This subject has got me gripped. Thanks to 'Anne Marie of Philly' for provoking it by mentioning accents after my comment on Cubby's posting of his 'Rings around Uranus' on his PatentlyQueer blog - and Cubby's own further information about distinct regional American variations.
It's a subject that is just never discussed in the U.K. because to us Brits, with very few exceptions (I mentioned the deep south, as well as there being the clear Texan accent), most Americans all seem to talk the same way. (Do I hear the sound of collective jaws dropping?). Offhand I still couldn't point to the difference between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, though I bet someone's going to tell me that not only are there crucial ones but there are also discernible variations in how far north or south on that particular coast one goes. Are there, for instance, distinctive Florida or Washington State accents?
More than once, on my holidays in Europe, having met a guy whom I assumed to be an American, have I been gently corrected by being told that I was speaking to a Canadian. Although I was embarrassed I bet most Brits would have made the assumption that I did. I wonder if the accents of people from, say, Vancouver and Newfoundland are as far apart as their geographical locations are?
I once met an absolutely stunningly beautiful bearded leather guy in a hotel in Cologne (before I moved to that city myself) who could speak only French. My not unreasonable assumption on commencing a somewhat limping conversation with him was that he'd just hopped on a train in his home country, probably from Paris, and arrived for a weekend of fun - as I had. It turned out that he was actually from Montreal - which thereby gave me a chance to practice my tongue on him; but that's another story. However, I dare say that any Frenchman would have known within a second or two that he wasn't a native of France.
I see that there are audio illustrations on the Internet of the various regional American accents, which I am now going to explore and, hopefully, make me much more knowledgeable on this subject.
Oooooh, this is so exciting!!!
7 minutes ago