Sunday, March 15, 2009

British Slang vs American Slang

Anna is very verbal and has always been able to express herself very clearly. I am thrilled that she shows little of the debilitating shyness I experienced as a child, even if it is at the expense of a little modesty on her part. Going out on a limb it seems that American children are much more self-confident and vocal than their British counterparts. Or maybe times have changed and I'm talking out of my arse. I certainly don't mean to suggest that the old 'children should be seen and not heard' culture still exists in the UK, but it does seem that American kids are more encouraged to voice their opinions. They are not backwards in coming forwards. Again, it comes down to the idea that freedom of speech seems to result in Americans feeling that they have to share their thoughts all the time.

What I'm struggling with, still, is not what she has to say, but how she chooses to say it. I've long since reconciled myself to the fact that my little cuckoo won't have a British accent, unless we move back in the very near future. I will try my best to avoid her having that peculiarly nasal whine that a lot of Californian women have, 'Sanna Barrbrah!'. Sorry. King Canute might have a better chance. What I'm still finding it hard to deal with, what I struggle with myself, is that it's not how you pronounce a word, it's what words are being used. What grates more than her accent is her phrases, her word choices. And quite honestly mine too. I find myself wondering what I used to say before I started every sentence with 'like', or when precisely I started using 'mad' instead of 'cross'. I used to have to translate myself to be understood, then the translation became automatic and suddenly I can't remember what I made the translation from anyway.

I'm going to sound like the complete snob that I am when I write that it bothers me to hear Anna talk Californian slang all the time. I wonder if she's going to be at school writing 'dude, it was such a bummer that the weekend was totally fogged out and we like had to hang indoors for like, ever'. Is it worth fighting? Is it the equivalent of a New York parent moving to the South and hating their kids say 'y'all', or kids from the north of England moving to London and suddenly ending every sentence with 'yeah'???

Re-reading this I sound as if I'm about a hundred years old. How much does it matter these days anyway? I'm not suggesting I want a precocious 3 year old parroting her pretentious parents by saying 'mother, the weather this weekend was so utterly abhorrent we were completely unable to go outside'. Some middle ground would be lovely (how English of me). In some ways it's just as startlingly odd to hear a small child use grown up words such as 'perplexed' and 'ravenous'. As much as I hate hearing her saying 'bummer!' (my pet peeve) I have to conclude that it's just my inherent snobbery. After all, I'd be so much happier hearing Anna use British slang and admit to being 'bloody knackered' instead of 'wiped out'.

I am trying to get her to replace 'bummer' with 'bollocks' though.


American Mum said...

Funny how you ended this because as I started reading I kept thinking about how much "bollocks" irritates me. My husband says it all the time.

And since we've come to the South (I grew up in NY), my (almost) worst nightmare is for my kids to speak like a hick. I correct Noah and make him say something over and over again if I ever feel it's too southern. I know, bad Mommy, but I just can't help it.

Ali said...

I don't know if you're being a snob. Maybe it's just that you would like Anna's language to reflect your life and parts of who you are, as well as LK's?
I think that's pretty natural to want your children to be like you and to have shared childhood experiences etc. I reckon that as they get older they'll probably adopt lots of little elements of your British dialect that mark them as being yours, they'll probably think it's cool. I know that's what my older kids would do.

Anonymous said...

My husband is slowly coming around to the idea of kids (when we first started dating he would have run screaming at the suggestion, now he just looks scared), and last night I told him that he really didn't need to worry just yet.
There is no way I am giving birth in North Carolina, and risk a child of mine saying "Get 'er done!"

Doc C is from Boston, and I wouldn't mind that accent too much but "Y'all" is just too much

It's bad enough that when I ask for a bear claw here I have to make a growling noise accompanied by a swiping paw motion, or I will get a bagel.

Daffodilly said...

Bollocks is a great word as the Americans do not know what it is over on the East a kind of satisfactory feeling!

My kids can go between the two accents depending who is around.

My pet loathe is mommy instead of MUMMY!

Hyphen Mama said...

Well, I guess that makes me a snob, too.

I worry that my kids will speak in this texting world of abbreviations and gutter vocabulary. Wynnie is already picking up buzz words from kids at preschool (who's parents are filty rich and should KNOW BETTER), and I find myself correcting her all the time. So sue me.

Lucia's Mom said...

I really dunno. Here people seem to be snobs about the accents of the nursery teachers and how their kids pick up the teachers' dialects. My little poppet says 'little geel' and 'mummy' like a pro, after only two months here! It is cute, I have to say.

But I think the correct phrase about England is that 'children should not be seen and not be heard' as far as I can tell. Don't people here ever take their kids out for dinner? Apparently not, judging by all the stares we get.

AliBlahBlah said...

Lucia's Mom - it's funny you mentioned the going out to dinner thing. In my blinkered view of life with kids in the UK I had forgotten we'd found it tough getting in to a few restaurants with Anna, being flat out turned away once. I can't imagine that happening in even the fanciest restaurant in CA, although I don't imagine we'd get the best table!

Sherilyn -The Dominee Huisvrouw said...

I don't think there's anything wrong w/ teaching your children to speak properly. My husband was brought up in the country, but speaks very well as a result of his mother's guidance. We try very hard to speak properly as well, & not say "Yeah" but "Yes" or "Nah" but "No" b/c we think it's important for our kids to learn to speak well. Our son is 2.5 & we have had many people comment on how well spoken he is & that's b/c we have never talked baby talk to him & we expect him to try to speak as well as he is capable of.

There are always words & phrases that are distinct to each family & I don't see anything wrong w/ teaching your kids words & phrases from England. It's a matter of preference. We prefer to say, "Change your pants" to "Change your bum" as people around us tend to say! :)

mmennen said...

I am sure any suggestions or corrections you give Anna will be gentle and will sink in - even if you don't see it until she is out of college. All I can say is that I lived in NC, had a southern accent including lots of ya'll's basically from the age of 8-21. And I have NO southern accent to speak of now (unless prompted ; ). The only explanation is because my parents are not from the south. They never tried to correct my speech, it just went away when I was not in the south, or around people who did not speak southern.

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