Thursday, 3 June 2010

Please understand me....

I found myself speaking American today at the supermarket, even without realising it.

Standing at the deli counter, I ordered 'a half pound of toona salad'. And I said "Can I get" instead of "please can I have", in my polite British accent. But, the man understood everything I said, rather than peering at me as if I was an alien and asking me to repeat myself. I realised that I must have been listening in to what the other deli counter customers say, and attuning myself to it over time......

Similarly, when I go to Starbucks now and order a Tall Latte, I pronounce Tall 'Tarl' rather than 'Tawl'. Otherwise no-one will understand me - they all think I want two lattes.

And when people ask me how I am, I often restrain myself from replying 'fine' and answer "I'm good." Which is definitely bad grammar, but doesn't instantly mark me out as a Brit.

But I still find myself using the wrong words. The other day I mentioned to another woman that we have friends in Norway who are 'vets'. She stared at me. "You mean veterans?" Then it dawned on her..."Oh, veterinarians..."

And, more embarrassingly, I complained to a neighbour the other night about the amount of midges around at the moment.

"Midgets?" she spluttered, horrified, no doubt thinking I'd made some horrific un-PC faux pass.

So, you see, I haven't quite yet gone native.

18 comments:

deer baby said...

The vets made me laugh. What a faux pas. And midges!!! Glad you're getting a handle on the lingo. Don't the Yanks love a cut glass British accent though? I thought they liked Hugh Grant and all that stuff. (mass generalisation there!. Soon you'll be like McNulty in The Wire if you watched that. No one will guess you are a Brit.

PantsWithNames said...

Not only McNulty but also Sringer Bell is a Brit and you would never spot it from his accent. From somewhere in the East End I think.

Don't go too Yankee on us.. but it is useful to be able to communicate with the natives in their own language occasionally (said in my best Queen's English)

Anonymous said...

Careful what you say...
I was raised in the Mid-west, live in the South and summer in New England, and most of what you call 'American' is just plain bad manners or grammar in most of the country. "May I please have?", "Fine, thank you." and "tawl" are certainly more common in most areas. I hate the idea of a charming British accent and good grammar falling into bad habits to try and not sound like 'the Btit.' We love the way Brits sound!

Expat mum said...

It's the voice-activated customer service phone calls that are the bane of my life. If the kids are around they gather to hear me make an absolute tit of myself as I try to pronounce numbers (and my name for that matter) like an American. And all I get back is "I'm sorry, I didn't get that, please repeat your response". Grrr.

Nota Bene said...

Darn!

Calif Lorna said...

You're sliding down a slippery slope. You'll be saying wadda next!

The midges thing is very funny!!

Mwa said...

I suppose it's just the pragmatic thing to do. And kind of polite as well - you know, when in Rome... You may still be living in an English-speaking country, but it's still exciting to learn the local culture.

Mud in the City said...

Swarms of midgets in the evenings are a terrible trial!

Lis said...

Most people I know call the veterinarian the vet, it's okay to use that term here. She probably had the other vets on the brain because of Memorial Day.

Nicola said...

Very funny - but oh, how unforgiveable!

I made a similar mistake with 'vets'. I saw a homeless person by the side of the road every day holding a sign saying 'homeless vet' and I really did think it was an out of work veterinarian. Thought it was a very strange thing to advertise - but quite often stopped to give him money because in my mind he was nice to animals....

I know. Not the sharpest knife...

Tony said...

That's so funny - I thought you were talking about midgets too.

I came to your blog through a friends and will try to read more as long as the boss doesn't catch me doing it - wahahahaha

nmaha said...

That's like an American asking a Brit what language they're speaking in.....I didn't get the Vet thing for a long time too...now you can claim to be bilingual

nappy valley girl said...

deer baby - they do love my accent. Everyone loves it. They just don't understand me in shops....

PantswithNames - don't worry, I am practising my English accent in private! And it's quite good to use it when in posh shops or dealing with the school.....

Anonymous - ah well, it must be those bad-mannered New Yorkers then! Don't worry, I won't pick up too many bad habits - I just like to use them when I need to.

ExpatMum - v funny! It must be weird when your kids can't understand your accent either...

NotaBene - you mean you want me to go native?

Calif Lorna - Well, no-one understands 'wah-ter' so I might as well....

Mwa - one thing you soon realise here is that it may be English, but not as we know it.

Mud - aren't they just!

Lis - vets on the brain, you are quite possibly right.

Nicola - haha, that's hilarious. Talk about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons!

Tony - it's an easy mistake to make.....

Nmaha - I did know that veterans were called vets, but I didn't realise that animal doctors had to be known by their full name. Strange, when everything else in America seems to be shortened....

Anonymous said...

Thought you might like to know that Nappy Valley is a play on Happy Valley, and nothing to do with that delicious Californian white wine from Napa Valley.

For proof see here.

P.S. Would Diaper Dell be a palatable americanization?

nappy valley girl said...

Anonymous - no wine here, Nappy Valley is named after the area I used to live in, in London (where I started the blog). I did think of changing it to Diaper Island when I moved here, but it didn't quite have the same ring.....

Muddling Along Mummy said...

The midgets made me laugh...

Krista said...

Love your blog! I'm an American living in London and guess where I'm from??? Seaford, LI! (You might know Seaford from the Expressway baring its name.) So about the "vets" thing. I'd totally translate that as veteranarians myself. Not veterans. So it's not you! It's your neighbo(u)r.

Well That's a Good Scottish Name... said...

Hilarious! I often get asked over here to pronounce Jaguar (as in the car) because of course everyone says I say it with an American "twang"!!
It took me quite a while to get used to the saying "You alright?" When we first moved here, I thought people were thinking I wasn't well or there was something wrong with me....then I came to realize it is the same phrase as "Hi, How are you?" to Americans.