Bank robbery isn’t an unusual story, but last week’s heist of an Uptown TCF had some unusual details. The thief spoke in an “English” accent. You imagine the conversation: Dreadfully sorry, but if it wouldn’t be a bother I’d be ever so grateful if you’d place the bank notes in this satchel. Awfully decent of you. Ta.
That’s what some people think a British accent is, but there are cruder forms. Aigh mate stuff the lolly raight ‘ere then or I’ll glass your bloody mug ya sodding wanker. Perhaps it was the generally impenetrable stylings of a Scottish accent:
Pit th’ bunsens in th’ poke an’ dornt caa th’ polis. I’m sorry, what? Th’ bunsens! In th’ poke! Coorie up, ye divit!
I don’t know why they say anything. You could probably get the teller to hand it over by handing them a picture of a mask and a gun. The only reason you’d speak would be to issue instructions, but if you said “I say, none of the Georgies, old sport, they’re frightfully common, wot wot? Jolly good shew!” then that’s what the teller would remember, not whether you’d mashed up the slang and accent of different times and classes.
That’s why I think it’s a ruse. If you have a distinctive accent, you’d say nothing. If you wanted to throw the hounds off the trail, you’d make up something they’d remember. It’s not as if the cops can put the witness behind the two-way mirror and force you to read BBC news reports. Ma’am, is that the person who robbed you? No. That man speaks with a Northumbrian accent. The man who held me up had a Yorkshire dialect.
The picture of the thief released by the FBI is rather sharp, which is an improvement; for years we’ve gotten used to smeary low-res video that looks like the security cameras were sprayed with Pam. Then they zoom in on the masked head, which looks like a thumb wearing a baseball cap. If you have any information on this featureless hominid, please contact the FBI. Perhaps the exploding dye pack will trip him up. No, really, officer, I’m a Druid. You must be looking for another English fellow with a bright blue face whose wallet is full of consecutively numbered bills.
It would be amusing if they arrested him in Cambridge. Or New London.