This Trope often comes in two forms but leaves the audience asking one question: What the Hell Is That Accent?
Sometimes, this comes about when the character will start using an accent for some reason or another. If the character knows what sort of accent they are going for then often it will sound nothing like it's supposed to. Another character will often lampshade this but it's not guaranteed.
Other times this will be the character's natural accent. They may be an alien from Planet Z or perhaps just from another country. Odds are good other aliens won't use the same accent, though.
Of course, Reality Is Unrealistic may come into play here. Accents can be blended and merged depending on the geographic history of the individual and whether they were raised bilingual or not. Some accents may not be considered what is typical but may be truth in television regardless. And multiple times actors will speak with their natural accents and become the standard to compare to all other accents. For instance think of Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter, when most Australians have accents a little more refined than that. Or Sean Connery, whose Scottish accent is unique only to him.
Not to be confused with Not Even Bothering with the Accent where a character is supposed to be from Country Y but sounds just like the rest of the cast. May overlap with Just a Stupid Accent or As Long as It Sounds Foreign. If the accent starts recognizable but then inexplicably jumps on a cross-country road trip, then it's Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping.
Sailor Moon has a few in the English dub. Most notably, Molly/Naru's inexplicable Boston/New York hybrid. In the middle of Japan. Note that HER MOTHER has no trace of this accent at all. Amy/Ami also has something that sounds like Mid-Atlantic meets generic Eastern European meets generic British.
Not to mention Chad/Yuuichirou's... surfer accent?
To say nothing of Jeice's "Australian" accent in the Funimation dub of Dragon Ball Z. But the crowner has to be dubbed Launch, who sounds either stereotypical Brooklyn, southern redneck, or both.
The Four Kids Entertainment dub of One Piece gave Shanks a ridiculous accent that's really hard to determine. Fans can't tell whether he supposed to sound Irish, Cockney English, Scottish, or Australian.
In the American dub of Pokémon, Nando speaks with a European accent that shifts variously between Hispanic, Irish and Scottish.
In the English dub of Axis Powers Hetalia, the voice actors speak with accents appropriate for the characters they play (England has an English accent, France has a French one, etc). From the start though, it was determined that the accents would be just as over-the-top and stereotypical as everything else on the show is, so quite a few aren't exactly convincing. Todd Haberkorn told how he discarded an authentic Italian accent he learned, in favor of imitating Mario. There's also one episode where the narrator (who normally talks with an American accent) briefly imitates Prussia and comes out sounding like some bizarre cross of German and Scottish.
Moulin Rouge has Christian's father with an accent that comes off best described as German-Scottish.
Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt in Watchmen. In public Veidt has an American accent, and it slips in and out of his native German accent when he lets his guard down, so it is intentionally meant to be a mixture in certain circumstances.
Michael Gambon as Dumbledore was going for the late Richard Harris' accent, who did the part before him, as well as his native Irish accent.
Also Bill Nighy as Scrimgeour. He sounds like he's a Scotsman whose accent got lost in London, slept with Yorkshire, before going for drinks in Devon and waking up naked in a skip in Dublin, but at least it's consistent.
For Highlander, Christopher Lambert went to a lot of trouble to develop a mixed non-specific accent appropriate for an immortal who'd lived everywhere over the course of his centuries-long life. The intention is underlined by an early dialogue exchange when a cop tells MacLeod, "You talk funny," and asks where he's from. MacLeod answers, "Lots of different places." However, his straight Scottish accent in the Flashbacks is also a muddle. Lambert himself is from a French family and spent his early life in Switzerland.
The Room: Where the hell is Johnny supposed to be from? That voice is vaguely French, but not quite enough. Actor Tommy Wiseau is using his real life accent, but refuses to state his country of origin, claiming to be Cajun. One reviewer's best guess was Walloon (part of Belgium), while the Nostalgia Critic referred to him as the Bizaro Fabio.
The girlfriend from Werewolf, who sounds like Tommy Wiseau.
Hannibal Lecter's accent in The Silence of the Lambs. He has bits of everything in it. This is easier to explain when considering his origin (something we only learn of in the book, to be fair). He was born in Lithuania and spent time in several countries, learning several languages in the process. His accent is bound to be a little bit of everything. Anthony Hopkins said he was going for a cross between Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.
Angelina Jolie as Olympias in Oliver Stone's Alexander. The intent was for her to have a vaguely foreign accent in order to accentuate her exotic "barbarian" nature. Historically, she came from Epirus, which is right near modern-day southern Albania, making this rather well-researched in terms of transferring accents.
Poor Christian Bale in Newsies actually does a pretty decent New York accent. Only, New York has a lot of accents. Bale doesn't so much not pick one as pick all of them. Most of the other actors don't pick any of them at all.
Star Wars: Darth Vader. As Anakin Skywalker he sounds either Midwestern American (childhood) or upper-crust New England (adolescence). Once in the black armor, he sounds like a roboticized Scary Black Man (courtesy of James Earl Jones) speaking in a Mid-Atlantic accent. When Luke removes his mask at the end of Return of the Jedi, he inexplicably gains a British accent just before he dies.
The jury is still out as to what accent Jude Law was going for in I Heart Huckabees. It isn't his native British accent, it isn't an accent for someone who grew up in the midwestern United States like his character... the best guess is that it's a deliberate affectation from a self-loathing individual.
Kiefer Sutherland may have found out what happened to his girlfriend in the remake of The Vanishing, but no one has ever been to find out where the heck Jeff Bridges' character was supposed to be from. France? Belgium? Holland?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Davy Jones, played by Bill Nighy, has what is sort-of-recognisable as a Scottish accent, but given that he's punctuating it with various bizarre sputtering and plops and other squid noises, and that Bill Nighy has a fairly distinctive voice to begin with, it turns into this trope. The accent was originally supposed to be Dutch (he's the captain of the Flying Dutchman, after all), but Nighy refused to even attempt it.
