Harmony magpie

Harmony magpie

I went to a singing workshop in Porthmadog today and there I heard the interesting term harmony magpie, which is used to describe a someone who ends up singing like those around them, even if the others are singing a different part. The workshop leader recommended that any harmony magpies in the group should make sure that they surround themselves with people singing the same part, rather than going next to someone singing a different part, as they would most likely be drawn into the other part.

Afterwards I was thinking about this and thought about the way my speech tends to become like the speech of people I’m talking to, and thought that I might say that I am a bit of an accent/dialect/language/linguist magpie. I think the technical term for this phenomenon is linguistic accommodation. A linguistic magpie might also be used to describe someone who collects lots of bit of different languages, just like magpies reputedly collect shiny things to put in their nests.

Are you a linguistic magpie, or indeed a harmony magpie?

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This entry was posted in English, Language.

3 Responses to Harmony magpie

  1. Jerry says:

    Interesting. Never heard the term, but I guess I am a harmony magpie. I find it very hard to sing harmony when I hear other people singing other parts.

    I also think I am an accent magpie: I tend to pick up the accent of the other speakers. I first noticed this when I was speaking with a French guy and I was going to slightly sound like Inspector Clouseau…

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I’ve been doing choral singing for years but that’s a completely new term to me. I think it’s normal, especially for newer singers, to have trouble sticking to your part when surrounded by people singing other parts, if your part isn’t the melody. And of course, the choir director always tells you to listen to each other and blend– you just have to learn to not blend too much! :-)

    I have a bad case of linguistic accomodation myself, but, like with singing, with practice I’ve learned to hang onto my own accent even when surrounded by others. It’s really handy in language learning, though.

  3. Shimmin Beg says:

    I’m a fairly pronounced accent magpie (I suppose lect magpie might be more accurate), to the point where I get quite embarrassed at times worrying that people’ll think I’m making fun of them. I’ve found that I can avoid it if I shift into my broader dialect, so it’s my standard dialect that collapses under pressure. Much to the amusement of my colleagues, as I work with a lot of very different people.

    Does anyone else find this happens by suggestion? For example, I sometimes shift dialects when associated topics come up.