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.
“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!
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?
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!
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?
Just 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?
The pondering of the word and makings of Shamerican? Click here
Don’t deny it – whatever you’re accent weakness is, you know it’s there (you minx, you)
For many many many (freakin’ MANY) Americans, their weakness is the English accent. And rightly so, might I add – English people can say almost ANYTHING and it sounds good. ‘Bastard’ and ‘asshole’ are prime examples (pardon my not-french). Not the friendliest or most pleasant of words, but said in a posh English accent it’s instant class… ok, maybe not class – but you get what I mean…
Bizarrely, this attraction can be the same in reverse – I’ve met countless English people that seem to think the American accent is the equivalent of a chocolate covered strawberry.
Now I’m about as ‘taken’ as they come – I’m hitched to an awesome Brit who’s the best ever. As a result, I think I tend to radiate ‘unavailable’ like it’s stamped, glowing across my forehead. Everyone that knows me knows that I’m uber-taken, and that I’m crazy about Mr. Nice Guy. I wonder if that’s why people feel comfortable enough to tell me when they think my accent is cute… although I always feel weird when it happens. (To be fair, I think everyone involved does – it usually temporarily kills the conversation and causes some shuffling)
Here’s a list of some of the words that have caused said-shuffling:
Capo (American = KAY-poh / English = CAH-poh)
Compost (American = KAAHM-post / English = COHM-pohst)
Capillary (American = CAA-pill-air-ee / English = cuh-PILL-ery
Route (American = RAOWt / English = ROOt
Tune (American = TOOn / English = CHEWn
Semi (American = SEH-my / English = SEH-mee)
Strawberry (American = STRAHW-beh-ree / English = STROO-bree)
I’m always surprised when someone thinks the American accent is particularly attractive. I don’ think it’s bad or anything – it just seems so ordinary to me (for obvious reasons).
So, if you’re American and you want to be sexier, try moving to England. All you have to do is chat and your accent will take care of the rest
I have a theory that Americans are more likely to massacre the French language and English peeps are more likely to massacre the Spanish language.
Have you ever heard the way some English people say ‘jalapeño’ or ‘torrilla’??? Ha-lah-PEN-yo becomes Dja-lah-PEE-noh and tor-TEE-yah become tor-TILL-ah. It’s both fantastic and hilarious… and it’s one the many reasons I love watching English cooking shows.
But that’s almost the mirror image of how I massacre French. I pronounce ‘croissant’ as cruh-saahnt instead of ‘quah-sohn’. I still remember the first time I said it in front of Mr Nice Guy and he couldn’t believe it. He thought I was joking… but, alas… non…
It makes sense, I guess – Spanish is crazy-common in the States where English people are going to be much more likely to need French. But the polar opposite of heinous pronunciation is just too beautiful to not become a blog.
But my absolute favourite is when someone that’s fluent in multiple languages pronounces a single non-English word in an otherwise English sentence. A close friend of mine is half-French and when she says a French word such as ‘croissant’ or a phrase like ‘cafe au lait’ she instantly becomes 100% French before transitioning just as quickly back to English for the rest of the sentence. It always makes my head spin and it always makes me smile…