a few, kind of, cringy moments, and it never really has any, kind of, pace or drama. You feel that he's just, kind of, looking at things that he likes..."

"It doesn't have that, kind of, edginess that Mike Lee has. It's more, kind of, teenage poetry, kind of, improvisation. There's a lot of, kind of, heartfelt dialogs and, sort of, a lot of angst."

With so many wishy-washy modifiers, you have to wonder if he really watched the movie, or if he only kind of, sort of watched it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Would-Be Romance Novelists Are Just as Snooty as Dick Van Dyke

The Guardian, February 9, 2008, "The Great Escape," by Kathryn Hughes

The publisher "Mills & Boon" is apparently the equivalent of "Harlequin Romance" in the States. Kathryn Hughes tried to write something for them, but she couldn't hide her contempt for the form, and M & B declined to publish it.

The would-be author pack was welcoming but realistic. Everyone thinks they can knock off a Mills & Boon, but it's harder than it looks. The really important thing, said the bumph sternly, was not to condescend to your readers. Clearly, the company had grown weary of submissions from smarty-pants who attempted to ventriloquise a mass-market fiction voice while failing to disguise that they felt it a bit beneath them, rather like Dick Van Dyke doing cockney.

I don't get even a hint from D.V.D.'s performance in Mary Poppins that he felt it was all a bit beneath him. He had a ball working on that movie; he just didn't know how to do a cockney accent. You know, when you ask an actor if he can ride a horse, he says "Yes" even if he can't.

Wouldn't it be a truly subtle performance if he had been hired to play a cockney, then they did it with contempt, managed to slip that past not only Walt Disney but also everyone who had seen it in theaters and on video for 40 years, and the first and only person to pick up on it was Kathryn Hughes in the Guardian?

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8568 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

6 days

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Scottish Actors and American Producers Agree on Bad English Accents: "No One Cares."

Scotland on Sunday, February 3, 2008, "How Hitler conquered America. PROFILE: CRAIG FERGUSON"

His introduction to American TV wasn't as auspicious as he'd hoped, however. He was down to his last 29 cents when he got work on a sitcom starring Marie Osmond, which was quickly cancelled. But a year later he landed a role on another half-hour comedy called The Drew Carey Show, playing an unpleasant boss with an English accent that would bring a tear to the eye of Dick Van Dyke.

"They said that my character was an obnoxious idiot, so I said: 'Right, we'll make him English,'" noted Ferguson. "I did say it was a very bad accent, but the producer said: 'Ah, no one cares.' Anyway, I've watched English actors doing duff Scottish accents for years."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,8562 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

6 days


Another mention of D.V.D. I've put off posting for a few days, because it wasn't really a media mention, just something in an online catalog.

Pearly King Cushions

Lots of places sell cushions decorated with the union jack motif, but these cushions are the first I’ve seen to celebrate this specific bit of English heritage, the cockney tradition of the Pearly King and Queen.

The Pearly King Cushions from Re-Found Objects are black square cushions decorated with hand-sewn pearl buttons. Available in two designs, Anchor or Good Luck, both are inspired by popular Pearly King costume designs.

Put aside memories of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and buy your own piece of East End tradition. They cost £55 each and can be bought online from Re-Found Objects.

Apparently, English people can't think of black cushions decorated with pearl buttons without blurting out D.V.D.'s name. It's a very specific form of Tourette's: "Cushions! Buttons! Dick Van Dyke!"

Monday, January 28, 2008

An American Replies: "Pensioners Who Wear Red? Huh?"

Newbury Today, January 28, 2008, "If you don't mind the blood, you will not regret the trip to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", by Mike Beharrell

"It is small wonder that American tourists are reportedly staying away from good old London town, what with its reputation for fires, plagues, rippers, and cabbies who are experts on their home-country politics. There is evidence that some Americans still think that London is populated by Beefeaters, pensioners who wear red and live in Chelsea, and chimney sweeps who say things like ‘Luv a duck’ and ‘Gor blimey’ in a Dick van Dyke sort of way."

