Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WHO HAS THE ACCENT?

It has been my long-held, fundamental belief that everyone in the world has an accent except me.  It wasn't a conscious decision that I made...just something that I have always felt down deep inside.  (In my defense, Wikipedia describes North American English as being "more homogeneous" within the boundaries of the U.S. and most Americans tend to feel the same way I do.) There are variations of the North American English accent such as on the East Coast with those from Boston (Massachusetts) or The Bronx (New York) as well as the south in Texas or New Orleans (Louisiana), two totally different southern accents. My "accent" however, is the more homogeneous accent in America...the kind you hear as you sit across the table from your girlfriend chatting over coffee. It's the same accent you hear in the movies and on American TV news and programs.

So now I find myself in a land where everyone has an accent except me.  Hmmm...is that possible? Suddenly I am faced with the realization that every time I open my mouth, the people around me think that I am the one with an accent. I know logically, this is the case. I totally understand why all Australians would think that I have an accent, because clearly I don't sound like them. That having been said, who can say who really has the accent? Whose way of speaking is the "purest" form of English and all others are a variation of it? This question can leave your head spinning much like the age old question, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

hehehe
Now I know what it feels like to be a foreigner, (an unusual feeling for this born-and-raised American who rarely left the U.S.) Here in Australia I may look the same and can blend in with everyone but the minute I open my mouth I certainly don't sound the same. In fact, I stand out like a sore thumb! I try to explain that I'm not from around here, (like it wasn't obvious the second I opened my mouth!) I bumble along trying to fit in yet the moment I feel my confidence rise, either my "accent" gives me away or I mistakenly use American words that aren't used here.

At the mall, I walked around and felt so self-conscious about my "accent" that I hardly spoke a word. I just wanted to fit in and not be so obviously different. I eventually found myself in the food court for lunch. Eureka! American franchises McDonald's and Subway were amongst the other choices that were unrecognizable.  Surely I will be able to order something, blend in, and feel like my feet have briefly touched U.S. soil. I stepped up to the Subway counter to order my foot-long ham sandwich. (Side note: Why do they say "foot-long" when the entire country uses the metric system?) 

napkin, aka. serviette
 As I strolled down the veggie counter telling the clerk what to add to my sandwich, I stumbled into a deep crevasse as I attempted to tell her I wanted green pepper on my sandwich. You see, here in Australia they don't have "green peppers"...they have "capsicum." Same thing...just totally different names. Of course, I already knew that, but at that moment in time when I was put on the spot, the word "capsicum" escaped me. After a few brief and embarrassing moments, I had to point to those long green slices and sheepishly say..."I'll have some of those." As I paid for my sandwich I dropped deeper into the crevasse as I asked for a "sack" for my sandwich so I could take half of it home with me. The clerk looked at me like I was from Mars! "Er...um...I mean...a bag." As I reached for a "napkin" (which are "serviettes" here) I realized I had a long way to go in order to blend in if I can't make it through a simple Subway line!
...So much for feeling like I fit in!!!



23 comments:

  1. I didn't realize they had so many different names for things. I would have done the same thing.

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  2. You are too cute. I am going to Subway for dinner tonight and I will ask for some Capsicum on my 30.48 centimeter sandwich. That will make you feel better, huh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Julia...you can think of me as you reach for your serviette as well! =)

    ReplyDelete
  4. lol. They call them footlongs still 'cause it's an American store. It would be like trying to Australianise the "Big Mac" to... the "Big Macca"... can you imagine how funny that would be!

    My husband (American) like to laugh at me saying serviette (I live in the US) and yet I just can't bring myself to say napkin.. 'cause a "napkin" (for short, nappy) is what we call baby diapers so i'm sorry but I just can't ask for a diaper to wipe my face :P

    While we're on the topic.. have you stopped calling your bottom, your "fanny"? It's really not the same thing in Aus and you will get some very bad looks for using it!

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  5. It is hard to answer who comes first to the world and who belongs which place? and especially language problem and their accent..

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