Why Christopher Walken Talks Like That

Why Christopher Walken Talks Like That

Everyone has a number of drinks it takes for them to bust out their Christopher Walken impression. 

For some, it's zero, but there's not a single person in the English-speaking world that doesn't have one ready to go. Why does he talk like that, though? Is it an accent? An impediment? An injury? Is there a whole neighborhood, town, or even country where everyone sounds like Christopher Walken, and if so, how fast can we get there?

The answer is that it's kind of an accent, but not really, and not actually his. "Both my parents had heavy accents," he told CBS News in 2012, specifically German and Scottish, respectively. "It's a rhythm thing -- people who speak English where they have to hesitate and think of the right word. And I think it rubbed off." But there are plenty of first-generation Americans who don't always sound like they're trying to explain something they don't fully understand. The difference is that Walken's parents owned a bakery in a neighborhood full of immigrants from just about everywhere, hearing "lots of Greek, Italian, Polish, German, Yiddish," so instead of, say, hearing his native language at home and a second language out in the world, he mostly heard people who struggled with English speak English to other people who struggled with English, both at home and outside of it. "I think I grew up listening to people who spoke English in a kind of broken way," he explained to the Observer in 2016. "I think maybe I talked that way."

But that's not the end of it, either, because that neighborhood Walken grew up in was also in Queens. In addition to the broken style of speech common to non-native English speakers, he definitely has a distinctive Queens accent, which should be an impossible combination under any other circumstances. (We've already told you how hard it is to pick up a new accent.) Basically, Christopher Walken is what happens when a non-native English speaker actually is a native English speaker from Queens. Alas, it's doubtful indeed you'll find enough people with that situation going on to fill a Honda Accord, let alone a town.

Top image: Pierre Vogel/Wikimedia Commons

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