Posted by: docdenbow | November 16, 2012

A Reason To Use Subtitles

The other night I returned home from work to find Mrs. Denbow recumbent on the sofa watching some American pseudo sci-fi/thriller/detective/goodies vs baddies drama on what used to be a cathode ray entertainment lamp, but is now replaced in homes by a flat panel thing in the corner of the room. The dog required much greeting and the rubbing of the head and the ears was in order before I could remove my coat, grab a drink kick off my shoes and sit down. I sat in my chair, but more of that later.

I do believe that the programme Mrs Denbow was watching is called “Fringe” which is broadcast on Sky 1. I have absolutely no idea what it’s about and although she has watched all of the episodes I’m pretty sure Mrs Denbow is equally perplexed. It features a mad scientist who speaks in a pretty bang on impression of Vincent Price, an action man dude who is good looking in a boy next door kind of way, two vacuous blondes, a black woman scientist (not as clever as old Vince though – strictly supporting actress) and a deep and meaningful black dude with a shaved head a good line in stern expressions. Now and then there is a good punch up a few things get blown up. Got the idea? Excellent I can move on and make my point or points not sure how many yet.

Anyway on taking to my chair to watch Fringe in my usual state of confusion I noticed for the first time that fluttering across the screen were Sky’s very own subtitles. Mrs Denbow suffers with that debilitating disorder called tinnitus and on occasions she has real problems with the screaming that she hears blotting out real sounds. I asked with some concern whether her ears were “playing up.” Her reply was enlightening. She stated with some conviction that she couldn’t understand what the actors were saying – especially the women. So I settled down and listened rather than watched Fringe. Now Vince the mad scientist (Walter Bishop) was easy to understand, as were, in fairness, the rest of the men in the show. However, when it came to the women I was completely and utterly devoid of comprehension. I picked up the odd word, but without knowing what the other words in the sentence happened to be, it quickly became tiresome as I was becoming more and more irritated by the sounds emanating from the mouths of these females.

I was forced to concede that I too would need subtitles if I was to “enjoy” watching the convoluted nonsensical twists and turns in the plotline of “Fringe.” I did find it comforting though. I used to obsessively and enjoy (in a odd comedy way) CSI Miami. Whilst I had no problem understanding any word that tumbled from the mouth of the great Horatio Caine, anything that Calleigh said went straight past me – whoosh! I thought it was me and my advancing years and deteriorating hearing brought on by years of listening to music far too loudly. But no, I’m not losing my hearing or the plot or anything like that, it’s just that American TV blondes can’t speak English.

Perhaps I’m getting old and miserable and thinking that the old days were the best days, but I can’t help but think that we in the UK started a trend in the broadcasting world that the Americans have taken and exploited to such an extent that the original notion and goal has been irrevocably polluted. In the old days on the BBC you needed to have a regionless accent, even borderline upperclass, to get a job of any kind in front of the camera. I think that from The Beatles era onwards it became more socially acceptable to have a regional accent, which is great. I’m from Wolverhampton, I’ve not lived there for 32 years yet still my accent is hanging around. Living in Wales has altered the way I put sentences together, knocked off some of the rough edges, but I still sound like I’m from the Black Country.

I just hope you don’t need subtitles to understand me.

Ciao For Now




  1. You wanna try working in Coventry mate. I can’t understand any of them!!

  2. You make me smile bloke.

  3. Im loving this post, accents ftw. Earlier this week I heared the guy from Twilight being interviewed but sadly he had a quite stupid mid-Atlantic accent. Also as a player on online games it’s always a bit surprising when I hear new players for the first time- don’t think I nerf subs tho! \o/

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