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You’re In America Now, Speak American

I worried before my trip to the US that I was going to sound “too British” and people would think I was putting on airs….have you ever seen that episode of Friends where Monica and Phoebe have a friend who moved to London and then comes back and talks with a (fake) British accent? Yeah, I was afraid I might wind up doing that subconsciously. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

http://youtu.be/a1wGVD93NXY

Or where they are making fun of her (beginning of this clip):

..and I was THAT American. I can’t help it. I’ve spent two years in the UK and using British words for things so that people would know what I was talking about. My cousins took great delight in poking fun at me for saying things like “ring up” and “put it in the rubbish”. Words like “mobile”, “garage” (pronounced differently in the UK), “loo” or “toilet” (instead of “bathroom”) and “trousers” (instead of “pants”) have crept into my vocabulary without me even noticing, but it makes me stick out when I’m talking to an (American) family member or friend.

But at least I still sound American. While I was at the Lincoln Christmas Market, a man at one of the stands asked me if I was Scottish and the man running the stand with him responded that no, he thought I was Irish.

I wonder if the more time I spend outside of the US, the less American I will sound?

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Tah-MAY-to, Tah-MAH-to

Yesterday, Tim and I went over to visit our friends N and P. They live over the Wolds, about 25 minutes away and we always try to get together with them as often as we can. We like spending time with them, and we love their three daughters, S-l, K-m, and A-r. Matter of fact, A-r loves Tim so much, I tease Tim and tell him he has a little girlfriend ;).

S-l is their oldest child, at 6. She’s allowed to stay up a little bit later than her younger siblings, and yesterday evening she told me she wanted to read to me. The book was about going to the grocery store, and the first thing I noticed was that all the pages rhymed….except for the page with potatoes and tomatoes.

Now, in American English, we would pronounce them alike. Puh-tay-to, tah-may-to. But in British English, it’s different. Potato is still puh-tay-to, but tomato is pronounced tah-mah-to. They don’t rhyme. And makes the children’s book confusing as a result since it’s the one pair of words that don’t rhyme! Even S-l pointed out that it didn’t rhyme!

And then the rest of the adults pointed out how weird it was that in British English, they don’t say poh-tah-to….which of course, made everyone sing a verse of that silly song.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

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I have Arrived

I know that’s a funny title…arrived where? And I’m sure I’ll get even more funny looks when I respond with “England”, but there you have it. Last week, I realised that I am embracing the United Kingdom and even though I’ve been calling this place my home for the past year, I finally feel like I mean it.

It’s for a really stupid reason, though. No one asks me where I’m from any more. I don’t get “Are you [Canadian/American/Irish*]?” , “Where are you from?”, or “Are you enjoying your visit?” when I go out or travel. Possibly because I walk with purpose. I can navigate myself through King’s Cross, down into the tube, and across town to catch another train out of Paddington or Waterloo with little fanfare. I know where to find the pricey high street goods for less. I know which pubs are poor quality chain restaurants and which ones are genuinely good. My go-to fast food is fish and chips. I drink tea, and actually now prefer tea over coffee. My kitchen radio is set to Radio 2, except between 12 and 2 when I switch over to Radio 4 or BBC Lincs. People stop me in Lincoln, Derby, London, Leicester, etc. and ask me for directions. I walk everywhere and only consider asking Tim to drive me a mile to the co-op if it’s raining or dark.

I’m sure I’ll always have an American accent, but what sets me apart from visitors is the language I use. Yes, America and England are two countries separated by a common language** But it’s those linguistic differences that make me feel like I have arrived (Tim also says that my tone of voice is quieter and the only times he can tell I’m a Jersey Girl are if I’m on the phone with Jessy or Erin).

I remember my first trip to the UK in 1997. We were all fresh-faced high schoolers ready to visit a foreign country….and half of the group trekked to McDonald’s for Lunch. We thought the signs that said “To Let” were misspelled signs for “toilet”, and we didn’t understand the funny looks we got when we asked for the bathroom. Few of us would have been able to tell you that pants are worn under your trousers, suspenders hold up your stockings, and braces are what hold up your trousers.

We went home from that trip, full of memories and British words. Oh, we thought we were so cool if we asked a teacher if we could go to the loo. But now? I actually cringed when an American friend who has never left the country used words like loo and lorry. Tim laughed at me and told me that that was me 5, 10, 15 years ago…and he’s right. But living here, actually living here…it is what it is. It’s not always glamorous, it’s certainly not easy, but it’s my life. And I love it.

*Yes, Irish. Don’t ask me WHY, but I apparently sound Irish to some people…
**Thank you, George Bernard Shaw

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I am Canadian (apparently)

I went on a walk today to get out of the house….3 days cooped inside and I was ready to just get out! I decided I needed to spend some of the pile of change I was accumulating (They won’t accept coin to convert back to US money), so I headed to Tim Horton’s for a coffee and maybe a bagel. I brought along the book I’m currently reading, Mother Tongue, and my N810 in case I could find wifi.

The person in front of me in line was American, as evident by not only his accent but by his form of payment – US Currency. Tim Horton’s will accept US Currency at the stores near the border and in large cities like Toronto, so I was surprised to see it being accepted this far North and in such a small town, but I suppose it’s a corporate thing. Anyway. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the American as he got his stuff to go, and I was getting mine “for inside” (the Canadian way of saying “for here”). I ordered, and paid with Canadian currency. As I was waiting for my toasted bagel to come up, the ladies behind the counter were talking about how they “knew that guy was American because of his accent” and how paying with US currency only “proved he was American”. So I quietly told the one girl that I was from Pennsylvania. All four girls behind the counter turned to stare at me and told me I couldn’t possibly be from the states. I didn’t act like other Americans, I didn’t talk like an American, and I used Canadian money to pay for my food. I explained that I had been in Canada since the beginning of August, and the one girl suggested that I had “picked up” the Canadian accent from hanging around Canadians….but honestly? I don’t think I have. I think I just tend to be lucky that I have such a nondescript accent (except on certain words and the way I sometimes talk…THEN you can tell I grew up in New Jersey!). I’ve been “accused” before of being Canadian though, and this was before I was living here for two months, so maybe I do just sound Canadian.

I also think I embarrassed the girls behind the counter when I told them I also was American, but at the same time, I’m quite pleased you can’t tell.

Hopefully when I’m in the UK this fall/winter people won’t be able to tell I’m American either!

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