Accent on Accents

Dwight Decker deckerd at
Tue Nov 1 19:57:48 CET 1994

Once again I am utterly flabbergasted by David Gerstein -- the Human
Database! It's a good thing we've got him around: he knows all this
stuff by issue number. It's been so many years since I've read
"Swamp of No Return" (I probably read it when it came out in 1965
and not since) that I had completely forgotten Donald's reference
to Scrooge's Scottish accent. At any rate, I never had the impression
from Scrooge's dialogue that he was ever speaking with any accent at
all, other than colloquial American. Barks seldom if ever gave him
Scottishisms (like "aye" or "laddie").
	On the subject of Irish dialect...I'm just amazed that in the
era of political correctness that Disney's own Mickey Mouse Adventures
would go so overboard in giving Chief O'Hara an Irish accent. For the
non-Americans reading this, I should mention that America, of course,
has long been a country settled by successive waves of immigrants from
different countries, and in the popular mind many ethnic groups have
been identified with specific professions--in part based on reality,
depending on what professions were open to immigrants at the time a
particular group arrived. The Chinese have long been identified with
laundries and restaurants, for example, while the Irish policeman has
been a pop culture staple for decades (long after Irish-accented cops
have disappeared from the scene). I recall a '30s Porky Pig cartoon
in which Porky's mother had a German accent, and I've wondered if it
reflected a now-forgotten ethnic stereotype of Germans in the butcher
shop trade (just as the Italian in the shop next door would be expected
to be a barber). Such stereotypes, even though they had some basis in
reality at one time, are now considered offensive -- I guess because
they supposedly "send a message" that running a laundry or being a
cop or slicing meat or cutting hair is ALL that any member of a ethnic
group can do. (The thought has also occurred to me maybe Porky's
mother doesn't have a German accent but a Yiddish one, with the non-PC
joke of course being a Jewish pig contrasted with the well-known Jewish
dietary restrictions on eating pork -- but as I remember Porky's mom,
her accent still seems unmistakably ethnic German.)
	I just read a Madam Mim story the other day that was sort of typical.
Mim comes across a family having a picnic in the woods and making a mess
of the place. Mim, the friend of nature and ecological crusader that she
is, enchants a tree and a garbage can into coming to life, which proceed
to scare and bully the family into cleaning up the mess they made. Mim
looks on self-righteously, but then the enchanted tree and garbage can
come after her: they carry her to her house, which is a mess, and make
her clean her own place up. I'm a little puzzled by the history of this:
how did a minor character from one of the lesser Disney movies get
promoted into her own strip? And does anyone really like it? (I'd still
like to know how two 16th Century French mice ended up on Grandma Duck's
farm -- ah, the mysteries of Disney comics!)

--Dwight Decker

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