I used to volunteer at Oxfam, back in the days when I had spare time. And at Oxfam, you meet all sorts of random characters: students, OAPs, antique hunters, book collectors, people on a budget and people trying to save things from the landfill. With all of these different personalities coming together for the Great Bargain Quest, you are bound to hear some rather interesting opinions… Once, while I was ringing up a man’s purchase, he commented: “why is it that Americans and Australians are the only ones who come to the UK, but never try to speak like the British?”
It seemed to me that he thought British English was superior to my American English, and that Americans/Australians should try a bit harder to assimilate. I really didn’t know what to say to that! I think I managed some random explanation about how people who come to the UK from non-English speaking countries use British English as their model, but I was a native English speaker, so why should I try to say tom-ah-to instead of tom-ay-to?
I’ve been in the UK on and off for about 5 years now, and I don’t try to hide my Texan accent. People with fake British accents just sound incredibly silly, à la Madonna a few years back. I think Britney had a “British” phase as well! If someone won’t understand something in American parlance, I will try to use a bit of the British vocab I’ve picked up.
‘Pavement’ to me means the road, but I know this means ‘sidewalk’ to British people, so at my driving test I didn’t say: “Shall I pull up on that bit of pavement over there?” When I ring the local curry house, I say I want to “order a take-away” instead of “order something to go”, etc. As long as people understand me, I don’t think I really need to try to speak like the Queen (not that anyone in Yorkshire actually talks like that anyway!).
19 November 2008 16:49