My nephew (who I’ve known for 8 years) didn’t know that I’m American

OH.

MY.

GOD.

Here’s how it happened.


My 8 year old nephew and I were in my in-laws’ back garden playing an epic game of wiffle golf.  He was just winding up to chip his ball into the purple sprouting broccoli (or as we call it, ‘hole 4′) when he said,

“Where are you from?”  Then he paused and gave a BIG laughed.  ”JUST KIDDING!” he laughed, “You’re from England!”

I stood there for a split second.  Stymied.

“No I’m not! I’m from America!”

I was laughing, too. :)  He stopped.  Dropped his wiffle club.  Turned.

“YOU ARE??”

“Yeah, I’m American – I grew up in America!”

“I didn’t know that!”


 He didn’t know!?  

I know that it’s really that I’ve known him since the day he was born and that I just sound like Aunty Yankeebean to him so he doesn’t hear whatever shreds of American accent that I’m still clinging on to.

But it’s another first.  I have never EVER before been confused for anything other than 100% American by someone I’ve know for years and years.  Add it to the list!

I can’t sound THAT American anymore because English people freely tell me how much they hate the American accent

When I first moved to the UK, I met a lot of people that loved American accents, American culture and all things stars-and-stripes.  But after being here for 8 years, it’s more common to hear Brits talk about how awful they think the American accent is.

It’s never malicious.  No intentional insult.  They just casually chat about how harsh and unappealing it sounds.  They talk about how loud it is.  They talk about how distracting they find it.

And they talk about it, right to my face, like I don’t have one.

I can honestly say that I’m not insulted because I can tell that they don’t mean any harm.  After finding out that I’ve lived in the UK for so many years, I wonder if people put me into the ‘Other’ category rather than the ‘American’ one.  They chat freely to me about my mamma-land because they feel like I’m on their team now (I hope?).  Either that or their being arseholes and I’m too nice to notice.

But I don’t think that’s it.  I’m a nice woman, not a nice eejit.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the case that every English person hates the Yankee twang, but it’s become a 60/40 split in terms of Brits telling me they hate/love it.  And I’m sure all you lovely expats will agree that when the words ‘hate’ and ‘America(n)’ drop-it-like-it’s-hot into a conversation, your ears perk up a bit so I can’t help but notice the shift.

I have no plans to try and stop this trend since no one directly involved seems to find it upsetting.  If the convo DOES turn to accent-hating, I toss around my own opinions about types of British accents that I’m not super-fond-of and I don’t think I’ve annoyed anyone.  But I maintain the right to become She-Ra, Outraged Princess of Power, if anyone attacks my precious home land with malicious intent!

What do you guys think?  Am I being too lax in the defence of my people?

The WORST fake English accents: Why don’t they just hire British actors to play British characters??

I’m at the stage at my stay here in the UK that I don’t really hear the British accent anymore.  Unless it’s a strong local-y sounding one (Yorkshire, Bristol, Scouse, Geordie), it washes right over me.

But when they hire an American, an Irish person or an Australian to play a Brit – OH! – Mine ears, they do tremble.  Why don’t they just hire Brits??  Especially since they’re cheap labour

I’ve been doing some Googling to find some evidence, and I’ve come up with the following 3 heinous examples:

Anne Hathaway in One Day

Bless her heart, I love Anne Hathaway in almost everything she ever touches (yes, this includes the Princess Diaries 2).  But how can I keep track of what’s going on in a film with this strange Ameri-cockney-yorkshire accent beast staring me down?

Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta

I’m also a huge lover of Natalie Portman – she’s a freaking genius and most things she touches turn to golden box office successes.  But her ACCENT!  Ohmygee, her accent.  That’ll be ten Pledge of Allegiances and a whole cheese pizza as penance, Nat-Port.

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

No list of crappest-Brit-accents would be complete without Dickie-boo!

I love this movie.  MY GOD, I love this movie.   I live in eternal hope that one day I’ll find a handbag big enough to keep a floor lamp in.  But Dick Van Dyke really set the bar in terms of heinous accents.  It doesn’t ruin the over all movie for me, though – probably because it’s all so cartoony and his accent is, too.


Part of me gets it.  Directors have a specific actor in mind and they bring them in regardless of their stubborn American twang.  It’s distracting, though – there’s nowt to be done about it!