Hell, Jack Sparrow, himself, seems to have a very bizarre mixture of several English accents.
Russell Crowe gives us a strange blend of Welsh, Irish, and a bit of Scottish in Robin Hood (2010). He's been known to stop interviews when asked about it.
Kate Beckinsale and her apparently Transylvanian accent in Van Helsing. Strangely we hear some American pronunciations in there when Beckinsale herself is British.
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings adopts a weird sort of mid-Atlantic accent that sounds sort of like it wants to be British but can't quite make it — which stands out, given that practically everybody in the movie speaks with one British Regional Accent or another.
And occasionally he says random lines in a hammy Irish accent.
Belizaire The Cajun (a 1986 low-budget film starring Armand Assante) has this problem for purely historical reasons. Most of the characters are Cajuns (Louisianans of French-Canadian descent) in 1850s Louisiana, but their accents evoke an unlikely mishmash of ethnicities from all over Europe and the Americas (one of the characters sounds almost Hispanic/Latino at one point, while Belizaire himself edges close to what sounds like a Scottish accent in one scene). This discrepancy can be attributed to two things: one, most North Americans have never heard an authentic Cajun accent and/or have a stereotyped idea of what it sounds like; and two, the Cajuns really were a multi-ethnic and even multi-racial people, despite primarily speaking French. (This is discussed further over at Ragin' Cajun.)
Peter MacNicol as Janosz Poha in Ghostbusters II provides the page quote. He's supposedly Hungarian, but his accent lurches all over Eastern Europe like a drunk in a Yugo. Since his name doesn't have any real country of origin, it's just a nonspecific wacky accent, which MacNicol developed by hanging out at the Romanian consulate in New York.
It should be noted that Romanian actually is a Romanic language (duh), like French, Italian and Spanish, and has little in common with any other Eastern European language - Hungarian is not even Indoeuropean but a category of its own with Estonian, Finnish and some minor languages, while the vast majority would speak Slavic.
In Funny People, Leslie Mann's character attempts to imitate her husband's Australian accent and fails, confusing Ira.
In Maverick, Annabelle has this asked of her by the eponymous character.
Maverick: I can't quite place your accent. Where in the South are you from?
Annabelle: Ever been to Mobile? That's where I'm from.
Maverick: Mobile, Alabama? Hell, I been there. I'll bet we know the same people. You start.
Annabelle: I've tried so hard to forget that place. I endured such personal tragedy there.
When auditioning for his part in No Country For Old Men, Javier Bardem attempted to downplay his Spanish accent, and ended up with a bizarre, mangled dialect that is thoroughly indefinable. The Coen Brothersliked this so much that they told him to keep doing it, as the accent heightened the unsettling otherworldliness of his character. He won an Oscar for his performance.
In the 1999 Disney Channel movie PUNKS, a young Jessica Alba played a streetwise tomboy with a Brooklyn accent. Except Alba's accent drifted all across the United States' eastern seaboard, and occasionally turned into what sounded like an Estuary accent.
When playing Lonnie in Rock Of Ages, Russell Brand fluctuates between different English accents, from a London/Cockney accent, a Liverpulian accent and a Brummie accent. Apparently he was going for Brummie.
Also Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul has an accent that sounds somewhere between Middle Eastern and actress Marion Cotillard's native French. Which actually serves as Fridge Brilliance after the reveal.
In Angels & Demons, Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayelet Zurer), when speaking in English, has an accent that wanders from American to British to Italian and from there halfway around Europe. Ayelet Zurer stated that she wanted the character to seem international, and given that she's an Italian citizen who works in Geneva and is shown speaking Italian, French, and English and reading Latin, it's somewhat justified. As it happens, the actress herself is Israeli.
Ilsa Haupstein in the first Hellboy movie is a prime example. Her German accent wanders randomly across several nations, particularly a British accent in her final lines.
A similar concept was used in the movie Nell, which was about a girl picking up a unique accent from a mother who could only talk through one side of her mouth because of a stroke. Her accent is so strange and incomprehensible that it can barely even be called English anymore.
Emma Watson as Sam in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower has one that sounds partly Southern Belle, partly BBC English. Given that this is set in Pittsburgh (whose accent apparently nobody considers worth imitating on film), she leans heavily towards Southern Belle.
In the 1971 version of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, the actor playing Mike Teavee is supposed to be from New Mexico but speaks in a stereotypically New York fashion when he's trying to sound like a tough guy (probably Rule of Funny). Several minor characters have British accents, even though the story is supposed to be taking place in America.
Hunter in Neverwhere is described as having an accent like this, as point-of-view character Richard isn't familiar with the accents of the world Below.
In Cryptonomicon, Enoch Root has one hell of a weird accent in English; after some discussion of it among his squadmates, Bobby Shaftoe (who had met Enoch before and learned his (supposed) background) pretends to listen to it and declares:
Bobby: Well, fellas, I would guess that this Enoch Root is the offspring of a long line of Dutch and possibly German missionaries in the South Sea Islands, interbred with Aussies. And furthermore, I would guess that—being as how he grew up in territories controlled by the British—that he carries a British passport and was drafted into their military when the war started and is now part of ANZAC.
Pvt. Daniels: Haw! If you got all of that right, I'll give you five bucks.
During her brief visit to Hell, Honor Harrington encounters a group of prisoners who speak English in the oddest manner... their choice of words and grammar indicate that they speak it fluently, but something about how they are pronouncing is just maddeningly off for no evident reason. They are all developing speech impairments, due to brain damage caused by the planet's native flora and fauna being slightly toxic to humans, with the State Sec personnel making it a point not to give them enough rations to sustain themselves.
