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January 16, 2024

A Funny Example of Enregistration

Enregistration is the process by which linguistic features become associated with particular contexts. For example, light novels having long, sentence-length titles is now so established that it's an easy way to parody light novels. Phonology can also be 'enregistered,' such as the vowels that make up Indie Girl Voice. While these two examples are obvious because they 'stick out', enregistration also applies to more subtle cases we take for granted. For example, most gamers expect video games to be dubbed in American English or maybe Received Pronunciation, so the use of other English accents in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was confusing and off-putting to some viewers - the silent norm had been violated.

American English enjoys a special status as a near-default language of media. People enjoy Hollywood films, American music, American television, and American video games all around the world, even in places where American English isn't spoken. This can lead to an association of "American English" with "media." As shown in the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 example, people may be upset when this register expectation is violated. However, sometimes it can be violated in a much funnier way - by real flesh and blood Americans. The following post from Tumblr demonstrates:

whenever someone calls USAmerican English the ‘movie accent’ I remember how somewhere last year I was on a train when suddenly the silence was broken by an american voice behind me somewhere and I immediately thought “Oh no, someones playing their tiktoks out loud again” and automatically turned around to put a face to my annoyance like you do when someones driving bad, and turns out a few rows down were just some actual in the flesh USAmericans having a nice conversation amongst themselves. I am sorry Americans I’m glad they let you out of the phone - kleefkruid

This person had so strongly registered American English as "English spoken in movies and on social media platforms like TikTok" that their first thought on hearing an American accent was not that Americans were around, but that someone was playing a TikTok video of an American English speaker on their phone's speaker. Sounds silly, but if you live in a country with no American English speakers, it might not be that crazy an assumption.

Another series of Tumblr posts to this effect:

hearing Americans speak in real life is so jarring omfg... Get back in the TV right now
#My pakistani friend who told me once after I gave him some really heartfelt advice that he felt like he was in a movie - Source