October 01, 2006

How Bank Robbers Talk in South Africa

This afternoon, while waiting to be interviewed about xenoglossy on the South African talk show Believe It or Not (Talk Radio 702), I was listening to a string of three or four commercials that they ran just before my interview. All but one of them, including a deodorant commercial, were read by men speaking what sounded to my dialect-deaf ears like a standard British English accent. The exception, advertising some terrific opportunity, was read by a man speaking straight midwestern American English, and it included the following line (the first two words may not be exactly what he said, but they're close): Everybody freeze! This is a hold-up! We're here to give you CASH BACK! He was obviously supposed to sound like a bank robber; the implication was that Americans are the quintessential bank robbers. So now we know: in the South African ad biz, at least, Americans are stereotypical ordinary or garden-variety criminals. This has to be a step up from a stereotype as, say, war-mongering international pariahs.

Posted by Sally Thomason at October 1, 2006 04:58 PM