Author Topic: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof  (Read 1344 times)

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Offline Luzita

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U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« on: August 15, 2018, 10:33:29 PM »
I love Irish accents. I know there's more than one kind, and as an American I'm sure I don't catch the finer distinctions, but I hear differences among the members of U2. Bono and Larry seem to have the strongest Irish accents -- Dublin accents, I guess. Edge's accent seems a little softer, maybe because of his Welsh background. And Adam, of course, sounds English rather than Irish.

It also seems to me that Bono and Adam's accents have changed over time. In early interviews, the Irish in Bono's voice seems stronger to me than in recent interviews.  Maybe because he now lives in the U.S. part of the time? I've noticed his daughters sound almost American. Are Irish accents particularly vulnerable to being swallowed by American accents? And in Adam's case, though his accent is still English it seems to have a little more of something else in it now. Has he acquired a touch more Irish pronunciation?

Maybe people from the British Isles could comment on this, as I'm sure you guys have more sensitive ears than me.

Here is an interview from 1983 where you can hear all four of them talk (prior to the video).

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And here's some snippets from a 2017 interview. Between the different bits there are speech samples from all four of them.

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Offline daveyg

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2018, 12:05:24 AM »
Hi. I'm from Dublin.

If you heard the four of them on the radio not knowing who they were, it would be Larry's accent that stands out as the strongest Dublin (not just Irish) accent of the four of them.

Adam still has a bit of a British accent. Once again, if you didn't know who he was, you'd probably think he's an English guy that's been living in Ireland for a few years, which is true.

Edge has an Irish accent. You probably wouldn't be able to tell where in Ireland he'd be from, but you'd call him Irish if you didn't know the face. It certainly isn't a Welsh accent - THAT accent is very distinctive.

Bono - you'd know he was Irish, but he has lost a lot of his accent over the years. Maybe it's his emerging himself in American culture throughout the years along side with maybe consciously trying to somehow neutralise any strong accent when he became more popular and starting meeting the likes of Popes and Presidents.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2018, 06:50:13 AM »
For the record, even if Bono's Irish accent has morphed over the years to a more American accent, he really doesn't sound American. My daughter didn't understand they weren't American until she heard him speak, then it was crystal clear to her. (I had told her they were Irish, but she assumed in the American way that I meant American descended from Irish people).

All four of them are extremely pleasant to listen to speaking.

Offline derm

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2018, 09:46:28 AM »
I'd agree with what daveyg says about the bands accents.

Regarding the question as to whether Irish accents are vulnerable to being swallowed by American accents I would say no.  There are parts of Dublin and the surrounding counties where this might be the case and I don't say that as a criticism but as an observation.   What is commonly referred to as the D4 accent seems to be a constantly evolving abomination of an Oirish accent  ;) .  Many of the newer broadcasters speak with such an accent.  ( Am I coming across as a grumpy old fart?) If you go beyond the pale you will find plenty of local accents that are difficult to understand.

Offline Luzita

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2018, 10:40:41 AM »
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I'd agree with what daveyg says about the bands accents.

Regarding the question as to whether Irish accents are vulnerable to being swallowed by American accents I would say no.  There are parts of Dublin and the surrounding counties where this might be the case and I don't say that as a criticism but as an observation.   What is commonly referred to as the D4 accent seems to be a constantly evolving abomination of an Oirish accent  ;) .  Many of the newer broadcasters speak with such an accent.  ( Am I coming across as a grumpy old fart?) If you go beyond the pale you will find plenty of local accents that are difficult to understand.
Thanks for the comment. It’s fascinating to learn there is such a thing as a “D4” accent. I figured there would probably be different kinds of Dublin accents, just like there are different New York accents.

When I was in Ireland I didn’t run across any people that were hard to understand. Also didn’t encounter any that weren’t pleasant to listen to. Granted I was only there for 10 days. In Britain there are definitely accents that are both ugly-sounding and almost indecipherable to an American. Scotland was the worst.


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Offline miryclay

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2018, 11:53:56 AM »
A trip to Scotland requires closed captioning. I have heard some Irish describe Bono's accent as Mid-Atlantic now. Needless to say discussing this topic with someone from Ireland will inevitably lead to a reminder from someone that you indeed are not from Ireland so what do you know anyway.

Offline Luzita

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2018, 01:50:54 PM »
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Edge has an Irish accent. You probably wouldn't be able to tell where in Ireland he'd be from, but you'd call him Irish if you didn't know the face. It certainly isn't a Welsh accent - THAT accent is very distinctive.

I realize Edge's accent is Irish, not Welsh. But I thought maybe the reason he sounds different from Larry (and Bono in earlier days) is because his family are Welsh immigrants.

Offline Luzita

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2018, 02:01:45 PM »
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A trip to Scotland requires closed captioning.
LOL, so true. When we toured Stirling Castle I understood about one word in three of what the guide was saying. And that was the *tour guide.*

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I have heard some Irish describe Bono's accent as Mid-Atlantic now. Needless to say discussing this topic with someone from Ireland will inevitably lead to a reminder from someone that you indeed are not from Ireland so what do you know anyway.

I'm not claiming to know anything! Just giving my admittedly ill-informed impressions and hoping to learn from people who know more.

When people say "Mid-Atlantic" I guess they mean an American-influenced accent. I can believe that. Even I can hear a difference between the way Bono speaks now and how he spoke when he was young. However, to an American, he definitely doesn't sound American.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2018, 02:28:51 PM by Luzita »

Offline shineinthesummernight

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2018, 08:27:03 PM »
I agree with you on all counts, Luzita.  Larry still retains more of the Irish than the rest of them.  He seems the more traditional Irishman in character and speech.  Bono, alas, has become a man of the world.

