I was in conversation with some very good friends the other day, albeit having consumed 2 bottles of Marks and Sparks sparkling wine and a variety of nibbles, when I dropped the C bomb. Now I dont mean the ‘See You Next Tuesday’ kind, but the new Jo-ism (more about that in a bit) I have donned called the accent chameleon.
For those of you out there who are already perplexed by this phrase it’s what I like to call someone who can’t help but imitate the accent of the person or people they are around.
Having lived in a few different countries, and also different parts of my own country England, I have adopted what I like to call a hybrid accent – one that you can’t quite place. For reasons unbeknowst to me, I have always had a bit of West-country in my accent saying things like ‘roight’ and ‘coider’ instead of ‘right’ and ‘cider’ and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was visiting my old friend Charlotte down in Hampshire every summer holiday and half term and playing with country boys, or maybe I always aspired to live in the Cotswolds in my previous life? But whatever it is, it has stuck with me until now. And it shows no signs of abating.
After my year in Canada and my, nearly 3, years in Australia I have an almost semi-permanent compulsion to say ‘ay? or ‘eh?’ at the end of a question; as if I can’t bear for the person I’m speaking to, to not understand that what I said was a question of sorts. Funnily enough my time at university, which was mostly spent in Putney bar in SW London, meant I had many Aussie friends years before I actually set foot there, resulting in a multitude of people thinking my harmless ‘no worries’ was a genuine Aussie-ism. But now I really do struggle to find my own true voice and accent amongst those that I’ve taken on over the years.
The great thing is I can understand what people mean, even if there are 5 people at my dinner table from every corner of the earth, I understand that if they say: sneakers, runners, trainers or pumps that they are all referring to some sort of sports shoe. I know a jandal is a thong, a thong is not a g-string, and that a double plugger is not some weird sex game played by bi-curious swingers but a flip flop – and believe it or not this sort of translation comes in handy at the most random of times.
I think whatever I hear is what I end up saying – so hopefully my English rose accent is on its way back to me, somehow. But until then ‘don’t get the shits if I don’t sound loike a proper English person when I’m oot and aboot, cos I know I sound funny, eh?’