The first thing that I noticed about America was, surprisingly, not the accents I’d heard so much about. When I stepped off the plane from Heathrow in SFO all those years ago, I came to the life-changing, horribly disappointing realisation that, no, “restrooms” do not have sofas or TVs.
One of the first things that my new American class noticed about me was that my teeth were not quite up to the ivory par that is expected in California. Along with this came questions such as “Do all British people have yellow teeth?,” which just left me confused and amazed at the guts of the questioners to actually say that out loud. The Californian teeth standard gave me nightmares after my first dentist appointment, as the huge white shiny teeth of my dentist stared into my soul and thought, “I’m going to make you just like me.” It feels like a vampire movie every time.
Luckily, no one wrote “I like your yellow teeth” on my “compliment leaves” when I was Star of the Week in elementary school my first year in America, but I can tell you that at least 20 out of those 21 (forced) compliments were something along the lines of “I love your accent.” The people who say that probably think they’re the next Sherlock Holmes, discovering something as profound and clandestine as that. I think they may have a way to go, though, as surely a true Holmes would notice my pupils dilating and the slight shake of my hands as I graciously accept the compliment. I understand that it’s supposed to be a nice thing to say to me, but it does make me wonder if what I’m saying holds any meaning to you or just how I’m saying it.
This brings me to the beloved “say something” phrase.
Every time I hear that, I am highly tempted to make a selection from the rather large treasure chest of colourful language that comes with my nationality, but I usually opt for the glare, the change of subject, or the “something” in the most exaggerated cowboy accent I can manage. It would be a waste of a good word anyway as it is not likely to hold much meaning to the receiver.
It is a sad fact that I no longer fit in anywhere in terms of manner of speaking. In America, I’m posh and proper, use tea instead of water even when I’m showering and personally know the queen. In the UK, I’m a valley girl who says everything like a question and sees movie stars daily at my favourite coffee shop that I drive up to in my convertible.
Okay, maybe not quite, but anyway, you get the point.
I still have some fun in shops where asking for butter gets me cream cheese and my pronunciation of water is the epitome of bafflement. But, hey, I get my practice for my future life as a movie star cowgirl.
My point is, I don’t point out your oddities, so please don’t point out the way I talk. Trust me, I know I talk strangely (although historically speaking, it’s you with the accent here) and I rarely hear the end of it, wherever I am.
And, no, I don’t want any tea and crumpets, thank you very much.