AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle
Whether intentional or unintentional, this is when a character is placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable of a word.
In song lyrics, it's usually because the song was done by some foreigner who hasn't quite grasped the rules of stress in their second language, but sometimes they're just being completely incompetent
about setting lyrics to music. This can lead to Mondegreens
if the wrong syllable is too jarring. It can, however, be done even by native speakers for purposes of metre.
Sometimes, this is done in dubs when the lips are clearly visible
In this trope's own name, to take an obvious example, the accent in the very word 'accent' varies largely depending which country you're from: British use tends to favour AKS-nt
, whereas US use, for instance, would be more AK-SENT
. By comparison, both usually stress the second syllable in 'accentuate' (ak-SEN-tchoo-ate
), which shows how variable the language can be.
See also It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY
and No Pronunciation Guide
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Anime and Manga
- In Detective Conan, Jodie Starling uses this as a form of Obfuscating Stupidity. Naturally, Hattori calls her out on it right off the bat.
- Dlanor in Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. The last word of her sentences is always EMPHASIZED. It is the English equivalent chosen for her speaking style in Japanese, where she speaks with a cold, robotic voice and ends her sentences with copulas written in KATAKANA.
- The English version of Ponyo's ending theme:
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she's a little fish
She's a little fish from the deep blue sea
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she's a little girl
She's a little girl with a round tum-MY.
- "Alsatia", the opening theme from Mnemosyne: "It's Alsay-SHEE-a!"
- The Code Geass picture drama Miraculous Birthday has a funny gag where Lelouch incorrectly teaches the student council to say "Yes, your ma-JEST-y" repeatedly.
- In the original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02, the Chosen Children owned power-ups for their Digimon called Digimentals. When these were activated, they shouted, "Digimental UUUUP!", which, though a little hammy, is nevertheless an aversion of this trope. Come the infamous English Dub, and for some reason or another it was decided to change this call to "Digi-armour ENERGISE!". Due to the lip-flaps, however, the syllable of this shout that was stretched out was the "er" in "energise". The result was "Digi-armour enEEEEEEEEERgise!"
- Pedro and his family speak like this in the Japanese version of Excel Saga. This may be part of the attempt to play the characters in an exaggerated Spanish/South American accent.
- When the anime Card Captor Sakura was translated for Brazilian audiences, "SAH-Koo-Ra" was changed to "Sah-KOO-Ra".
- The English dub of Naruto does this often. Perhaps the most immediate example is KA-ka-shi, who in the dub gives his name as Ka-KA-shi.
- This happens other time, like with the Rinnegan. The pronunciation is "Ren-Ay-Gan", the dub pronounces it "Ren-E-Gan", like one would pronounce "Renegade" in English. And don't get me started on the Australian dub opening of the original Naruto. Sah-soo-kay, right....
- Emo Phillips sometimes employs this as part of his stage persona.
- Eddie Izzard used this to illustrate how awkward it is when Robin Hoods have American accents.
- "Where is the Maid MarEYEan? And the Sheriff of NottingHAM? I live in SherWOOD ForEST!"
- Mitch Hedberg liked to stress the second part of a compound noun. "... sounded an awful lot like car HORNS"; "you are never blocking a fire EXIT".
- In Damon Knight's science fiction story "You're Another," there's a man in the year 4000 or so whose native language is Esperanto (though not named). When he speaks English, he has a thick Esperanto accent, and stresses the penultimate syllable of every word, just as in Esperanto. (E.g., "Now you will give me d'instrument.")
- In Alan Dean Foster's Glory Lane, an alien in disguise on Earth is described as talking like this trope, stressing the wrong syllables and words, due to having learned English from a cheap crash course.
- Don't try to pronounce the surname of Hogfather antagonist Jonathan Teatime the way it looks (the correct pronunciation is 'Teh-ah-tim-eh'); people getting it wrong irritates him. Surprisingly enough for a psychotic assassin, he just asks them to get it right.
- Though the book does not clearly show which syllables should be stressed, in The Movie, he says it 'TEH-ah-TEEM-eh'.
- This is how Jaina Solo and Lando Calrissian realize that a robot is impersonating Lando and giving his droids orders in Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex.
- Alanis Morissette. And how!
- Bad Religion: Lots. A few examples from "Parallel": "Phony COLLective progess, ACCepting that it's all such a mess", and in the background, "our lives are paralLEL"... later, "watching as our FOUNdations crumble away"
- R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet.
- Sir William Gilbert loved to invoke this trope, taking it to deliberately ridiculous lengths.
- The somewhat obscure Trope Namer, "Sing a Tropical Song," was written for the 1943 movie musical Happy Go Lucky. The Andrews Sisters also recorded it. "Rum and CoCAAA-Cola"
- Almost every song ever performed by Coheed and Cambria.
- You could practically make a drinking game based upon how many times Claudio Sanchez stretches the simple word "I" into nearly two syllables ("Eeeyiii...")
- The majority of Stereolab songs do this. Laetitia Sadier's lyrics are mostly very political, and with a much heavier focus on content and message than in meter and prosody. Notorious examples include "Perversion" and "Metronomic Underground".
- There are several examples of this in Manic Street Preachers' album The Holy Bible. The reason for this is that the lyricist, Richey James Edwards, tended to write his lyrics in a sort of free-form stream of consciousness style. As a result, James Dean Bradfield (who wrote the music) had to try and force lines into musical passages that did not quite match up. As a result, Bradfield often pronounced words in odd ways, including accentuating the wrong syllable. There are also examples from their other work, such as "They call me Mr hy-PO-chon-DRI-a" (Mr Carbohydrate), "We need and will always need/Another invented DIS-ease" (Another Invented Disease), and "Is it about the pol-UH-tics of celebrity" (Socialist Serenade).
- James also is fond of adding extra syllables for instance: "Natwest! Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Loy-hoyds!" (Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds), "A design! For-her life" (A Design For Life) "We are not ready for drow-how-ning" (Ready For Drowning).
- Catatonia, another Welsh band, also did the "extra syllable" part: Singer Cerys Matthews pronounced "endlessly" as "End-uh-less-ly" in every instance of its use on their single "Londinium".
- The Bangles' song "Walk Like an Egyptian" has several instances where the pronunciation is strange either to rhyme, or to make them fit with the cadence, such as the lines "All the school kids so sick of books / They like the punk and the metal band / When the buzzer rings (oh whey oh) / They're walking like an Egyptian" where the last word is pronounced "egyp-tian" instead of the usual "e-gyp-tian." One would normally expect the word "Egyptian" to land on a strong accent, as "E-gyp-tian". In this case, it falls across the accent, as "AN e-GYP-TI-an", both placing the accent in an unexpected place and dividing the final syllable into two.
- KT Tunstall's "Another Place To Fall"—"see yourself as a fallen anGEL". Tunstall again, "Other Side of the World"—"Most of every day/Is filled with tired excuSES".
- "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac. "When the rain waSHES you clean you'll know."
- The Korpiklanni song "Keep on Galloping" has an English chorus in which the singer puts emphasis in the wrong places to match the beat. For example, instead of saying "Gallop-ing," he's say "Ga-lo-ping."
- A certain Spanish language ballad (circa 1997? by Rocio Durcal?) has a verse ending with a phrase to the effect that her tears are stuck in her throat. In Spanish, that's "garganta". There's nothing unusual about the way the word itself is accented, but it's unusual to hear such an unattractive-sounding word placed in full prominence at the climactic point of a musical phrase and backed with lush orchestration, rather than buried in an inconspicuous part of the verse.
- Steely Dan are noted for this, placing unexpected phrases like "zombie" and "The Eagles" at prominent parts of a phrase for surprise effect.
- Sabaton of all bands manages to combine this with Trolling Creator with their track "A Secret", which warns the listeneer that an illegal download has been detected and that it is executed spyware protocol six hundred sixty-six. Yes, it speaks the number aloud in proper word form, but the computerized voice messes with the stress pattern, so it can be extremely difficult to understand what is being said.
- "Pretty Vacant" by Sex Pistols has the latter word pronounced "VaCANT", making it sound like the word "cunt".
- In "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", Gordon Lightfoot pronounces "Detroit" with three syllables—"De-troy-it". Native Detroiters usually pronounce it "da-TROYT." The last "t" is really more of a glottal stop than anything.
- This is the standard Canadian pronunciation of "Detroit" and not Lightfoot's invention.
- Enter Shikari normally avoid this trope, but "Gap In The Fence" has a particularly extreme example.
"Yes GRANted we PROSper, but the FACT that we PROSper... is Even TAken FOR granTEEEEEEEEE-duh."
- Yes, they did indeed add a whole new syllable to the word granted.
- MC Frontalot's Charisma Potion Lampshades this in a small skit at the end
Front's DM: Damien, are you saying Attribute, or Attribute?
Front: Attribute, obviously.
Front's DM: 'Cause it kind of comes off like "attribiute". If you were saying "attribute", then it would be a verb.
Front: The words do whatever I tell them to.
- Majela Zeze Diamond doesn't seem to care very much about getting her accents on the right syllable. Example (spoilered out for NSFW): Wet AND jui-CY sweet VA-gi-NA
- The Beatles's "Michelle".
- Several times in "Song 2" by blur.
By a JumBO jet
Well I feel heaVY meTAL
And I'm pins and I'm needles
- Andy Gibb: The chorus to Sha-DOW Dan-CING!!!
- Rhapsody of Fire's "Sea of Fate" practically runs on this trope.
FragMENTS of torTURED
ExistENCE reVEALing cold WHISpers
- From the Pussycat Dolls' "When I Grow Up":
"We all want to be fay-MUSS!"
- "Genius Of Love" by the Tom Tom Club. "No one can sing / Quite like Smokey, Smokey Ro-BIN-son."
- As you might expect, this trope (along with mispronunciations galore) features in the song "Bad English" by Québécois comedian François Pérusse.
- Pink Floyd's The Wall has a few, most notably "Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2" ("No dark sar-CAS-um") and "Hey You".
- Foo Fighters' "These Days": "Your heart has never been bro-KEHN" (specially as the word which it rhymes to, "stolen", is pronounced normally)
- On My Music, one of the panelists once described "Michelle" by The Beatles as "one of those songs that has the emPHASis on the sylLAble".
- On TAPS Para-radio, hosts Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson would challenge Dave Tango to a word game where he is tasked with pronouncing an obscure multisyllabic word correctly. Dave would often fail and in one episode, Grant complained that Dave put the "emPHASis on the wrong sylLAble",
- In ADOM, Chaos cultists' mIxEd cAsE dIaLoGuE is probably intended to represent this.
- True Assassin from Fate/stay night, used as a sign that his body and mind are not entirely stable due to the circumstances of his creation. After he manages to "repair" himself by eating the remains of Caster and Lancer he begins talking normally.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, President Deling's body double talks like this. Given what he transforms into after you kill him, it's not surprising.
- The G-Man from the Half-Life series speaks like this, along with speeding up and slowing down randomly and a bit of Vader Breath and Snake Talk.
- Also done with the COMbine to emphasize it's a noun. Unfortunately this doesn't solve confusion with tractors.
- The flamingo in Max Payne 2's Show Within a Show, Address Unknown. Justified because the flamingo's dialogue is the dialogue spoken backwards, then played in reverse.
- In the game Portal, GLaDOS speaks in this manner, on top of the already distorted, artificial sound of her voice. And the frequent random scrambling and nonsense.
- Loki from Video Game/Rune does this during his masterplan exposition, whilst having a good deal of mood swings from manic to psychotic. Then again, he's chained to a rock whilst being subjected to corrosive poisons, so he's not alltogether a balanced individual.
- Some demons in Shin Megami Tensei (particularly Slime) like to do this.
- In the game Freelancer, a professor (whose name I forget) mentions losing the people chasing them in the "ME-thane" fields. Lampshaded in the main character's personal logs, "Who says ME-thane? It's METH-ane!"
- Homestar Runner's Strong Bad does it all the time when reading his email messages, often done to accentuate spelling errors. All the speaking characters have spoken this way at least once. There are even a few pages on the Homestar Runner Wiki listing their occurrence.
- Dexter's Laboratory: "Dee Dee! Get out of my laBOratory!" Dexter in general sounds like a stereotypical Mad Scientist of indeterminate Eastern European origin.
- Family Guy: The ghost of Peter's father: "You must go to the dagobaaaaah SY Stem."
- While they were casting Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, when Stephen Colbert auditioned for the eponymous role, they told him to do this every sentence or so. It... didn't quite work out, as one can see on the first DVD collection.
- Dr. Zoidberg on Futurama pronounces "robot" as "RO-bit," which is ironically how the word was first pronounced.
- In Daria, Mr. DeMartino yells VARious syllaBLLES COMpletely at ranDOM! The guy is generically angry and about half a cup of coffee from exploding into a gigantic mass of high-strung destruction, so it's more like he's trying to emphasize everything.
- In the episode "Fair Play", Quinn has a single line in a play that she keeps rehearsing. After the usual encouragement from Sandi ("Is that how you're going to say it?"), Quinn tries out ever more bizarrely accented readings. Her final delivery makes her sound like an idiot; that and other impending disasters lead to her humiliation. "I WILL make a DAINty garLAND for my HEAD and SING!"
- In "This Year's Model", Romonica calls up Schloss Morgendorffer to suggest that Quinn would be an ideal candidate for modelling. Daria answers, and mocks Romonica's accent when addressing Daria, responding, "And I am DAria MORgenDORffer."
- In the first season finale of Drawn Together, Toot does this as part of a gag where she does a bad job pretending to be interested in an Apprentice-style reality show game.
- Veggie Tales Silly Song "Monkey" had Larry say, "We finally did it, photo-GRAPH-er!"
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, the episode where they prepare for their trip to Europe has a character who constantly sings, "Because I'MMA GOING to EUR-ope!"
- George Bush referenced this during the 2000 election campaign, where in one debate, he admitted "I've been known to mangle a syllable or two myself."
- Opera singers whose first language is English are often given the following advice about pronouncing the works of Bartok and Janacek: "In HUN-garian and CZECH-oslovakian, the ACC-ent is AL-ways on the first SYLL-able, no EX-ceptions ." This worked better back when Czechoslovakia was a country, but if you just say "Czech" it wrecks the joke.
- Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell did this, often with common words, like "intricacies" which he consistently pronounced in-TRICK-a-sees. Whether this was part of his grating persona, or unintentional, is debatable.
- Argentinian Spanish comes across as this to other Spanish speakers, due to the conjugation of the "vos" pronoun that has been relegated to a reserve of Argentina. "Prué-ba-lo", for example, becomes "pro-bá-lo".
- Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien often used to joke that he often "put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle"; the less charitable joke about him was that he was the first Canadian Prime Minister in history who couldn't express himself coherently in either of Canada's official languages. Ironically, this was at least in part an intentional branding strategy to make himself look stupider than he really was; in actual fact, he was a remarkably canny strategist whose political instincts quite regularly blew "smarter" politicians right out of the water.
- JFK said we should go the moon by the end of this "deCADE"
- Latin poetry was dependent upon meter and scansion. These are essentially the meter and emphasis on syllables respectively. It's a great way to wreak havoc with Latin students who aren't familiar with it, and it's even more vexingly difficult to pull of correctly.
- This is often used for comedy when lampooning the French Canadian accent.
Anime and Manga
- From Noir, the track "Salva Nos" makes "requiem" in the phrase dona eis requiem four syllables and accents the second (re-QU-i-em), while "eis" becomes one syllable instead of two. This is likely because the vocalist's first language is Japanese, which consistently allows vowel hiatus.
- Many English dubs of anime, particularly earlier ones, do this for character's names and other Japanese words that find their way into the dub. A couple of examples: ah-KEER-ah (as opposed to AH-kee-rah) and sah-KOOR-ah (as opposed SAH-koo-rah).
- Happens in spades in the theme songs for Persona 4: The Animation, leaving them very difficult to understand even though they're in English.
- In the first Alone in the Dark (2005) movie, Tara Reid's character stresses the "found" in Canadian province "New-FOUND-land" when analyzing the origin of artifacts brought in to her by Christian Slater's character. In Canada, the name is pronounced, "Noofin' Land". Or Noo-Fundland. At least with some people.
- Anything that comes out of Tommy Wiseau's mouth in The Room is like this.
- In Doctor Who's 20th anniversary special, a Time Lord official is taken for a mind scan. His cry of, "No, not the Mind Probe!" was unintentional, and no matter how many takes the director called for, the actor kept saying it the same way.
- In Battlestar Galactica, the original series, most times, when someone says "starboard," they put the stress on the second syllable.
- The same mistake occurs in Space:1999.
- In the Amazing Stories episode, "The Mission," a member of the flight crew refers to a belly-gunner without any experience as a "green-belly gunner," when he should have called him a "green belly-gunner." The belly-gunner is the guy in the belly turret. The way he said it, it's a gunner with a green belly.
- In one edition of 'Big Fat Quiz', notoriously camp comedian Alan Carr got the pronunciation of 'vuvuzela' appallingly, hilariously wrong; the correct pronunciation is 'voo-voo-ZAY-la'. Carr said 'vuh-VOO-ze-luh'.
- In The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny the protagonist is called Jimmy Mahonney, pronounced MAH-Honee, so some American versions, to keep it along the music, rename him Jimmy MacIntyre (Funny enough, even when the usual American pronuciation is Ma-HOH-nee, the original Irish one is indeed MAH-honne. This is due to different accents having the stresses on words in different places.)
- The lyric "there ought to be clowns" from Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" has the accent on "ought", when the music has it on "be". Same with ''"well, maybe next year" — the word with the emotional emphasis should be "next", but the music has it on "year". Sondheim says he knows how confusing it is to sing, but he can't really change it now.
- Similarly, Sondheim's lyrics for West Side Story's beautiful love song "Somewhere" begin: "There's A place for us..." Apparently this has led to Sondheim referring to it as "The 'Uh' song."
- The Phantom of the Opera: throughout the show, there seems to be no consensus as to whether the female lead's name is pronounced 'ChrisTINE' or 'CHRIStine'.
- "Graham, watch out! A pOIsonous snake!"
- The original version of "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII accents "interius" and "inanis" on the first syllable and "vehementi" on the second. It should be "inTERius", "inANis" and "veheMENti". Rule of thumb is that the emphasis is on the second-to-last syllable, although that's a guideline, not a rule. However, the last one is due to the song's melody; the first line is sung as "Estuan/Interius/Ira ve/hementi".
- On the God Of War 2 extras DVD, Cory Balrog starts talking about the game's aniMAtors, then he stops, does a double take, and mocks himself: "I put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble!"
- In Warcraft III: The human says "Re-SEARCH complete" and "Up-GRADE complete," while the undead, orc, and night elf say "RE-search complete" and "UP-grade complete." The former may be an aversion, as both pronunciations of "research" are correct, but they are mutually inconsistent.
- Just Cause has Bolo Santosi's legendarily bad voice acting. Com-RAID. Ree-PERS. The same thing with about 90% of the voice cast.
- Last Alert for the Turbo Duo, which would even accent MONOSYLLABLIC words within the sentence wrong!
- The Dragon Riders Of Pern video game for the Dreamcast had D'kor's dragon constantly pronounce "inventory" as the verb form of "invent" followed by the same "-ory" sound as in "cursory", which sounds odd to Americans (it's the standard pronunciation in Britain).
- The songs in some of the Dead or Alive 4 ending movies, especially Christie's: "Never been dead, but... seen so maNY deaths." (This was also used as the pole dance music in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2.)
- Raocow's grasp of the English language has proven surprisingly verbose, given that Canadian-French is his primary tongue, but he has an odd tendency to pronounce words in a way that sounds strange to primary English-speakers.
- The man who arranged the song for Lilo & Stitch's opening is notorious for pairing Hawaiian chants with Western music and ignoring pauses and pronunciations (very important in a language with only 17 letters and a glottal stop) to make it sound better, which appears to have turned two unrelated birthday chants about Queen Liliuokalani and Prince Kalakaua into Hawaiian-sounding gibberish.
- From The Lion King's "Be Prepared": "deCADES of denial." As usual, the pronunciation was forced in order to fit the melody.
- The song for the second series credits of Blinky Bill misprounces Marcia. This is only the singer. When the cast sing they get it right.
- From ''My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic":
- It happens several times in "At the Gala" from the first season finale, especially the instances of "TOnight at the Gala".
- The "EquesTRIa Girls" commercial.
- Zecora does this occasionally to get her rhymes to work. "MonSTER" in "Secret of My Excess" is particularly painful.
- In AOSTH, Dr. Robotnik was snoo PINGAS usual, we all see.
- In King of the Hill, Peggy's poor grasp of Spanish usually results in this.
- Bugs Bunny does this to the credits of Tortoise Beats Hare (1941, Avery), with Charles MAChimson (McKimson), Fred AVERy, and Dave MonAHhan.
- He does it again in Falling Hare (1943, Clampett) as he tells how gremlins wreck planes with their "diaboLICal saboTAYgee."
- This is actually rather common in many languages with large speaker bases and multiple varieties. English has quite a few examples, such as: adult vs. adult, address (noun) vs. address, moustache vs. moustache, and many other examples.
- A potential problem that non-native speakers of tonal languages such as Chinese need to be careful with.
- Similarly, some languages, including English, simply make more use of stress than others. French, for example, tends to afford most syllables equal stress, unless the vowel is accented; English, by contrast, tends to have at least one stressed syllable in every word, which as the regional differences illustrates doesn't necessary have anything to do with the sounds involved.
- It's a common problem among the hard of hearing, who may not be able to discern stress in spoken language. (It also shows up when people use a word they've never heard spoken aloud: this often crops up in medical settings, where patients or family members may not know how to pronounce the words they've read in the literature.)
- If you're British: Americans. If you're American: the British. If you're from some other English-speaking country: British and American people, each on different words.
- Oh dear goodness, the Russian language. Once you study it (for say, 8 years), you begin to pick up patterns, but you can never be sure until you hear it for sure or look in the dictionary. Coupled with the fact that Russian words tend to be long, and also somewhat tonal (trUsy — cowards, trusY — underwear), you can never be sure where the real stress lays, or if the word you said was the one you meant. And the spelling rules, or the akaniye and ikaniye accents...
- Most other Stress-Accent system languages have an absolute rule on which syllable gets the accent. Some put it on the first, some on the middle, some on the last, and so on. Russian normally puts it on the penultimate (second to last) syllable by default, although sometimes it goes on the first. And there is no way to predict upon which syllable the stress will fall, and changing which syllable gets the stress can warp the meaning. Babushka (Бабушка), which means grandmother, has the emphasis on the first syllable. However, Babushka (Бабушка), which has the emphasis on the second syllable, refers to the type of headscarves commonly worn by grandmothers.
- BabOOshka is, in fact, a Fake Russian word. No one in Russia calls the headscarf that, it's really kosynka.
- Naturally, this trope is a common trait of foreigners in Russian-language words. For example, in the third movie of The Elusive Avengers, Ksanka recognizes Ovechkin (who impersonates a Frenchman) by his overdone, fake-sounding Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable.
- New Orleans is pronounced by locals as "New OR-lins," not "New Ore-LEENS," as most of the rest of the country pronounces it. If you've got a thick accent, you might pronounce it more like "NAW-lins" anyway.
- Whether this is real, a joke or an urban legend, the story goes that Madame Degaulle was once asked what women want. Her reply (in English) was "A Penis" to which her husband added "In English it's pronounced 'HAppiness'".
- Some people on the Autistic spectrum have this as a Verbal Tic.