Offline kinsella

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2018, 10:14:39 PM »
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It also seems to me that Bono and Adam's accents have changed over time. In early interviews, the Irish in Bono's voice seems stronger to me than in recent interviews.  Maybe because he now lives in the U.S. part of the time? I've noticed his daughters sound almost American. Are Irish accents particularly vulnerable to being swallowed by American accents? And in Adam's case, though his accent is still English it seems to have a little more of something else in it now. Has he acquired a touch more Irish pronunciation?

I'd say it's inevitable that most people would find their accent changing a bit if they spent more time consistently in another place.

As regards the Irish accent being particularly vulnerable to being swallowed up by an American one - I'd argue that it may appear that way only because there's overlap between the two. I can definitely hear a similarity between the American accent and some Irish accents. This shouldn't be surprising given the amount of Irish people who left Ireland during and after the famine and made their way to the States. There's no way that amount of people didn't contribute to the developing American accent.

Offline daveyg

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2018, 12:27:41 AM »
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Edge has an Irish accent. You probably wouldn't be able to tell where in Ireland he'd be from, but you'd call him Irish if you didn't know the face. It certainly isn't a Welsh accent - THAT accent is very distinctive.

I realize Edge's accent is Irish, not Welsh. But I thought maybe the reason he sounds different from Larry (and Bono in earlier days) is because his family are Welsh immigrants.

Given all the accents in Ireland alone (and in Dublin), Edge has a generic Irish accent. I guess  if you're comparing it to Adam's posh English accent, Larry's strong northside Dublin accent, and Bono's mish mash kinda Irish accent, Edge's accent would sound softer or milder.

Incidentally, my father had the strongest Welsh accent, and my mother had a strong Wicklow accent. Born and raised in Dublin myself, I (thankfully!! lol) never picked either accent up. I've been told I've a slight d4 accent, but not sure. Definitely NOT Welsh or Wicklow (or "Wicklaaaaaa")  accent.

Edit: Bono uses American words in interviews and songs like "cellphone" and "highway" , which he's never use in a million years in Ireland. I don't think anyone thinks he has an American accent by any stretch of the imagination, but (well certainly to an Irish ear) he certainly has a bit of an American twang. And the whole JT to ZooTV period was scattered with lots of "y'all", and "we're from Dublin, Irreeeland".

Which always interested me with musicians. American musicians come and play in Dublin and say "Hello Dublin, Ireland", as if people in Dublin at their gig didn't know which Dublin they were in? Or Irish musicians going to the US stating they're from Dublin, Ireland, as if the fact their accents didn't give them away. Maybe people think U2 were from Dublin Ontario. lol Anyway, never quite get my head around why the full "Dublin, Ireland" had to be used
« Last Edit: August 17, 2018, 12:39:03 AM by daveyg »

Offline miryclay

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2018, 06:45:36 AM »
It's actually Dublin, Ohio not Ontario. Many, many American muscians say 'Hello Cleveland' or usually wear a local sports Jersey. Pearl Jam notoriously do this and I find all it does is reveal their limited understanding of the place.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2018, 08:03:50 AM »
It strikes me that "Dublin, Ireland" has a really nice meter, it rolls off the tongue in a way "Los Angeles, California" doesn't quite. I don't think there's a lick of confusion over where Dublin is (and nobody outside of Ohio is thinking of Ohio). I wouldn't be surprised if performers sometimes said "Hello Houston, Texas!" even though there's no confusion over the location of Houston. Also, adding the larger location (Ireland, Texas, etc.) sounds even more inclusive, welcoming a whole area instead of just the city.

I have noticed Bono's y'alls and such, and it's cute but it doesn't pass for real American speech. I'm American and I can't pull off y'all either (though sometimes I say it - lived a few years in North Carolina). Just as we Americans mangle an Irish accent, the Irish can mangle an American accent. When they pretended to be the Dalton Brothers, Bono's accent was soooo laughably fake.

I would say he is successful with his American vocabulary, though. Very successful.

Offline Luzita

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2018, 08:49:27 AM »
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It also seems to me that Bono and Adam's accents have changed over time. In early interviews, the Irish in Bono's voice seems stronger to me than in recent interviews.  Maybe because he now lives in the U.S. part of the time? I've noticed his daughters sound almost American. Are Irish accents particularly vulnerable to being swallowed by American accents? And in Adam's case, though his accent is still English it seems to have a little more of something else in it now. Has he acquired a touch more Irish pronunciation?

I'd say it's inevitable that most people would find their accent changing a bit if they spent more time consistently in another place.

As regards the Irish accent being particularly vulnerable to being swallowed up by an American one - I'd argue that it may appear that way only because there's overlap between the two. I can definitely hear a similarity between the American accent and some Irish accents. This shouldn't be surprising given the amount of Irish people who left Ireland during and after the famine and made their way to the States. There's no way that amount of people didn't contribute to the developing American accent.

You make an excellent point. The Irish probably did contribute to the way American accents sound.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: U2's Irish Accents -- or Lack Thereof
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2018, 10:29:49 AM »
Oh, for certain. My father has a Boston accent and it absolutely has a lot in common wolitu an Irish accent (and he is descended from Irish people).

Irish also contributed to some versions of our New York accent.