I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your policework there, Lou.
I’ve always loved the Coen brothers’ films, and Fargo (1996) was the first I saw on the big screen. Since then I’ve returned to it several times, and consider it one of their best. (I’m tempted to write about why, but I should stick to language here.)
Fargo is eminently quotable, and its regional Minnesota accents – the brothers are natives – add greatly to its character and texture. Few viewers can resist trying out an “Oh yah”, “Aw geez” or “You betcha” after seeing it. Here’s a charming scene featuring local actor and theatre director Bain Boehlke (skip to 0:30):
And an earlier scene also taking place in the Brainerd area (warning: slightly spoilery if you haven’t watched the film):
A few months back I tweeted an image from Minnesota Nice, a short documentary on the making of Fargo, showing a portion of the script with pronunciation notes. It sparked a bit of discussion among linguists and dialect buffs, some of it visible under the tweet. After revisiting the DVD lately, I figured I’d share the image again here (© MGM):
Frances McDormand, who plays the unforgettable Marge Gunderson, and won an Academy award for the performance, said:
Marge was the most pronounced accent. Generations of her family came from there. So she wore it as a badge of authenticity. I was trying to make it authentic. I worked with a really wonderful dialect coach, Liz Himelstein, who is great because she just doesn’t work with the technique of a dialect, she works with the character of a dialect. We really worked on how it could come out of me, through the script and then become Marge Gunderson.
Minnesota Nice briefly shows a photo of the pair – at least I assume that’s Himelstein on the left – beneath an additional, more general page of notes on learning the accent:
Dialect Blog has an interesting post on the authenticity of accent and dialect in Fargo, and some comments suggest similarities between the Minnesota and western Irish accents – not something I was aware of. Any thoughts on this or related matters would be welcome.