I defy you to find any Americans who know the part of London where the pensioners who wear red reside. In fact, I'm quite the Anglophile and I had no idea what this wearing red business meant until I googled it and found this.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,856 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

3 days

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cockney Envy

The News (Portsmouth), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, January 25, 2008

Johnny Depp's singing voice is good enough – although he sounds uncannily like David Bowie on his Sixties novelty single The Laughing Gnome. Just as he does in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean, Depp adopts a cod cockney accent Dick Van Dyke would be envious of.

Wouldn't a cockney accent D.V.D. would envy be an accurate cockney accent? He wouldn't envy one worse than his own, would he? Why is it that every time someone drops an "H", regardless of how well they do it, the reviewers all mention D.V.D.?

I do like the term "cod cockney", though. That's new to me.


I do want to mention two of the Google ads that popped up when this item came through the Gmail virtual transom:

English Accent Reduction
Personal Accent Reduction Coach In Silicon Valley. Request Free Tips!

Learn a British Accent
Master a British accent in 15 min a day. Start Your Lessons Right Now!

Either would be a perfect birthday gift for Madonna.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,853 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

2 days

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Tales of Everyday Madness

Celeb Grapevine, In the News, January 22, 2008

It might not have been a proper British accent, but at least it was Britney.

However she's at least picked up something from Ghalib - a dodgy British accent. After finally showing up to a deposition in her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline, Britney responded to questions about Ghalib in an accent straight out of the Dick van Dyke school, saying: "I don't know who that is… I have never met him before."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,851 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

7 days

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Reference to a Reference to D.V.D.'s Accent

At last, someone else who recognizes the Dick Van Dyke reference as a cliche!

Digital Spy, Tuesday, January 15 2008, "A trifle uncool" by Dek Hogan

"Nothing on offer here then to trouble Friday Night with Jonathan Ross where typewriter-collecting Tom Hanks came across as a typically ill-informed American tourist. We were taking bets about whether there would be a Dick Van Dyke reference, so shockingly bad were Hanks's attempts at British accents. Sure enough we got one."

Also today... and seeing as we've heard about this movie before, I suspect we will again...

Irish Voice, January 16, 2008, "This Dream Is A Nightmare"

"There’s so much to lament about Cassandra’s Dream that it’s difficult to know where to start. First of all there’s the casting. Ewan McGregor, a Scotsman, and Colin Farrell, an Irishman, play two working class Londoners with the kind of Dick Van Dyke gawd bless you gov’ner accents that sometimes make you wonder if they’re being ironic."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,844 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

5 days

Friday, January 11, 2008

D.V.D. as Ironic Champion of Londoners

Class snobbery in England cuts both ways. Today's mention of D.V.D. comes in the form of someone fantasizing about visiting Cambridge University and exaggerating his own lower-class accent just to annoy the stuffed shirts. "So, whatcha fink of me London accent as angry, ironic blackface?"

The Guardian, January 11th, 2008, "All change at the top", Joe Baden

"I was ready to go to Cambridge, class on my sleeve, Bermondsey accent to the fore with verbal knuckle duster at the ready, or perhaps dressed as Dick Van Dyke from the film Mary Poppins giving an ironic rendition of "de ole bamboo"."

The Mary Poppins costume and that song would be a double-whammy, seeing as D.V.D. sang it in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And it's called "Me Old Bamboo". Two bonus points.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,839 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

2 days

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"A Case a the Dick Van Dykes" is Now a Disease!

Oh dear. First we saw his name used as a verb, and now the poor man has been reduced to something that sounds like a bowel complaint. HE'S STILL ALIVE, YOU INSENSITIVE BASTARDS!

Islington Gazette, January 9th, 2008, "Gwyneth's CDs help to dodge 'a case a the Dick Van Dykes'"

Help is at hand for tongue-tied thespians thanks to an actress who has launched a series of accent coaching CDs.

Dick Van Dyke's calamitous "cockney" in Mary Poppins may be a perennial favourite but Gwyneth Strong - best known as Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses -is hoping to make bad accents a thing of the past.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,837 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

32 days

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Half Marks: No mention of his accent...

The Guardian has an article today about big acting. D.V.D.'s performance as Bert in Mary Poppins gets a mention here not for the bad accent, but for the bad acting.

The funny thing is, big acting isn't actually all that common. It is not to be confused with bad acting, ham acting or over-acting. It's not Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons, Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, or Charlton Heston bellowing, "GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!!" at the end of Planet Of The Apes.