Tag Archives: Languages

Oh Dear!

When I hear this expression, I immediately think of the Queen, the Queen of England that is. Not that she ever said that to me personally, but in my minds ear I hear her saying that. In the special British royal way, and a little disapprovingly.

It’s funny how the language environments you live and work in, will affect you. At one time my accent was, or so all but my British friends told me, quite  close to a true British accent. At least for some words that my British colleagues used frequently – no need to repeat them here. But when I went to London, people asked me if I was from Germany or Holland. So much for acquiring a respectable accent.

Later on, my accent was influenced by both East African and South African English and by various Asian accents, and even by some Australian English through colleagues I worked with. So when I came to the US many years ago, people really couldn’t tell where my accent came from.  I had an accent, but it clearly wasn’t American. That was quite a fun discussion starter. And resulted in wild guesses all over the place.

But there were other funny things happening as well. For example, I remember when I dined out for the very first time in N.Y. At the end of the meal the waitress approached our table and I asked for a bill. She looked at me for a moment. Maybe she was thinking that I asked for a dollar bill from her?  Then she just said so you wanna have the check? Every one wants a check, right? Maybe there was a promotion for dining at the place, the food wasn’t that spectacular. So I nodded. She returned with a little tray, but there was no check, just my bill. So gradually I learned to ask for a check expecting to pay my bill, and not expecting to be paid.

By time I learned many other words that were different in American English. I now stand patiently in the line at the food store, but when I call any of my service providers, I know I’ll be placed in the que. Your place in the que is 16 and I know what that means. When I go to rent a car, I don’t as for a saloon, but for a sedan. Unless I am in Texas where they might have both the sedan and the saloon at the historic district car rental.  When going shopping I put my groceries in the trunk instead of the boot. And I drive home on a highway rather than on a motorway, being watchful for 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers and trucks instead of juggernauts and lorries. And when taking my dog out in the morning, I’m careful to walk on the sidewalk and not on the pavement. It’s a doddle when you know the difference.

So the old dog is learning to bark. The other day, for the first time ever, I even fooled a real Floridian. He asked me if I was from up north, meaning in the US. My 17 years “up north” while travelling across the globe and working with people from all corners of the world, had finally done it. So I said yesss! And then I heard, in my inner ear, the Queen of England exclaim Oh Dear. And this time she added goodness me.