What’s the deal with Scottish accents in American children’s movies? Let’s list them:

  • The villagers and lesser characters in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) all have Scottish accents, while the leads have posh British accents (excepting the Huntsman, our working-class hero).
  • When they filmed Tintin (2011), voice artist Andy Serkis gave Captain Haddock a Scottish accent, prompting outrage from fans of the books. It should be noted that while some fans protested that Haddock was portrayed as Cornish in the books, others pointed out that actually he was Belgian, as was the books’ author Hergé, and had only been translated as Cornish by the English publisher.
  • How to Train Your Dragon (2010) was full of Scottish accents – inexplicably, as one presumes the film was about Vikings (who were Norse).
  • Shrek (2001) had a Scottish accent – reportedly because voice artist Mike Myers wanted to use the same accent as his mother, who’d read children’s books to him in that voice.
  • The entire cast of Brave (2012) have Scottish accents. Of course, in this case the characters are actually Scots, wearing kilts and all.

Qu’est-ce que c’est? Why so many Scottish accents in American children’s films?

Maybe it’s because Americans find Scottish accents to be funny and/or eccentric? less snooty-sounding than posh English? gruff and good-hearted?

Have we come to associate weird oldey-times with Scottish accents as well as funny clothes?

Or has it just become a weird tic in Hollywood?

It’s hard to figure the genealogy of this trend, as I doubt many children today would make cultural references back to Scotty of Star Trek — or to late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson, for that matter, or Trainspotting.

I found an article from the Journal of Sociolinguistics that posits that among English respondents in a large study, Scottish accents ranked almost as high for “social attractiveness” as Received Pronunciation (what I call “posh”), even though these accents didn’t rank nearly as high when it came to “prestige.”* So it’s not just Americans, apparently, who find the accent appealing.

Still, I’m baffled. Ideas? Comments?

And what does it mean that a generation of English-speaking children will grow up associating a Scottish accent with children’s films?

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*Nickolas Coupland and Hywel Bishop, “Ideologized Values for British Accents,” Journal of Sociolinguistics 11, 1 (2007): 74-93.

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