I know it isn’t a one-way train.  There are plenty of Brits doing heinous American accents out there (except for Hugh Laurie, of course.  He sounds more American than I do), but for some reason I don’t tend to find bad American accents as distracting.  Now that I mention it, I should give a shout out Gweneth Paltrow who throws a seriously excellent English accent in my opinion.

What about you guys?  Can you stand it?  Have I missed any obvious ‘worst English accent ever’ candidates?  Or what about bad American accents?  I can’t think of any off the top of my head…

 

Them: Where are you from in Ireland? Me: Chicago.

So it’s cropped up a couple of times now.  No, more than a couple – it’s happened so many times that I’ve lost count.  I meet someone new and have the standard can-you-believe-this-weather-it’s-far-too-hot/cold/wet/dry chat.

Then there’s a brief pause… and they USED to say, ‘So where in the States are you from, then?’

Me: ‘Chicago’

Them: ‘Ahhh, the WINDY CITY!’ (always said with a certain aire of satisfied expertise, like Stephen Fry reading the correct answer on QI)

But the conversation trend has taken a worrying turn – people have started asking me if I’m Irish.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Irish people.  They are SO. Freaking. Nice.  And they love Americans, which helps :)  I’m just a little freaked out because I love my A-mur-cun twang and I’m determined to cling to it, white-knuckled, until my hard R’s and flat A’s relent and settle back into my head.

Does anyone else get this?  I’ve lived in the UK for eight years now, so it makes sense that my accent is fading from shiny-new-American to shabby-expat-mid-atlantic.

I still cringe sometimes when I hear the half-arsed Ameri-English-love-child accent that comes out of my mouth.  But, hey ho, you can’t win ‘em all!

Call Me Geordie, Maybe

(Watch on YouTube)

I couldn’t resist sharing this one.  The ever-catchy ‘Call Me Maybe’ has officially been translated into Geordie.

I can proudly say I didn’t even need subtitles to know what they were on about!  Another right of passage achieved…

One of the best English to American translations I’ve ever seen…

I’ve never seen such an excellent translation guide between England-English and American-English.  ‘Quite good’ still catches me out sometimes after 8 years! And ‘That’s not bad’ was one of my biggest peeves when I first moved over.

Anyone considering moving across the pond – read and learn.  :)

When an American in Britain moves to South America (with a British man): a countryless situation.

peacefulyorkshire

We plan on returning to Yorkshire , my British man (Mr. Chill)  and I, but for the next three months  are living in South America. My Ph.D. requires field work study that cannot be done on the fair island. Not that  I am unhappy about a new adventure! We have packed all of our stuff into an overpriced storage unit in Yorkshire (that shockingly costs as much as our rent in South America) and have made the move.

This is Mr. Chill’s first time living in another place besides England.   I can relate wholeheartedly when he misses British things I find true to his nationality (well how can I talk? I missed Swiss Miss cocoa, Fruity Pebbles and Mac and Cheese for goodness sake. Bleh!). Mr, Chill misses the lack of British organisation to keep things running ‘smoothly’. He misses British Leicestershire, Cheshire and Gloucestershire cheeses that are nowhere to be found here and ‘rule following’ people. He misses quality single malt scotch, dark pubs, mega-stores like Tesco and cinemas in English.  As for me, after two weeks the Latin-ness in my blood is rejoicing. England? As far away as a dream.

I won’t lie and say I miss being in England. I don’t. It is refreshing to be away from rules of class and feeling like I am insulting people all the time by just being myself. For the first time in a  long time my awkwardness in social settings is gone. I don’t miss the dreary grey skies (Mr. Chill does…). I love being able to be out at the weekends and not see drunk people puking and wreaking havoc on the streets. God, I now live in one of the most dangerous South American countries and I feel safer here than I do in Yorkshire on a Saturday night.  I like that on average there are 2 protests here a day in the city. I like that because it means people here aren’t complacent and are wanting to be heard. Many care what happens in their often-corrupt government and will not be silent. Having suffered a military coup and then an economic crisis. People don’t seem to have the barriers of polite self-consciousness that I find in England. Directness is always my cuppa anyway so I love this.

But hey, I know that the things I find to be shackles of ‘British living’ come with the package of choosing England. Everything has a price and that is the cost I pay to have the wonderful things there like the great man I have met, a career I have built from nothing , the many friends and lovely family of Mr. Chill’s I have become close to. The clean quiet order of the life I found there.