In Robots And Empire, the protagonists visit a planet presumed abandoned. Upon encountering a robotic overseer, they address it... only to find, to their dismay, that while these robots are Three Laws Compliant, their definition of human only extends to those with the local accent (very distinct). Oh, and everything that looks like a human but doesn't speak like one must be destroyed on the spot.
Faustine from The Vampire Files claims to be Russian, but Jack's never heard a real Russian use an accent like hers. He describes it as a cross between Bela Lugosi and Garbo.
Live Action TV
Antoine de Caunes of Eurotrash fame initially tried dampening down his very, very strong French accent (to the point that he was often suspected of not being French at all and putting the accent on for the sake of comedy) and using an English accent whilst presenting on British television. As he himself admits, the results were not pretty.
Craig Ferguson once commented that nobody in Scotland understood Scotty. "It was like an Arab had an epileptic seizure."
NOOKLEARRH. WESSELS. Interestingly, Anton Yelchin, the Russian-born but American-bred actor who played Chekhov in the 2009 Star Trek made a game attempt at approximating Chekov's accent, even though he apparently commented that it sounded like no Russian accent he had ever heard.
Mauve Shirt Transporter Chief Kyle had a kinda-English accent (which makes sense as the actor who played him, John Winston, is British), but it was "off" enough that a DC Comics bio had him born in Australia.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Troi. Marina Sirtis said that she purposefully tried to make an alien accent since she was half-Human/half-Betazoid, and especially in the earlier seasons you can almost see her struggling to keep it up. The fact that none of the Betazoid characters used anything even slightly similar also drew attention to it. That accent was replaced by something closer to a British accent (which is her native accent) in later seasons, and then dropped altogether in movie.
Originally, Denise Crosby was chosen after reading the part of Troi, the empath, and Sirtis read for Commie Land descendant and security-focused Tasha Yar (... yiiiikes). By the time season one began, they had accents that might have made sense if their roles hadn't been swapped. Troi's mother was cast as if this change hadn't happened at all. There was a fan-theory for a while that Troi had a peculiar Earth accent she'd picked up from her father ... then Ian Troi appeared in a flashback and he didn't have it either.
Friends: When Ross starts lecturing at NYU he is very nervous and when he begins to talk "this British accent just came out". "Yeah, not a very good one." In the same episode Monica does a Scottish accent to make fun of him and Rachel goes for Indian of all things.
Also in universe is pretty much any time Joey tries to put on an accent, his Southern Accent comes out as Jamaican.
Another episode has Phoebe and Monica having this reaction to one of their friends coming back from England with a new accent. Monica attempts an awful impression of it ("Monica dah-ling it's U-mah-da cooling"). Chandler remarks "is that meant to be a British accent". Ironically when we see the friend (played by Jennifer Coolidge) her English accent is quite decent.
Well, sort of- some of the vowels are correct (for RP, anyway) and consistent. It's probably exactly right considering it's portrayed as irritatingly fake.
Londo in Babylon 5. His aide, Vir, did not speak with the same accent, but the actor playing Lord Refa did decide to copy it, leading the series creator to explain that this was basically the "old money"/aristocratic Centauri accent.
Possibly adding to the confusion, J Michael Straczynski originally didn't want Londo to have an accent at all, but Peter Jurasik (who played Londo) kept on using it anyway. Plus, Centauri Prime is an entire planet, so it would make sense that there would be more than one accent.
When pushed by his co-stars to identify exactly what accent it was, Jurasik was known to shrug and announce in an exaggerated version that it was "Eastern European". He claims that he'd lost a part once using this accent and figured that if he's an alien, he at least couldn't be accused of Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping.
Delenn might count too, but that's technically the actress' own Croatian accent.
Andreas Katsulas, who played G'Kar, does not actually have a dramatic British accent, but adopted one because he felt it was appropriate for the part. There was quite a variety of fake accents among the B5 actors.
The Centauri and Minbari in particular seem to have a selection of accents. Turhan Bey used his native Austrian accent when portraying the Centauri Emperor, lending some credence to the quasi-Eastern European accent affected by Jurasik as Londo. Theodore Bikel used his native Yiddish accent when playing a Minbari, Reiner Schone as Dukhat used his native German accent, and John Vickery affected a pronounced upper class British purr as Neroon.
When Bikel played a Russian Jewish rabbi, there were those who claimed that he didn't quite sound Russian.
There's also the Centauri maid from the framing scenes of "In the Beginning," who has a French accent. She's a major character in the Centauri Prime trilogy, where her accent is described as "Northern."
In "Nightmare of Eden", the character Tryst has an utterly incredible accent, which the actor developed deliberately as a homage to Dr. Strangelove, on the grounds that people on other planets in the future won't have the same accents as people on Earth in the present. It might have worked better if he hadn't been the only person in the story doing it. (And Tom Baker didn't keep visibly cracking up whenever Tryst spoke.)
For that matter, Peri's American accent is on occasions so atrocious that American viewers have had to Google to try to find out where she's meant to be from.
In the new-who episode "Day of the Moon" people were left trying to figure out where exactly the orphanage owner is meant to be from. It's meant to be a Southern US version of a Sycophantic Servant.
It's Cajun (i.e. Louisiana). Half Deep South, half French Canadian. For a reference for what he was going for, see Lotso from Toy Story 3.
Also invoked when Rose questioned the Ninth Doctor about his Oop North accent.
In "A Town Called Mercy", almost all of the Americans are played by Brits...with varying degrees of success. Ben Browder, both an American and a Southerner, uses a VERY over-the-top Spaghetti Western-y accent.
We have two English potentials, Molly and Annabelle, who are cockney and RP respectively, and seem to have taken personal lessons from Dick Van Dyke. Annabelle pronounces because as "bee-cawwse" and Molly replaces wise with "woiz".
Kendra's accent is according to Word Of God a rural Jamaican accent and very region-specific, but isn't recognised as such by Jamaicans.
Nobody English has ever spoken with Drusilla's wildly bizarre Cockney-meets-Mummerset. She is, on the other hand, crazy. And before she's crazy, she's pretty consistently upper-class.
One of the recurring characters, Sofia Curtis, was played by an English actress who tried to shoot for a generic, American accent. It... didn't quite work out that well.
And, just one word for CSINY: Peyton. The actress was British, but the accent apparently still bad. (Jane Parsons did it better)
It started on Buffy but the less said about Angel's 'Irish' accent, the better.
With that said, one time Buffy tries an English accent, that makes Angel sound like a born and bred Belfastian in comparison. (Which would be fine... if his character was meant to be from Ulster at all.)
Alias Season 3 featured Agent Vaughan's new wife, Lauren, who was supposed to be British. Melissa George was rather lacking in ability in that department...
...the poor accent was later given a plot based explanation, but it seems unlikely that it was specified as a poor English accent in the original script.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? is infamous for this; any time the players have to portray a nationality, there's maybe a 10% chance at best that the accent will even remotely resemble what it's supposed to be. Especially if it's Colin or Ryan attempting the accent. Its generally lampshaded to no end. Ryan usually claims the accent is "Dutch".
One sketch had Ryan's character blaming his roaming accent on moving a lot as a child.
Greg once beautifully described Colin's wandering accents as "taking a train across Europe."
Any of Colin's attempts at a Scottish accent become doubly hilarious if you know he was actually born in Scotland.
The Saturday Night Live "Two Wild and Crazy Guys" - Dan Aykroyd puts on a plausible Eastern European accent, but Steve Martin's is just...what?!? Compounded massively when they speak in faux-Czech to each other.
This is pretty common on SNL, actually - some cast members are very, very good at accents, while others... are not. A couple examples of the latter camp include Jason Sudeikis as Richard Dawson in a Family Feud sketch, Seth Meyers as Prince Charles, and any time Christopher Walken has hosted.
The accent used by the second version of Kryten on Red Dwarf has been described as a cross between American and Scottish. It was apparently supposed to be Canadian when he started out. It is also worth noting that Kryten keeps three spare heads in a locker in case of emergencies. Two speak his unique North American accent, but the third is different - blunter and coarser than the rest, it talks pure Yorkshire, notes its circuit boards are shot to buggery, and comes over like Geoffrey Boycott on a good day.
Somewhat justified in that this accent was shown to be part of Kryten's "corrupted" personality, and so may not supposed to be any specific accent we're familiar with. When he got temporarily memory-wiped in season eight his accent reverted back to an upper-class British accent.
The Inquisitor speaks with a growling, dramatic accent which seems to represent every constituent country of the UK. It's described on the DVD commentary as 'Scotto-American'.
That '70s Show: Wilmer Valderrama has said that he purposely created an accent that couldn't be identified (think a mixture of "40 percent Cuban" and "60 percent homosexual"), and his lack of national origin is a running joke on the show.
Lampshaded in an episode in which the adults try to imagine what the kids say when they are not around, and they have Fez himself not knowing what country he's from.
Fez's friend from the other side of island has a British accent, which makes everything more confusing
Catalina Caper - "Oh, what are you, Creepy Girl?...are you French, or Italian, or one of those swarthy Gypsy types, heh heh?" In point of fact, Tom's wrong on all counts. The character of Katrina "Creepy Girl" Corelli was in fact played by Ulla Strömstedt, a Swede.
Natalie, the female protagonist from Werewolf, and several other characters from that film to varying degrees.
SCTV's Andrea Martin had two prominent characters built around this trope. Perini Scleroso, the station's cleaning woman, occasional on-air "talent," and recipient of the coveted People's Global Golden Choice Award for "Best Foreign Personality," has both a thin grasp of the English language and a bizarre, unplaceable accent. Mojo, the maid on "The Days of the Week," had a better command of English, but a different bizarre, unplaceable accent.
Cote de Pablo — Chilean born and Miami raised — plays an Israeli on NCIS, only her accent is still South American and she mangles whatever Hebrew they give her.
Several of the accents in Leverage, but it's most glaring in the season three finale, San Lorenzo. Everybody had a vaguely European-sounding accent. Not one person had the same accent as any other person. Also doubles as Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping.
In-universe, this is Sophie's reaction to the attempts of the other characters to do her accent in "The Rashomon Job" (namely, Sophie's natural accent is the same English accent as her actress, Gina Bellman. Eliot gave her a Cockney accent Eliza Doolittle would call overdone, Hardison gave her a Scottish one, and Parker only heard indecipherable gibberish.)
Claudia Black elicits this reaction quite often. However, most of the time she is using her natural mingled Australian and British accent at the request of the director. This trope is completely justified when she plays an American, though.
Samuel Sullivan in Heroes pretty much goes on a tour of every American and British regional accent in practically every sentence. Robert Knepper explained that it was meant to reflect how much he'd traveled.
And most mystifying to British ears, the character of Daphne Moon from Frasier, who speaks a very singular "Manchester" accent. This slips and slides across the north Cheshire plain and every so often touches ground in Sale and Stockport (south-west Manchester area) but is best thought of as a sort of generic north-western accent with hints of everywhere from Widnes and Runcorn right across to Glossop and Leek. The directors of Frasier really gave up when casting Daphne's "Mancunian" family: her parents are Dick Van Dyke cockney, her brothers are respectively Glaswegian, Irish, Australian, cockney and Scottish...
Shake It Up has Gunther and Tinka, who appear to speak with different accents from "the old country." (Gunther's is more German/Austrian; Tinka's is more Eastern European).
Project Runway Season 9 had Olivier Green, whose accent baffled fellow contestants and the audience. It was so all over the place that people began to speculate he was faking it, though it seemed to fluctuate based on his mood.
Let's not forget that Americans speak with a distinct accent that sometimes has to be put upon by actors. Hugh Laurie does a wonderful American accent, but it would be hard to pin down exactly where in United States Dr. House is from. Canonically, House is a military brat and thus from everywhere and nowhere, providing a Watsonian explanation for the accent. In the same vein, McNulty from The Wire does not sound like someone who is from Baltimore, or really anywhere in the U.S.
Shae from Game of Thrones, who is equally mystifying to Tyrion in-universe. She describes her own accent only as "foreign." Her accent is German. Resolved in Season Two, when Cersei pegs her accent as Lorathi. It helps that Jaqen H'gar, the only other Lorathi character, also uses a German accent.
Some had this reaction to Melisandre, apparently from Asshai (east of Essos) whose accent is similarly strange. Carice van Houten is simply using her native Dutch accent; unlike the Lorathi (where we conveniently find they speak with German accents), the other person we see from Asshai (a strange lady in Qarth) has an unremarkable native English accent.
Raj from The Big Bang Theory asks "What part of America is that accent from?" after meeting Bawwy Kwwike. He's ignored. This trope also pops up whenever someone tries to do an impression of Raj's own Indian accent.
Raj: Did you have to make me sound like a Simpsons character?
Cheryl, Theo's season 7 girlfriend on The Cosby Show, is supposed to be from Barbados. Barbadian viewers would dispute that.
Castle episode "The Limey" has Australian actor Brett Tucker allegedly attempting a Cockney accent. If it weren't for the occasional dropped "h"s one would assume he was Not Even Bothering with the Accent.
In "The Blue Butterfly", the cast were also playing the roles of other characters set in 1947. Nathan Fillion's accent never could seem to decide if it came from New York City, the American Southwest, Boston, or Canada.
Murder, She Wrote's Amos Tupper was supposedly from Maine. Tom Bosley, who played him, used an accent that has never existed anywhere on earth, let alone Maine.
In an episode of Drop The Dead Donkey, newsreader Sally Smedley has decided to make a bit of extra money by recording a radio ad. However, advertising by newsreaders is against broadcast regulations, so she tries to hide her involvement by affecting a fake accent, trying first Scottish, then Welsh. Her fellow newsreader, Henry Davenport, is not fooled for a moment, and when the ad hits the airwaves, he plays it for the whole office to hear. Researcher Dave Charnley's reaction sums up how successful her accent was:
Dave: What the hell kind of accent was that supposed to be?! Sally:(feigning ignorance) Well, it sounded like rather good Welsh to me. Dave: What!? Welsh crossed with Swedish! And a hint of Pakistani!
Lena (winner of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, actually from Germany) was causing some confusion with her accent. While definitely not German it ran all over the place. She claims her teacher had a Cockney accent, but while there are certainly traces of it in her singing, it's not the whole story.
Fans were indeed asking the trope question when Eminem came in full force with his trademark accent for his album Relapse. Later in his succeeding albums Eminem implies he sort of went overboard with it.
For a while, after she married Guy Ritchie, Madonna seemed to adopt some bizarre, half-assed attempt at a British accent.
During the first year after Lady Gaga released her first album, "The Fame," she began to use a weird off-kilter British accent, which even her fans commented on - and which led some naive people to think she actually was British. She later admitted it had to do with her anxiety and dealing with her newfound fame, dropping the accent entirely.
The two lead singers of AC/DC (the late Bon Scott and, currently, Brian Johnson) are (or, in Scott's case, were) a Scotsman and an Englishman, respectively, the former raised in Australia, and each trying to imitate American rock 'n' roll singers. This can make their accents on AC/DC records sound quite bizarre, or even unintelligible. (On Back in Black, for instance, Johnson, trying to imitate Scott, sings "explode you to Mars" in some bastardized British/Australian/American dialect, and it comes out sounding like "explode you two miles.")
For the first few Ramones albums, Joey (who, like the rest of the band, was from Forest Hills, Queens) seems to be putting on some sort of British accent while singing, which he later dropped.
On one of their earliest hits, "Going Down to Liverpool", the Bangles attempt to sound British, but their efforts are so superficial it almost sounds as if they're mocking British people. Granted, British pop musicians who fake American accents are often no better.
Invoked in an episode of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again. David Hatch complains that he only ever gets to do the narration and never gets any interesting parts. Bill responds by announcing the arrival of "an out-of-work rabbi from Cairo, born of Lithuanian parents, raised in Germany, learned English from an Irishman in Edinburgh, educated in Bangkok, who will be played by — David Hatch!" David stammers for a bit, and the resulting accent can only be described as this trope.
David: Heyop! Any mick makes a wrong move and goodness gracious me, I shall shoot you! That goes for you too, fräulein-babydoll!
Cleese: What do you mean by this?!
David: I wish I knew.
In RadioActive, a show whose cast members were not (for the most part) known for their vocal dexterity, Helen Atkinson Wood stands out for her chronic inability with American accents (her "Peggy Parton" takeoff is painful to hear - thankfully later seasons had Kate Robbins do the singing spoofs when females were involved).
Stand Up Comedy
Eddie Izzardlampshades this a couple of times; namely, in his impressions of a Bond villain and a push-me-pull-you carpet sweeper. The Bond villain's accent is explained as being the result of his losing the instructions to a synthetic voice box, which is consequently stuck in shop demonstration mode.
Josh Thomas. He was born and raised in Australia, and yet has an inexplicable, vaguely-English accent.
Danny Bhoy has a strong Scottish accent. The only other one he can do even vaguely is French (and it's a bit of a stretch). He lampshades this every time he tries to fake another accent in his act.
His ocker Australian accent is pretty good too
Andy Kaufman's "Foreign Man" act, which carried over into Latka in Taxi. Carol Kane's Simka character also applies.
One Scottish comedian commented on how frustrated he was that people mistook his accent for Irish. He proceeded to demonstrate the difference by showing what an Irish accent was and sounded like Lucky of Lucky Charms.
Exalted: Heysha Black Asp's accent, as written, is a kind of mutant fusion of every European dialect at once. About the only constant opinion is that it's damn sexy.
At one point in The Complete History of America (abridged), one of the actors is impersonating a Vietnamese girl, and another observes that he has "no idea how to do a Vietnamese accent."
One of many running gags in the popular summer stock farce A Bedfull of Foreigners is the mystery accent of Karak, the valet. The script calls for a non-specific Slavic accent, but Karak himself claims to be from Bulgaria, Hungary, and even Mexico.
The Chaos Cultists had what seems to be a Peter Lorre impression combined with Cornholio. The accent is one of the most hilariously infamous things of the game, eventually evolving into the character "Cultist-chan". Best seen here in the Chaos Stronghold intro of Soulstorm.
Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid is apparently just supposed to sound generically Eastern-European (even though she identifies herself as hailing from Kurdistan)... but The Last Days Of FOXHOUND massively mocked her accent as being 'all over the place', with even the otherwise-perfect Master of Disguise, Decoy Octopus, entirely failing to sound like her.
Naomi sounds posh-English with an American twang on her 'r' sounds, even though her character is Rhodesian and raised in America. The best guess is that it's the character's deliberate affectation. In The Twin Snakes and Metal Gear Solid 4 her accent is almost completely gone, although she still has a few English-like affectations.
The merchant in Resident Evil 4 is supposed to have a Scottish accent, apparently. Most of the players interpreted it as "Cockney", or simply "pirate". But why it's supposed to sound Scottish when we're in Not-Quite-Spain is unclear.
Wakka from Final Fantasy X. No one has any clue what it's supposed to sound like other than "vaguely islander". This isn't Earth we're talking about, but nobody else from his island has that same accent, although a few non-voiced NPC's have his Verbal Tic of putting "ya?" on the end of virtually every sentence.
Fran. Again, though, not Earth (though Ivalice's state of reality is so screwed up - thank you, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - it's hard to be sure...). Her voice actress apparently speaks several languages, so it could be that she's just produced some sort of linguistic Eldritch Abomination. The Viera's native tongue seems bizarre to many Americans. Mjrn, for example, does have a roots in Scandinavian languages. It's pronounced "mee-urn"; the J has a Y sound.
Also, the Bhujerban accent (Marquis Ondore's in particular) sounds like some weird Welsh/Hindi hybrid.
Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII has a strange, fake-Australian-sounding accent, as if she's affecting a mix of some kind. The actress actually is Australian, but the American actress playing Fang sounds more Australian than she does. This is actually what Vanille does. She's natively from Pulse, and tries to hide her accent up to where everyone finds out. Fang, also from Pulse, doesn't try to hide hers.
Jetfire in Transformers War For Cybertron has either an Australian or some kind of British accent. Which one it most sounds like can change every other line.
According to Troy Baker, Jetfire's VA, to build Jetfire's accent they started with a "standard" English accent (presumably Received Pronunciation) and then intentionally tweaked it to sound less "posh," without specifically aiming for any other kind of British accent. That's why it's hard to tell whether his accent is English, Scottish, Australian or something in between — because it isn't really any of those.
Parodied in the fourth episode of Sam & Max's third season, where attempting to use Max's ventriloquism power on Grandpa Stinky will result in Max producing an accent that Sam can only describe as "Irish Pirate".
Monsieur Anton Papierwaite from the same games seems to have an Eastern-European accent, but even that is hard to say exactly. There aren't a lot of clues given to his origin either — 'monsieur' is obviously French, but Anton is a Scandinavian/German variant of 'Anthony'. Sam just refers to him as "ethnic", and once as "Dr. Strange Accent".
Dynaheir from Baldur's Gate is supposedly a lzherusskie like her bodyguard Minsc. Her accent can charitably be described as "foreign" and defies most other adjectives.
In Mass Effect 2, Donovan Hock, the Big Bad from Kasumi's loyalty mission has an accent some fans find hard to place. It is actually an Afrikaans accent.
Which doesn't excuse the fact that he also voices the Scottish engineer and the typically quasi-Eastern European quarian Veetor. The latter can be excused because it's not a real accent, but the Scottish is really rather poor.
Well, of course it is - he's a reference to Scotty, who himself had a gratuitous fake accent.
Nobody seems to know where the hell Udina is from. He looks vaguely Indian, but his accent sounds like a strange mix of British, Irish, and Scottish.
So... Lucia of Devil May Cry 2. Anyone got a guess? She seems to have the same voice coach as Sniper Wolf, but hits more of a Italian-Kurdish mix...
Warcraft 3 has trolls, which are either Jamaican or an intentional invocation of this trope.
Several if not all of Caesar's legion in Fallout New Vegas. Its not a standard accent for an English speaker.
The Oracle in Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy is can be initially hard to place. The first time the player hears him speak, he is unseen, and just sat down with a stranger in a diner and started discussing Shakespeare in a measured, gravelly voice.
No More Heroes: the Job Board guy appears to have an accent that is not of Earth. It's possible that this is from having a Japanese actor read English lines phonetically (see the Takashi Miike cameo in the sequel).
There's also Alice, the 2nd ranked assassin from the sequel, who has an accent that sounds to be either German or Russian, but it's a bit hard to tell.
Silent Hill 3 has Claudia Wolf, whose accent is usually either interpreted as "New England", or "a really horrible attempt at sounding vaguely British".
Later, Heather herself , for no particular reason, develops a similarly bizarre faux-British accent when trying to trick Claudia into thinking that Alessa is speaking through her.
MacMillan of Modern Warfare's accent is definitely Scottish, but it's a mix of all of Scotland's dialects, as well as some Yorkshire and Ulster Irish thrown in.
Steroid from Jagged Alliance 2. He's supposed to be Polish, but sounds like a constipated, mentally challenged parody of Arnie instead.
The G-man from Half-Life. He sounds vaguely North American, with a light vaguely-British accent, with the whole mess wrapped up in the Uncanny Valley like he'd read about proper inflection in Earthling conversation but never quite got it. The overall effect comes of as an attempt at "generic human".
Razer's accent in Jak X is all over the place, sounding like either German or French, depending on who you ask. Others recognize Austrian or even Russian in it.
Team Fortress 2: Invoked this trope for comedy, as all of the characters' "accents" are as how a typical American in The Sixties might have perceived it; the Spy's accent is the hardest to pin down, having mixed French, Italian, and Spanish pronunciations and words in his vocabulary. This actually led to a massive Edit War over the Spy's nationality on The Other Wiki page for the game (before "Meet The Spy" made it clear he was French).
This Very Wiki even quips that his (supposedly) French accent "seems to take a drunken tour of most of southern Europe".
Brad Silver the drug dealer in Heavy Rain. He starts off with what sounds like a New York accent (maybe Brooklyn) that suddenly warps into a Southern drawl for a couple of lines before going back to its original state.
Heavy Rain is filled with these. Notably, Lauren and most children sound French and Paco sounds suspiciously like Strong Bad.
Conker of Conkers Bad Fur Day sounds like an odd mixture of a British and American accent, mostly because his voice actor Chris Seavor is British but wanted to do an American accent.
Up until now, nobody can figure out what accent the Maiden in Black is supposed to have...
In Persona 4 Arena, Aigis'"sister" Labrys occasionally speaks with a Kansai Regional Accent. In the English release, this was expressed by giving her a North Jersey/Bronx accent; it's hard to tell which it is. This might have been due to the voice actor having difficulties with the nuances of the accent, but is Justified in her Story Mode: All early Anti-Shadow Weapons up to Labrys were created using AIs that were based on the mind of an Ill Girl that the Kirijo Group somehow brain-mapped. So, it sounds like someone faking an accent because that's exactly what it is.
Crysis series: Karl Ernst Rasch is presumably German or Nordic (descent) by his surname, but his accent doesn't sound the part.
Artemis The Alcoholic moon-cat in Sailor Moon Abridged is allegedly Australian, but his drunken ramblings are so slurred and near-incomprehensible that Australian tropers have expressed surprise when learning what accent he was going for. Others think he sounds Scottish.
Zelda of ASC Zs Horrorshow, despite being an Australian born in the Deep South, has an accent that sounds like excessively posh British mixed with an odd blend of California and New York.
Check the comments for any Let's Play or Retsupurae video featuring Psychedelic Eyeball and you'll see a handful of guesses at the nature of his accent. For the record, he's French-Canadian.
Though his accent isn't unusual to Canadians: In this Let's Play of Super Mario 64, commentator Ceciltron does a passable impersonation, and admits "half my family" talks just like Psychedelic Eyeball.
In Let's Listen, Psychedelic Eyeball can't figure out what the LPer's accent is.
In their Wrongpurae of DarkSeed 2, the duo speculate this about Mrs. Ramirez's accent, settling on a mix of Irish and Swedish. In fact, the one certainty about it is that it's definitely not Hispanic, contrary to what her name would suggest.
slowbeef: I think your accent is European Mish-Mash, ma'am!
Their Wrongpurae of The Town With No Name had a character with a completely indistinguishable accent, prompting this line:
slowbeef: Are you Cajun, or stupid?
Sir Ron Lionheart speaks with a noticeable accent that many viewers (and critics) have a hard time placing. Best guess is that he's Chicano (a Mexican from Southern California).
For the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Paul Kandel gave Clopin an accent somewhat French, somewhat Eastern European, and somewhat uncategorizable. This was intentional on Kandel's part as coming from Clopin's nomadic past.
In-universe example during Total Drama Action: during the spy challenge, Chris adopts an accent that characters guess could be anything from Russian to Jamaican.
The episode of Rocko's Modern Life where Mr. Bighead dreamt he was a pirate when he sleepwalks.
Mr. Bighead: (to Heffer) Egad!, what sort of accent is that?
Oblina from Aaahh Real Monsters. It's a vague "classy" accent that's actually an exaggerated, yet obvious, Bette Davis impression.
Christine Cavanaugh once mentioned that she played Oblina as British.
King Julien from the Madagascar films and spinoff TV series The Penguins of Madagascar. He's voiced by Englishman Sacha Baron Cohen in the movies, resulting in a voice that sounds like a cross between Borat and some vaguely African accent (Danny Jacobs, his replacement in the TV series, maintains almost exactly the same voice). His repeated usage of malapropisms, strange syntax and Buffy Speak (e.g., "Ah, but I was expecting you to be expecting that, so we switcheroo-ed the crates on the pier before the fish got loading on to the truck.") only contorts the accent even further.
Mort also slips in and out of some strange, unidentifiable accent.
Where the hell is Dexter of Dexters Laboratory supposed to be from? It sounds like an attempt to do a generic European mad-scientist voice, but the rest of his family seem to speak fairly generic American English. The obvious explanation would seem to be that Dexter is affecting the sort of accent he thinks a Mad Scientist ought to have and isn't very good at it.
Lampshaded in one episode where a bully who "hates kids with funny accents!" attacks Dexter and a group of other students... in which Dexter is the only one without an obvious accent source.
One of the early Cartoon Network ads for the show called it an "eastern European" accent.
Made even more blatant in the Norwegian dub, when Dexter inexplicably throws in German phonetics and grammar that clash with the Norwegian language.
Even Word Of GodGenndy Tartakovsky isn't sure of what Dexter's accent is supposed to be, just that he specified Dexter must have a strange accent because "he's a scientist."
Mina on Jelly Jamm. Her case is very similar to Dexter's.
The Mayor's accent in Scooby Doo And The Witchs Ghost is a bizarre combination of several New England accents, and comes across a bit like someone from rural New Hampshire trying to sound like a Kennedy.
Actually, this applies to nearly every incidental character to ever appear in the franchise. The show is legendary for its bad accents.
The twins on Superjail seem to have an accent that sounds vaguely "European" but doesn't seem to come from any country. Justified once it's revealed they're actually aliens.
The chef who chases Uncle Waldo out of his restaurant during his introductory scene in The Aristocats either has a French or an Italian accent.
An episode of Sabrina The Animated Series has Sabrina and Salem traveling back to the Dark Ages and meeting characters from King Arthur mythology played by counterparts of her friends. Except for Pi, who doesn't even bother, all of them have rather...unique...English accents.
Rarity's accent could be considered "New England", "Tidewater", or just "vaguely upper-crust". The accent could quite possibly be an affectation of the character herself: she lives in the small provincial town of Ponyville, and neither her parents (seen in "Sisterhooves Social") nor her little sister Sweetie Belle speak with any trace of this accent.
Rarity's voice actress Tabitha St. Germain herself has this issue. During interviews, her accent often shifts between Canadian and vaguely British to... South African?
In fact, Sweetie Belle is the only one in her family who doesn't have an exaggerated accent: Rarity's father sounds like he's from Chicago or Milwaukee, while her mother's accent suggests either New Jersey or New York.
Photo Finish from "Green Isn't Your Color" has a vaguely Germanic accent, presumably because her voice actress was doing a vocal caricature of Anna Wintour (although most of the younger kids watching would most likely compare her to Edna Mode).
Zecora's accent seems to be some sort of vague "generic African accent"... crossed with "vague Caribbean islander accent".
The spa ponies' (Aloe and Lotus Blossom) accents sound somewhere between Indian and German, but not quite either. For added confusion, it is probably meant to be French or Eastern European (the toys they're based on was sold only in Eastern Europe).
Snake (the Tattooed Crook who's always trying to rob the Kwik-E-Mart) speaks in a weird cross between Valspeak and Cockney, making him sound kinda like the child of British parents who was raised in Southern California (and has a Noblewoman's Laugh that somehow manages to evoke both regions!).
Then again, maybe that's just Snake's natural accent. British English and California English tend to have similar vowel sounds, such as the letter u being pronounced "ew" (whereas it tends to be "oo" in much of the eastern United States). It happens to be true that many English immigrants to America in the mid-19th century settled in Utah (then known as Deseret) and converted to Mormonism, and a generation or so after that many of those Mormons made their way to Los Angeles - so there's that.
Moe Szyslak the Bartender speaks in a generalized "crotchety old man" accent that could represent many different American regions or ethnicities. Over the course of the series, it's been hinted that he might be of Italian, Arab, Dutch, or Russian descent (though whether this is Multiple-Choice Past or Negative Continuity is impossible to say; his last name looks Hungarian or Polish).
Both Moe and Snake, by the way, are voiced by Hank Azaria, a native New Yorker whose parents were Greek Jews of Spanish descent.
Bugs Bunny talks in a mixture of Bronx and Brooklyn accents (Mel Blanc also said his inspiration was Frank McHugh, who spoke in a New York Irish accent).
Sandi on Daria's accent might be best be described as a bad imitation of a French one, except the character had no connection to France. It's not clear what it was supposed to be, besides vaguely upper class.
One episode reveals that her mother speaks the same way, so at least it's clear where Sandi got it from. Maybe her mother had spent some time in France.
In an episode of American Dad where Stan meets a cyborg version of himself from the future his accent is a mixture of Canadian and Mexican which he explains is because those countries take over America in his time period.
The Beatles's animated series has the disaster that is George Harrison's accent. Good luck trying to figure out where it's supposed to be from, because it sure as hell ain't Liverpool. At least the other three Beatles sound British...
Don Karnage from Tale Spin. According to his voice actor Jim Cummings it's a mixture of French, Spanish and Italian.
The accents of some languages are unknown enough to appear this way, especially if there are phonetic features not found in English such as vowel harmony (you can pronounce a lot of vowels but not in the same word).
Move somewhere with a drastically different accent from your birthplace. Live there for a year. Travel to a third location and watch most people be completely baffled.
Cary Grant spent the first few years of his life in England, then moved to America aged at age 16, leaving him with a peculiar accent that seemed to be stranded halfway across the Atlantic. In Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis does a perfect impersonation of Grant's strangled vowels, only to be told to stop being ridiculous, because 'nobody talks like that'.
He made up that accent, a sort of generic upper-crust accent, as he was originally from Bristol, England and picked up a Cockney accent in the music halls in London during his early acting work.
Lauren Cohan has kind of a "same, but opposite" issue as Grant. She grew up in New Jersey, but moved to England and attended school there, again with her accent seeming to park right in the middle.
Vincent Price has a similar affliction to Grant's: He was born in St. Louis but trained on stage in England. This resulted in an accent that can be accurately described as hailing from The United States of England.
Foreign accent syndrome, is a rare neurological disorder brought on by brain damage, specifically problems in the brain's language center, that causes its sufferers to mispronouce the individual sounds of any word they try to speak, causing them to speak their own native language with what sounds like a strange foreign accent. Someone who suffers from this disorder could for example, pronounce a "w" as a "v" not because they're German, or a "j" sound as an "h" sound, agian, not because they're Spanish, but because their brain is sending the wrong signals to the mouth, causing what they meant to be one sound to sound different.
In some cases, people suffering from Foreign accent syndrome have been known to pass their "new accent" on to their children, who pick it up from conversing with their parents.
Military brats (usually those who live off-base and somewhat integrate into the societies in which they are transplanted), missionary kids, and other groups who moved often and between great distances and varying cultures as children, tend to have unplaceable accents as adults.