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(Included below are sort of general spoilers for the whole Buffy series, just so you know.)

The linguist in me wants to dwell for a moment on why Angel lost his Irish accent over time, while Spike never lost his English one.

First, let's get the obvious answer out of the way: David Boreanaz's Irish accent is reeeally shaky, whereas James Marsters' accent kicks ass. But let's pretend that's not the actual reason...

When adults lose their native accents and acquire another, it's often a semi-conscious effort, based in the desire to blend into a new group and leave behind their old one. Angel, upon regaining his soul, clearly wants to escape his past as Angelus, in which he still used his native Irish brogue. He moved to America decades before the show's beginning (if I understand correctly), so blending in as an American would have been the obvious choice. In contrast, Spike seems to have roamed the world more freely before showing up in Sunnydale, and anyway doesn't care about blending in; in fact, to judge from his fashion sense, he wants to stand out. He proudly uses Brit slang even among the American kids who aren't as likely to understand it.

I think the explanation lies mostly in their personality differences rather than amount of time spent in America. Namely, Angel is drastically different from Angelus, while souled Spike (or chipped Spike) is really not that different from evil Spike.

And that's something I wished Buffy (the character) had acknowledged a little more. I mean, jeez, Angelus has pretty much zilch going for him in the "good" column, but Spike all along, despite the tough talk and exterior, is the true softie, the "fool for love." Even in his first episode, he's partially defined by his tenderness toward Dru ("You two reek of humanity," a Big Baddie tells them disparagingly later on), and is troubled and seemingly conflicted by his discovery that Buffy is "a Slayer with friends and family." Angelus's reaction to Buffy's friends and family? More like, "Whee! More people to psychologically torture and kill!" Buffy would have done well to remember that it was Spike, still unchipped, who helped her save the world against Angelus.

So, really, it's no wonder Angel wants to distance himself from his other persona: that guy is a scary dude. But the distance between bad Spike and good Spike is short enough that ol' William can stretch across it and still be, more or less, himself. In all his cheekiness. Thus, while Spike turns more and more to the good side, he doesn't start sounding any less English.

But note: when Angel reverts to Angelus in the present day, he doesn't revert to Irish. Why not? Guess we're back to "Angel spent a lot of time in America" and "Boreanaz really didn't want to do the accent."

Enough about linguistics. The real question is: why, in God's name, did Angel's hair have to be so bad in the 1800s? William the Bloody gets a cute floppy wavy 'do, and Angelus gets Frankenstein Hair? Could nothing have been done about that, I ask you?


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I don't care what reasoning you employ as long as it results in as little Irish!Angle as humanly possible. Because Boreanaz is very pretty but his attempt at a brogue makes my brain bleed.

And I always just assumed Spike kept his accent on purpose, as a concious effort because he liked the whole Sex Pistols image. Also, I think Joss and the other writers have waaay too much fun having their characters say non-family-friendly things, right there on tv, and not get pinched because it's in another language/dialect (Mandarin in Firefly, Brit in Buffy/Angel).
Oct. 12th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)
Heheh...indeed, Angel's Irish accent often was a little too "They're after me Lucky Charms!" Good thing we had Doyle to get a genuine brogue back into our ears.

Spike certainly must have "cultivated" that accent to some degree, since (as others point out) it's not quite the same one he had as a proper prissy mortal back in the day.

Hah, also good point about the swear words in other dialects. "Bugger" really doesn't mean "a cute little bug," folks...
Oct. 11th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
And isn't Spike's accent different than the one William had when he was human? Ever since the flashback episodes I've thought that Spike's lower-class of-the-people accent was originally a put-on that Spike created to go with his tough new vampire exterior. I imagine it's as natural to him now as Angel's American accent, but originally I think it was just as fake.
Oct. 11th, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
You're right.
Oct. 12th, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)
Yes! A good point I forgot to mention. He of course spoke a more refined, educated, dare we say "prissy" English when he was just William, and turned more bad-ass/lower-class sometime shortly after his vampire transformation, so it seems.
Oct. 11th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
And that's something I wished Buffy (the character) had acknowledged a little more.

That's what I always said!

Cool meta - I agree with your clever insights. :-)

Oct. 12th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was annoying to see her attribute Spike's good behavior to the chip, over and over, when Angelus with a chip would still have somehow managed to be deadly, you just know it.
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Oct. 16th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, to be fair to Buffy, it's probably because of Angelus (in part) that she's so closed-off and distrustful with Spike.
Oct. 11th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
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Angel, upon regaining his soul, clearly wants to escape his past as Angelus, in which he still used his native Irish brogue.

From an analytical standpoint, this is how I view the loss of Angel's accent. I see Spike's accent as further justification of his "outsider" mentality and as a means to distance himself from others. I assume you know that Marsters used another accent all together when auditioning for Spike--Texan "cowboy". Once again, that accent would have drawn up connotations of the outlaw-outsider as well. Personally, I never thought Spike sounded "real"--true, it was a fine accent rendition, but I like to think it was an intentional director's choice for him to speak a bit too "Queen's English with a dash of slang thrown in for effect" which fits since William wanted the "North London" rebel persona to match his new vampire lifestyle. To me it was like a cultured person slumming--a tad contrived and I LOVE it
Oct. 12th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
I'd forgotten about the cowboy accent idea! But yeah, same "bad-ass" effect.

And good point about the change from educated William to slangy Spike. I'm pretty certain there was a difference in accent, and there definitely was in vocabulary.

"A cultured person slumming" is exactly what Spike is, really...a feature that emerges once in a while when his poetry-writing side comes out. Quite cute. :)
Oct. 12th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC)
I've never really been keen on Angel's cod irish accent, it's always been quite painful to hear although every so often it's more the turn of phrase that stands out for me that the actual "they're after me lucky charms!" accent. The turn of phrase seems more natural for Angel to use rather than the actual accenting of the words and certainly substantial less painful.

Spike. Spike. Well I'm British and his accent sends chills up MY spine (in a good way). I was quite shocked to hear James Marsters speaking with an American accent and that seemed more phony that Angel's irish accent. He was posh but posh people who spend time around people who speak with a more relaxed idiom do tend to lose the sharpess of their language. I'm a case in point. I went to a private girls school and had elocution lessons, hundreds of pounds spent on learning to speak English beautifully. Send me off to a comprehensive school for 3 years and I sound just like everyone else. Not to mention the Norfolk accent is pretty strong.

Just a question though - why does everyone think that Spike became "good"? That he got his soul because he wanted one or wanted something to make Buffy think he was a better person? He wanted the nasty demony thing to make him what he was, a vampire who exalted in the kill. I can't remember if Buffy ever knew that or if Spike ever told her.
Oct. 16th, 2007 07:44 pm (UTC)
Glad Spike's accent passes your radar! I imagine it was the same with Wesley? Both of them surprised me when speaking in their natural American voices in the extras.

And yep, true about the wasted elocution lessons. :) Those things only work if the person in question really wants them to; otherwise you're likely just to talk like your peers.

Why Spike became good...hmm. I guess I buy the surface reason, that he wanted to "deserve" Buffy--at least to the degree that Angel did. In the 'Angel' series he seemed pretty keen on being the souled vampire who becomes human again (Shanshu prophecy dealie), so possibly he doesn't care that much about his vamp status. Or he once again just wanted to best Angel.
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Nov. 10th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
Amen! I suppose it may just go back to who they originally were as humans: Spike was a sweet sensitive nerd, and Angel was a loutish jerk. Getting turned might only exaggerate one's personality qualities.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )