Monday, January 15, 2007

Two Countries Separated by a Common Language

George Bernard Shaw said it best, but I really do find I have to 'translate' myself on a daily basis. I joke that Anna is going to grow up bilingual, speaking both English and American. It's staggering how many differences there are in just your basic ABC book:-

Pants = Trousers
Sweater = Jumper
Diaper = Nappy
Crib = Cot
Candy = Sweets
Food = Boiled Mutton

Last week one of the docs had to ask me to translate for an English patient of his who'd admitted to becoming 'increasingly ratty' with his wife. See, that seems such an obvious word to me, but when you stop and think about it, it could mean almost anything (it actually means irritated and short-tempered).

It could be a lot worse obviously, the damn yankees do love themselves an English accent, even one like mine that's becoming more trans-Atlantic with each passing year. I reckon I'm just two years away from sounding like Lloyd Grossman, and every time I phone home I think 'bloody hell they sound English' or more likely 'gee Mom it's like you todally sound like the Queen'.

I've definitely found my accent has become more 'proper' since coming here. An English accent is hard enough for most people to contend with on the phone, but a broad Yorkshire accent, not on your life mate. I always, 'regularly' have to say zee instead of zed, and these days am finding I'm translating automatically, a short step away from losing my vernacular completely.

It is funny to me though, that so few people here consider themselves to have an accent. Just try asking a Santa Barbaran to pronounce anything with a 't' in it and they are genuinely surprised to find out that they have no 't', ie 'Montecito' becomes 'Monecido' and 'Cota Street' becomes 'Coda'. It's really chuffing embarrassing to have to order a 'Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity' at IHOP with an English accent, but fortunately that doesn't come up very often.

Pronunciations were even a consideration when naming Anna. We both loved the name Katie, but it would have been weird for me to constantly hear her being called 'Kady'. Of course, I was in for the surprise of my life when one of my Mom's Group generously commented that I couldn't even pronounce my own daughter's name correctly (I do love my Mum's group, I really don't know why I don't go more often). Apparently I say 'Annerr' instead of 'Anna'. For once I was too gobsmacked to reply, but, 'maybe you should try leaving the tri-counties once in a while love and discover that people have accents' wouldn't have gone amiss.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Fresh Hell said...

You aren't alone. I was told recently (by a native Californian, no less)that my accent was changing since I've been living on the east coast. I was in a cold, sweaty panic thinking that I may at some point affect the Bostonian accent. Then I remembered that only the low-brow inbred pedestrian element have that accent falling off their tongues. Phwew!

For the record, as I read your post, I realized that I todally don't ever pronounce my T's. Like I need another thing to be neurodic and obsessive about... Thanks!

AliBlahBlah said...

That would really be something to hear you with a Bawston accent! Or, rather, that would be todally inneresding(!)

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