My accent

(because Chavi asked)

Yes, I do have one. But it is fluid. It changes according to where I am and with whom I am speaking. The kids make fun of me because I still say “trousers” (pants are what one wears under the trousers), and I say “I cahn’t”. When I am on the phone with my mother my British accent comes back very strong. I did live there for 21 years, and learnt how to talk in that environment.

The children always know when I have been on the phone with their grandmother and their uncles. They also know when I have watched my weekly dose of Coronation Street. The accent hangs over me for a while after.

The unusual thing is that I am totally unaware of it. It’s not as if I deliberately switch from a pseudo-Canadian accent to my British one and back again. The only time I am ever conscious of it, is when I need to call up a company to get something done, let’s say they overcharged my credit card – then I will load up the British accent consciously. It works. I can get more out of a North American company with a British accent that I can with a pseudo-Canadian one. North American folk hear the accent and just assume we automatically know better because we talk like we have marbles in our mouths.

I have been in Canada for over 15 years. I have adopted most of their way of speech, (except for their interesting interpretation of French….) it’s inevitable. But when I read to the boys my British accent is front and center. Especially when reading Dr Seuss. No way I could do those tongue twisters in a Canadian accent! It’s Fox in Socks, not Fahx in Sahx!

Generally I will be mid-conversation with someone and suddenly they interject “are you British or something?” – I most likely will have said Can’t or Talk….and then because of their comment my British accent will take over because I will be hyper conscious. Sooo strange….

Accents are a funny thing. We make so many judgments based on how a person talks. And we are not always right.

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  1. Z says:

    I came back from my year in NZ with a pronounced NZ accent which I can still pick up when I want. Whenever I hear a NZ or even to a lesser extent an Aussie accent, it makes me feel like home :) VERY comforting.

  2. Jax says:

    Accents are magical. As someone who spent some time studying linguistics, I adored picking apart accents and words. Embrace it, it makes you unique and worldly. And just remember not to throw up in your mouth when you get into Brooklyn and your ears get hammered with some of the strongest and varied accents around.

  3. Noah Roth says:

    Funny you say that you “use” your UK accent when talking to US companies… I once considered hiring a completely unqualified woman for a sales job, on the grounds that her UK accent would open doors the rest of us couldn’t.

    I ultimately thought the better of it, but it’s nice to see someone (all be it anecdotally) support my hypothesis.

  4. Noah Roth says:

    Then there was the time a co-worker was telling us about his “pants collection” In which he has 10 pairs of work pants that he wears in order, because it’s easier to match your shirt to pants than vice versa…

    British woman at the next table was horrified.

    After we sorted out the trousers/pants confusion, the co-worker looked up, and said, “But it’s ironic that I have that sort of pant collection as well…” :)

  5. David says:

    I long ago gave up telling people I am from Boston. It’s not that it’s untrue, but rather since both of my parents grew up in New York City, it’s simply difficult to believe, and I do have the bona fides to claim being born in New York City per se. Its not that can’t speak as though I am from Bahstan (I cehtainly caan!), but rather it requires a conscious effort!

  6. Chavi says:

    I want a soundclip! :)

    Interesting. I have no accent. I’m just from Nebraska, where our “accent” is flat, plain speech. That’s why TV personalities tend to hail from the midwest. FLAT. It’s lame :(

  7. Shlomo says:

    …the entire western half of America (besides some of California) seems to have no particular accent.

  8. Z! says:

    I guarantee that “flat nebraskan accent” doesn’t sound flat to most people’s ears!

    It is interesting that even though Canada is such a huge country, the accents from province to province do not change much.

  9. frumgoth says:

    I am from upstate NY and it’s also very plain, a non-accent. People have said “I can tell you’re not from NYC”.

    Anyway, don’t lose that accent, Hadassah! There is none better than a British one, in my opinion

  10. Trip'n Mommy says:

    I worked with the most wonderful, sweetest girl from South Africa. We had a meeting with a very chassidishe vendor who said to her “With that accent, you could tell anyone to go to hell and they’d enjoy it!”

    She was completely appalled, (she would NEVER tell anyone where to go!) and I was rolling on the floor laughing!

    From that day on, I made her make all the unpleasant calls since she really did make all the bad things sound better.

  11. Ian says:

    Well I’m quite self-concsious about my French accent. And I like the old Londoner’s accent a lot, when it’s not overdone…

  12. Shlomo says:

    Sounds to me like the classic “British, trying to sound American” accent, ..except “there you have it”, which sounded almost Barbara Streisand-like…

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