Friday, May 06, 2005

Huh? Excuse me?

Before moving to the USA, I anticipated many problems with moving to a new country. For example, the money. All American banknotes are the same size, colour with the only difference being the amount in the corner. There's nothing like getting home and realise you tipped the waitress $100 dollars when you meant to tip $10.

Also, considering America has $1 bills when I'm used to pound coins, it can get a little confusing. You can look into your wallet and see a really impressive wedge of cash, count it out, and find you have the grand total of $12. As the smallest English not is a 5, that looks like at least 60 to us. This can be embarrasing after glancing in your wallet and announcing "Dinner's on me!"

The coins can be confusing also. Inexplicably they're all the same shape, and the sizes are weird... the 5c coin the size of a 10p coin, and the 10c coin is the same size as 5p coin. Why is a 10c bigger that a 5c? Who's master plan of design was that?...It's not amusing when people assume you're educationally subnormal when you take 20 minutes paying for a pack of Doritos.

The one problem I didn't anticipate, however, was the difficulty in making myself understood.

I'm not talking about different words here, For example, the ones everyone know...Pavement = Sidewalk, Crisps = Chips, Chips = Fries etc.

I'm talking about my accent.

How do I explain my accent?... Hmmm, I was born in Liverpool, lived near St. Helens and went to a Wigan school. It's a mix, but that has made it slightly more understandable than anything. The closest I can think of is Daphne Moon's from Frasier. It's not exactly the same, but it's close enough to make my point.

Because I understand people may have a little difficulty with my accent, I attempt to speak slowly and clearly to avoid confusion. Unfortunately it still takes me 3 or four attempts and lots of pointing to make the clerk at the all night garage understand "Can I have a Pack of Marlboro regular's please?"

As an aside, you can have a lot of fun with people who work in all night garages. The Job requirements seem to be a vacant expression, a complete ignorance of basic mathematics and the appearance and intelligence of a shaved monkey...This is not just the USA, this is true of every country I've visited...leading me to beleive all Late Night Garage workers are part of some strange cult, the purpose of which is to cause maximum frustration.

Here's what to do. If you're buying something for say $5.42, give them a ten and 42 cents. They can't work out the change, and are confused that you've given them a bill for more than your purchase and extra coins. They just's great!


It's was also really annoying when a guy in a clothes shop who sounded like a cross between Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel, Earnest and Gomer Pile said "Hyuk hyuk, y'all tawk funneh!"

I'm living in the South, the home of some of the most incomprehensible accents in the western world. I can understand them, why isn't the opposite true? Also, down here, they don't just have different accents, they invent words, it's not even English any more.

Here are some examples (Lifted directly from Jeff Foxworthy, but they illustrate my point so well, I can't resist) Each is the Southern American version, followed by plain English:

"Sensuous yup, gitme a bar"
"Since you were up, get me a beer"

"Jeet yit?"
"Did you eat yet?"

"Do you want to?"

...and my personal favourite:

"Widja Didja."
as in "Y'all didn't bring your truck widja didja?"

The American English - English English divide can cause a lot of problems for the Brit living in Southern USA. I think I've touched on this in a previous post, but the first time I said "God! I need a fag." it resulted in much laughter and merriment directed at me...bastards.

It works both ways, however, the first time one of my inlaws said they fell and got a bad bruise on their fanny, I just doubled up.

There also appears to be some sort of short hand in operation that no-one told me about. I once asked my wife if she'd seen my shoes. Her answer was "In yonder by the thingie." She got quite irate when I delivered my usual "What in the blue hell are you talking about?" Apparently, "In yonder by the thingie." should have been completely clear. She cleared it up by saying, "You know, the thingy, by the hinkjigger." Oh, more made up words...the penny's dropped now, for sure.

But language isn't the toughest thing about living in the US. The worst are the stereotypes and misconceptions about England.

In all seriousness, so far, I've been asked the following:

"Do you have supermarkets over there, or do you just have, like, market places?"
"Did you live in a cottage?"
"Do you have electricity/computers/phones/cars over there?"
No, we actually still live in the dark ages. No one beleives me when I point out that computers were actually invented in the UK

The other main thing is "British people have bad teeth" and "British food sucks." Let me state for the record that since being in the south I've seen one or two people who could be accused of lying through their tooth. As for the food, the ones usually mentioned are 'Blood sausage' (Black pudding), 'Kidney pie', and 'everything is fried'.

Ok, these things are eaten in the UK, but it's not like we live on a exclusive diet on them. However, America has some weird delicacies to, and in my opinion, they're twice as bad.

For example "Red eye gravy" This is a 'gravy' that is made from bacon grease (That's right, the stuff left in your pan after you've fried some bacon), mixed with...get coffee.

Eeew, What the hell happened there? Someone tripped and the coffee went over the bacon? I've also heard it's not uncommon for people to mix pepsi with milk.

I'd rather lick my own asshole if it's all the same to you.

Another delicacy is chitterlings (usually pronounced Chit'lins), which is shredded pig/chicken/random animal intestines, which you fry. Mmm, mmm, mm, that's what I want for dinner...random internal organs, fried please!

That 'kidney pie' aint looking so bad right now, is it?

Also, while I'm on a roll, I'd like to state the following:

1) Tea is drunk in Britian, but it's just as popular in the USA
2) Crumpets are not a staple of the British diet, and haven't been since 1906
3) We do not wear powdered wigs en masse, lawyers wear them in court through tradition, but considering there are buildings in the UK that pre-date the USA by centuries, we're bound to have more stupid traditions than the USA
4) A british person saying "Pip pip", "Old Bean" or "Cheerio" is likely to get beaten up.
5) The great British Reserve is a myth. Anyone who has ever been to Liverpool City Center on a friday night can attest to this.
6) Not everywhere is green and we don't live in cottages.
7) We DO NOT think the height of humour is a man dressed as a woman. Before you consider badmouthing British Comedy, we can just as easily bring up a certain talking horse.
8) Britain is not a tiny little island. It's roughly the same size as texas. Not exactly big, but not tiny either.
9) Everyone in Britian does not sound like a cockney (Awight gavnah! It's a jollee oliday wiv moyree!" or super posh "Oh ai say, golly gorsh and pip pip, old bean). Just like everyone in America does not sound like a redneck or a New Yorker.

(Deep breath)

Ok, rant over.

Seriously, though, before I get a million emails flaming me, like I've stated before, I love the USA, if I didn't, I wouldn't live here. The above is a small price to pay. All I ask is that before you start in on our food or some other stereotype, most people equate the US with Drugs, Guns and Big Macs. That is not true. Neither is the idea that all Brits are Posh, tea drinking, crumpet eating wig wearers in desperate need of a dentist.

However, it's still bloody annoying to be told to "Speak English." by an American.

1 comment:

Vada said...

We southerners can't helpit if we don't understand proper OLD English.

We've just kind of adjusted it to sound like what we HEAR.

You have to admit that there are some words that sound almost the same said in a southern accent and in proper English.

Proper southern "Ass"is pronounced almost EXACTLY as English "Arse".

Sigh.... We'll learn......