The Queen’s English


Nine months since I arrived and I am still linguistically intact. The first weeks I flirted with saying “take a left”  instead of “turn left”, but it didn’t take hold. I still say lift, not elevator, flat, not apartment, loo, not bathroom, and all the other Britishisms that amuse, irritate, or confound listeners. And I always forget how Americans say ‘data’ though I try that with what I like to think is an ironic eyebrow raise. ‘Italy’ is another one.

This is not due to any ideological stance or national pride: it is simply because I have been using those words so long that it would take a concerted effort on my part to replace them with their US equivalents, and I am using my concentration for other things now. It would also be fake,  as if I suddenly lost my Welsh accent and started to speak in Received Pronunciation. I know people have modified their accent for professional purposes, like Sue Lawley or Margaret Thatcher, but what happens when you stub your toe, or have one drink too many? Anyway, here my pronunciation is my party piece. People associate it with Downton Abbey or the Royal family (if only they knew). Recently a guy in the cafeteria was grilling chicken, and on hearing me ordering my  lunch, rotated his head at the speed of light and said ”  you sound like the Duchess of York” I couldn’t remember which of the Royals she was at first, but it didn’t sound promising and it wasn’t. And last week the hairdresser said as she lacquered the finishing touches , “Now you’re Princess Diana”.

It’s true what Shaw said about two peoples divided by a common language.  Many words are different and at times I get embarrassed when I can’t think of one.  For example, at the chemist’s when I needed some sticking plasters: “do you have something you put on a cut or blister?” (Band Aid – duh).  And when catching a train recently I blanked out completely,  ” which …er….what do you call the place where the train comes in?” (Answer: track). It’s a great exercise in circumlocution but I’m not sure your average New Yorker has got time for that.

As for erasers, that’s a whole other blog.