EcoGeoFemme has an interesting post this week about accents. Like some of the commenters over there, I tend to “hear” what I’m reading in my own accent. Which is a weird messed-up 57 varieties phenomenon.
No-one can ever guess where I’m from. A lot of Brits (and even the occasional Irish person) will guess that I’m Irish. The majority of Canadians will guess at Australian; interestingly enough, I’ve had Australian and New Zealander friends here tell me that they’re often identified as Brits.
(North Americans definitely seem to have less of an ear for different accents than in Britain, where the locals of two towns 30 miles apart can sound completely different. I once had friends from Edinburgh and Southern England visit me at the same time, and lots of Canadians couldn’t tell the difference between the three of us. Same thing when my Kiwi friend still lived here – more than one person thought we sounded the same (“Australian?”). I’m also constantly astounded by the North American inability to hear the difference between two words, such as ferry and fairy, that sound completely different to me. “You were stranded in Nanaimo for 3 hours thanks to the bloody fairies?“).
I’ve moved around quite a bit, and everywhere I go I tend to pick up local words and phrases quite quickly. I think this habit dates back to when I first started primary school with a different accent to everyone else (see below), which was obviously noticed and commented on, kids being kids and all. Rapid adaptation was in my best interests! Once those words are in my vocabulary, I tend to pronounce them with a wee bit of the local accent. And so my hybrid monstrosity is born.
So. Here’s my linguistic pedigree. I was broad Geordie* until I was about 5, when we moved to York. York has a very distinctive accent of its own, including a local version of an extreme Bostonian Ah/Ar sound (e.g. in car park). Back to Geordieland for University, where I rediscovered my roots and also had 2 Scottish flatmates, from whom I picked up my first Scottish words and phrases. Then on to Glasgow (link NSFW) for my PhD, where it took me about 2 weeks to understand anything anyone said to me. I was there long enough to pick up a lot more Scottish, plus some Irish words and phrases from assorted friends, especially my favourite flatmate.
From there, on to Canada, where some people apparently couldn’t understand me at all, eh? I had to drop some words that no-one had ever heard before (e.g. peely wally), and modify my pronunciation of others (I got sick of having to ask for water 3 times before I got it, so I started saying “warder” like a true North American. Apparently Canadians are not familiar with the Yorkshire glottal stop; it’s OK to turn your Ts into Ds, but not to eliminate then entirely). I’ve been here for almost 6 years now and more and more Canadian is seeping in. I still sound foreign to most Vancouverites, but my British friends and family are constantly pointing out how Canadian I sound. They think this is a bad thing; I think it’s an inevitability.
So there you have it. No-one knows where I’m from any more, and fellow Brits are astonished when I tell them (I usually just say York). For Mad Hatter and others who tend to “hear” blogs in the native accent of the author, I apologise for this post and I hope you keep reading despite the confusion! If it’s any help, I took the accent quiz at the original post and came out Bostonian. So just imagine that with a bit of Aussie, Geordie, Canadian, Irish and Scottish thrown in.
*check out the sound clips!