Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love Your Accent

In a comment she made about an earlier entry, my Wife said:

"When people hear Graham's accent generally one of two things happen: 1) They ask if he's from Australia; 2) They ask where he's from and he deadpans... "New Jersey. Can't you tell by the accent?"

Those are definitely common reactions that people have when they hear my accent. There are others too.

My accent is both a blessing and a curse, as they say. Mostly a blessing. Occasionally a curse. In true British fashion, I'll start with the negative. I recall chasing a "sales associate" around Target trying to get him to understand what I meant when I said I wanted "batteries." Again and again I carefully said the word. Again and again he said he had no idea what I wanted. I wondered whether there was a different word that Americans used - I was sure there was not. I pronounced it carefully and slowly. Still no luck. In the end, my Wife took pity on me, and said the word "batteries" - I swear she said it exactly the same as I had done, but magically, we were shown where the batteries were kept. This kind of thing happens from time to time, and it can be frustrating.

But mostly, my accent is a good thing. It gets me noticed, and in a good way. It opens doors, and sometimes gives me an unfair advantage. For some reason, unlike many other accents, an English accent sounds very attractive to American ears. They seem to think it indicates sophistication. For the record, my accent, from my home town of Luton , is quite similar to a London accent, and to English ears is more likely to be associated with lack of education - certainly not sophisticated.

But over here, many people go to great lengths to tell me how much they love my accent, and I've heard similar things from other expat Brits I've encountered here. I've had people in stores - and before my Wife chimes in and points this out, probably pretty equally divided between women and men - cooing over my accent, telling me they could listen to me talk all day.

When I first moved over here, I often would pick up on an English accent if I heard someone in the vicinity. One of the first expats I met over here was a gentleman who has made a career out of recording talking books for the blind. Apparently, they really love their stories read with an English accent. I remember him recommending that I try doing this myself some time.

But these days, my Wife is more likely to hear a British accent than I am. I've become quite deaf to the differences between American and British accents. As for my own accent, people over here say that my accent has not changed. My Wife thinks (and I agree) that whenever I talk to family back home, which I do most Sundays, my accent gets even more pronounced. Occasionally, the folks back home think that I'm sounding more American.

As an added bonus, I thought I'd share this lovely resource with you: How to Speak in a British Accent


Anonymous said...

Accents do get you noticed. I know I have a definite "lilt" to my speech, since I grew up in a Scandinavian family in North Dakota. Here in Minnesota, I fit right in. When I lived in Los Angeles, though, people often asked if I was from Ireland! My coworkers used to tease me because I say "bag" as a two-syllable word.

Lexie said...

Well, as a true "sucker for a British accent" I can understand what you mean :P. To be honest, I'm not sure I could tell the difference between English, Irish or Scottish accent this easily, I'm not that specialized, :D. But it surely sounds nice. It's funny what you said that people in England wouldn't think of your accent as "sophisticated", I could have never imagined that myself, :D.

I guess people like what's different, so it's normal Americans to be fascinated by British accent, although many other people all over the world like it too. I believe it sounds nicely, that's all.

In any case, that's how you are so if people are fascinated by your accent, well, take advantage of that! :D

Mouse said...

Hahahaha, never thought you'd be from daahhnn sowfff G, nuffink rong wiv a bit of Estuary Inglish babe! ROFLMAO, at least you didn't say you had a Brummy accent (sorry to any brummies reading this, but that one grates on me a bit).

Lexie, there's a huge difference between Scottish, Irish & English, though it depends how broad some accents are. The Glaswegians can be really hard to understand at times

Alison said...

Accents are interesting. My mom tried to lose her Southern accent all of her life, her congregation sent her to a special speech school and she still couldn't get rid of it. Here in the US a Southern accent makes people think you're stupid.

Lexie said...

Alison, I don't know why you think Southern accent seems stupid but I love it! I like very much to hear you talking :)

Oh Mouse, what can I say...I haven't heard many British people talking actually :D. I believe that-from what I've heard at least-I could tell the difference between English accent and Scottish but that would be about it :D.

Graham said...

Lexie - I often point out to Americans that for such a small country, Britain offers an amazing number of regional accents.

Alison - I've always loved a Southern accent. Another thing I often tell people is that people often regard people from the Southern states very much like people from "up North" as we often say in England. In other words, the people are often regarded as friendly and outgoing, but not terribly bright.

While we've mentioned the Scots, please, dear Americans, pronounce Edinburgh properly. It's not "Edinburrow", but "Edinbruh."

Erica P said...

I chuckled over the bit where you said talking to your family makes your accent stronger...

Talking to my mother DEFINITELY makes mine come back! She's a Virginia lady and when I wass growing up we lived in Louisiana. Ah...the southern twang is alive and well even though I try to squelch it! Add wine and it's all over... :)

Anonymous said...

I can "hear" the batteries thing in my head. British: "bat trees". American: "badder ease".

Graham said...

@frugalfamilyjourney - yep, that's about right!