By contrast, our South American life is not ordered, nor quiet. Where we  live now is ripe with poverty on our doorstep while chaotic traffic zooms past. We can’t ignore the hungry.  People sleep on our doorstep at night and rummage through our trash at night looking for things to eat or reuse. Packs of  dogs roam the streets with no owners to claim them.

When a local asks Where are you from? I answer I am American. But  I am not a clear cut woman identified by habits from my birth nation.  As if living in England has cleansed me  from claiming any nationality outright– and I wouldn’t have realised that until we arrived here. The hardest thing I did not expect is the inability to find a ‘country’ to claim as my cultural identity. Living in Britain I was always ‘the American’. Here, I am not.

And and I certainly don’t feel in anyway British– although the social mores I have learned there stick to me like a rash. Like the unrecognisable reserved nature that has become me when meeting new people, my ability to have patience in lines, my allegiance to the BBC and the way I can  just about master the  fork in my left hand. I said to myself just this morning, who is this countryless lady that is now me?

But, for now I enjoy my confusion and  soak in the rich Latin American culture of my heritage. I will continue to blog as an ex-pat from my new temporary place and —well, just enjoy being  myself, countryless lay-deh and all.

Americans like ‘dongle’ and ‘bung’

Conversation between me and Mr Nice Guy when we were in America:

Me: Hun, where’s the dongle? I wanna check our business banking.

*giggles heard from the next room*

Mr Nice Guy: I haven’t seen the dongle since we got here – did you check the suitcase?

*chortles waft from the next room*

Me: Found it!  It was in your jeans pocket in the suitcase – do you want it when I’m done?

Mr Nice Guy: Nah, just bung it back in the suitcase when you’re done

*guffaws and general merriment erupt from the next room*

Voice from the next room: WHAT THE HELL’S A DONGLE?!?  HAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  BUNG!?!  HAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

yankeebean

yankeebean

When I think about it, bung and dongle are two hugely English-sounding words.  I can imagine them both wearing wellies to walk to the local pub… talking about Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report – or Gordon Ramsay’s plastic surgery (depending on their current place in the British class system).

These are hidden gems, a level (or two) below ‘bloody’, ‘bugger’ and ‘brilliant’ – the ol’ faithfuls that always get rolled out when a British characters appears in an American TV show.

So, Americans!  If you’d like to put your British-ness on display, liberally apply the words bung and dongle across your next conversation.  Let me know how it goes :)

“Is that an American expression?”… “I Have No Idea”…

yankeebean

yankeebean

One of the things that I tend to do is make up random words and slang for everything.  Just for kicks, y’know?  Life’s too short to abide by the Dictionary (although it’s a fine book).  My Mom does it, too and I think I get it from her – sometimes I wonder if we could have a conversation using only our secret code.  Like two spies… or psychic ninjas.

When I first move here, people would ask, “Is that an American thing?” and sometimes I’d say “Yeah” and launch into an explanation.  But sometimes I”d say, “No, it’s just a random Yankeebean thing, I like making up words”. (With lots of hand waving and general gesticulation, of course).

But recently a couple of people have asked “Is that an American thing?” and I’ve had to pause and say, “I have absolutely no idea…”

Half the time I just don’t remember if it’s American, or something I made up – I’m not even sure if it’s just something people say in the NORTH and not in the South in England.  All of the terms of everywhere I’ve lived have all ended up in a big bubbling pot of vocabulary – and the origin is starting to evaporate in to thin air  (I moved once a year from when I was 15 to when I was 20, so there’s a reasonable jumble in there)

So, is it just another expat shamerican thing?  Anyone else forgetting what’s from where?  Or should I make a doctor’s appointment? :D

Shamerican: Because ‘expat’ is SO 2008

yankeebeanJust a short post to announce one of the finest new terms I’ve heard to describe us expats in all of our feisty, out-spoken glory.

Sha-mer-i-can [shuh-mare-ih-caan] (noun)

An American that is not currently living in America.  “Yankeebean move to the UK in 2004 and she’s been shamerican every since!”

Thanks goes out to Peacefulyorkshire’s dude, Mr Chill for coining this term!  I did ask him where he got his inspiration and he said something like, “It just describes you both perfectly.  You’re not American – you’ve left America – you’re shamerican”

Hahaha!  Classic.  I prefer it over ‘expat’ any ol’ day – bring it on!

Oh, and what happens when an English person no longer lives in England?

They’re shenglish.

The pondering of the word and makings of  Shamerican? Click here