Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bubba Fotherington-Smythe

When I first arrived in the United States back in 1991, I rapidly became aware of how soft-spoken I was. I must have spent half that first year repeating myself for the loud annoying American and the other half explaining that I was not from New Zealand, Australia or South Africa. Gradually, though, I got into it, and because I am a natural mimic, started sounding American. Every time I got on the phone to Mum or Sis or my grandparents, they always would say, "Ooh, you don't half sound American, Jeff." to which I would incredulously reply, "Oh... do I?" I started to get into the local culture as well, and it only got worse when I moved from the fairly generic-sounding Northwest to the yee-haw lawdy hush ma mouth State of Georgia. I started pronouncing thangs like them folks did, and began to see the phrases "Y'all" and "Fixin' tuh" creep into my vocabulary, as well as an appreciation for creamed corn and buttermilk biscuits. It was while working in the public eye in places such as Old Navy, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel and Outback that people picked up on my accent being a little different and once more was asked on a regular basis whence I hailed.

"Y'all Australian?"

"Ye're not from round here, are ya?"

Let me back up a little at this point. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to picking up on whether I am being flirted with. Neither am I fully aware that my natural sunny disposition and chatty demeanour might be construed as flirtatious to some. I had sorta figured out that some American ladies find a man with an English accent quite sexy, and that did come in handy at times when I wanted a bigger tip. But on the whole I was blissfully ignorant that what seemed to me to be a friendly conversation with a person of the opposite gender could actually be a flirt-a-thon. Usually, flirting has to be blatantly obvious in order for me to recognise it as such. For example, I recently burnt myself at work and it was bad enough that I had to go to the doctor to get it treated. When talking later that day with a lady friend on the ol' computer, I informed her of my injury and she replied by asking if she should put her nurse's uniform on and come over and take care of me. Now, that I understood.

By the time I came back to the UK, about 18 and a half years from when I started, my accent was all over the map, and so was my vocab. And once again I found myself having to repeat things because people weren't getting the lingo. So began the process of re-learning different phrases and terminologies (like calling my cellphone a 'mobile') until one day, about four months ago or so, while at work, serving a customer a pot of tea, I said "Would you like some extra hot water?" which is what you do when you are serving someone a pot of tea. The thing was, though, I heard myself saying it and was shocked to hear myself say "water" and pronouncing it "Waw-tah", i.e. the English pronunciation. About 6 months before that, I would have said "wah-derr", the American way of saying it. It was a revelation not unlike the one I experienced in Lake Stevens, WA back in about 1994 when I saw a classic automobile that had been lovingly restored, and said " Look at that awesome CARRR." The English say KAH. Shock horror! I was a Yank!

But the reality of my 'hot water' pronunciation has sunk in. I am beginning to lose my American-ness, and that depresses me. I like being unique. I've always liked attention (duh!) and the fact that a person's unique qualities can generate desirable attention has not escaped my notice. To this end, I have always tried to cultivate my uniqueness accordingly. Having a jumbled-up accent is unique, and it seems English women find my semi-American twang quite interesting. And of course, being able to flirt in English and Americanese does not hurt, either.

I find myself now in the position of having to brush up on my Southern drawl and my California surf dude lingo, for fear of waking up one morning and not being able to say that I 'might could' do something or I 'used ta could' do something.

 It's a funny old world we live in and no mistake. Or should I say, 'Laaf is laak a bowks-a chowk-lits.'


  1. we never know what you all are gonna saay next

  2. That's the idea - keep'em guessing and leave 'em wanting more.


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