Wednesday, April 25, 2012


While on the phone with a US friend yesterday I pulled the phone from my head to talk to Cate. I said, 'Cate, just bin it if you think it's rubbish. And no more sweeties, we'll be eating dinner soon.' She replied with a typical kids comment and I said sternly, 'Don't be naughty! Or no ice-lollies for pudding for you.'

There was silence on the line.

'Hello?' I said back into the phone.

'What did you just say? I didn't get half of that.' She burst out laughing and said, 'You're a Limey now!'

Oh, the offense, or should I say offence! I quickly translated: Cate, just throw it in the garbage can if you think it's crap. And no more candy, we'll be eating soon. Don't be a brat or no popsicle for dessert.'

Blimey indeed! My daughter has a right proper British accent. She goes to school with British children and this is her talk. My husband, the Kiwi, is more British than American so he speaks like this as well. So it's easier for me to speak their Queen's English than it is for me to speak Obama's English.

But now I find myself saying 'flat' instead of 'apartment', 'mobile' instead of 'cell phone', 'cash point' instead of 'ATM', 'rubbish' instead of 'garbage', 'pudding' instead of 'dessert' and on and on. It cant' be helped.

And you know what - British English sounds so much nicer (for the most part). So I like it. But then there are the parts I don't like: 'Toilet' instead of 'bathroom' or restroom' (that's the prudish American in me) for example.

Either way, I'm quite comfortable with my British morphing. When we do go back to the USA I'm sure I'll return to my louder, brasher twang. And that's okay too.

I was amused by Nappy Valley and her assessment of having to tweak her language to fit into America. Read her post here. I feel her pain - it's the same language, just different country. We're just trying to fit in.


  1. That's so funny reading it from the other perspective! I spend my life in the US having to remember to say 'vacation', 'backyard' and 'parking lot' so that I can be understood. My children sound pretty American but they still amuse their teachers by coming out with words like plaster and talking about the boot of the car. My friends in England were surprised that I hadn't picked up an American accent, but at our age I don't think you do - it's just the language that you have to morph into.

  2. It's funny but given how long I've been here I always think my friends will have picked up my British words now (mainly "knackered") and they never do! Guess I had no choice but to go native.

  3. It's been almost 20 years since I lived in England, but there are still phrases I use even now.

  4. Ha, you're going native ;) It can be a balancing act, trying to be true to your origins yet needing to be understood. I do like to fit as many Britishisms into my vocabulary as I can when I visit back home, however; it's fun confounding the Americans.

  5. Very funny. So many opportunities for misunderstanding; fanny-pack still has me doubled up like a school girl every time I hear it...

  6. I often find I am talking double Dutch to my American family and to my English friends. One conversation can take twice as long sometimes if I have to explain myself! I hate cell phone in particular, why use two words when one (mobile) will do!

  7. Obama's English? I'll quit speaking altogether if that's the case. Lucky for me, I know that it was just a slip of.....the tongue?

  8. Thanks everyone.
    @Nappy Valley Girl - keep your British words - they are charming!
    @ExPat Mum - knackered is one of my favourites too. That and blimey!
    @Chris Redding - you can take the Brit (or American) out of Britian but you can't take the Britishness out of the Brit!
    @Mike - I am going native! And I owe you an email!
    @Lou - I have always loathed fanny-pack - the word and the item.
    @Mother Hen - I too prefer mobile. Cell sounds like prison.
    @Ruby - HA! Just using heads of state to be tongue in cheek (or cheeky as the Brits say!)

  9. It's strange how quickly one picks up the local language. I have to say that I can never understand why a public toilet is referred to as bathroom in America...when you wouldn't expect to find a bath in there. Or restroom when it's not really somewhere you would want to rest!

  10. I've been in the states for 9 years and my accent is as strong as ever, which is to say English with very little regional inflection. I'm used to people thinking I'm Australian and not understanding me for the first 5 minutes I speak to them, until they acclimatize (Acclimate). I still say blimey and am still coming out with phrases friends have never heard and draw great amusement from.

    I can't use drive through (thru = pet peeve) and be understood. I refuse to use the phrase restroom or bathroom (unless it truly does contain a bath) and still write colour and have to then edit it without the U.

    I do now say "I guess," which I modified from "I reckon," as I was sounding like a hill billie. Something I don' tunderstand is when I say schedule with a shh that it is seen as being fine and yet Americans think it is pretentious if they say it that way.

    My nine year old daughter cannot even discern I have an accent at all and thinks I sound American and although she is technically British (born there) she has an American accent but imitates characters from Harry Potter badly.

    I'd use loo instead of toilet, it's far nicer and is socially acceptable anywhere.

    What I have learned: The word stupid is a crime in the states. Us English use it as a descriptor for everything. You're stupid, it's stupid, we're stupid..I'm stupid. You cannot in jest say shut up to an American. It translates as shut your mouth rather than something oh so les offensive. The word git means nothing.

    Most of all though I have learned that the US is now my home and I like living here. I'll never fully fit here and my heart will always be in England, but I'm not sure I would want to move back or fit there now. I'm somewhere in between these days. People will always think I have an extra ten IQ points based on my accent they cannot understand and I have to learn to be less direct and sarcastic. Those virtues are not respected quite the same in the land of uncle sam!


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