It’s probably fair to say that my greatest fear as an expat is losing my accent. Not that my accent is anything to get excited about, or a strange dialect that only three people in the world speak. But the idea of waking up one morning with a strange mid-Atlantic twang is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat.
A Brit Out Of Water Sr was in the city last week, and fortunately it appears that my distinctive Britishness is still firmly intact. I say ‘fortunately’ as otherwise he would probably have spent four days shaking his head and muttering something along the lines of “I used to have a son” under his breath. Being able to explain the nuances of baseball while sitting in a bar watching the Yankees play the Mets is a healthy sign of assimilation; using words such as ‘geez’ or ‘awesome’ without the faintest sense of tongue in cheek irony is a step too far.
As I may have mentioned before though, my ability to spot the American accent is fading, as I slowly get used to a new sense of normality. A couple of times in the last few weeks, I’ve had to ask The Special One whether a particular actor on screen is American. In retrospect, the fact that they were wearing a big stars and stripes T-shirt, carrying a rolled-up copy of the constitution, and sitting underneath a pink neon sign that said “For the avoidance of doubt, I am an American” should have been a bit of a giveaway. But now the American accent is the norm, and it’s the exceptions I’m more reaily able to identify.
After yesterday though, I’m worried that my British friends and family may be humouring me about my accent. Perhaps I’m turning to the dark side after all, and everybody’s too polite to say anything?
Sitting in training in the office, I realis
zed that the trainer was British, and while we waited for the rest of the attendees to turn up, I engaged her in conversation for a few minutes about various things. Not quite able to place her accent exactly, I asked where she was from.
“I’m from a place called Nottingham,” she said. “You know, Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and Maid Marian? It’s in the centre of England.”
I managed to stem my tears, you’ll be pleased to know, although it was almost too much when she looked at me as she told delegates to let her know if any of her British-isms were confusing.
Maybe I am subconsciously a language chameleon, who takes on the speaking style of all those around him? An ability to blend in could admittedly be useful if I ever launch a new career as a conman.
That said, it doesn’t augur well for forthcoming trips to Tennessee and Newcastle…