Thursday, November 3, 2005

The Stupid Things We Say and Do

Due to a severe case of writers' block, I am going to publish a few things I've written over the past few years to keep this blog going. These are just little things I've written, true stories all, just for fun. Never really knew what to do with them, so I'm blogging them.

The stupid things we say and do

I have said some really stupid things. I get embarrassed easily though, so some of the things probably weren’t even noticed by the person I said them to.

If I’m talking to someone who has a really thick accent, I will pick up that accent. Then I become extremely self-conscious and nervous and awkward and have to force myself to talk in my own accent. I have never been to Newfoundland, but when I’m talking to my Newfie friend I find myself talking like her. I will pick up a southern accent when I’m talking to someone with a southern twang, but that’s not so bad since I live in Atlanta.

I worry that someday I may offend someone who may think I’m mocking him. But it’s not just in conversations that I do this. When I watched Trainspotting, it took me half the movie to understand the dialect and once I got it I was stuck with it in my head. My thoughts were in a Scottish accent for an hour after the movie was over. I didn’t speak in it, but I had to work hard not to. And after watching Snatch and trying to figure out what the hell Brad Pitt was saying throughout the entire flick, my thoughts were completely unintelligible. I had no idea what I was thinking. I walked around in a serious state of confusion for a while.

When I’m nervous, I tend to greet people in the exact same way they greet me. I had a crush on a guy in college and I passed him on the way to class one day. He said “Hey. How’s it going?” as he was passing me. I said “Hey. How’s it going?” with the same inflections and everything back to him. I was overcome with embarrassment the rest of the day, but I’m sure he didn’t even notice. He must not have cared if he did notice because we dated for five months soon after.

What’s really bad is when a person with a really thick accent I can’t understand is talking to me and I reply with something that makes no sense. I had a bag-boy take my groceries out to my car for me after grocery shopping once. He was a very nice Chinese man in his forties or so and he was trying to make small talk. He said something to me I couldn’t quite get, but I assumed he was asking me how I was. The actual conversation went something like this:
Chinese man: Nice weather today.
Me: Fine, thanks. And you?

My dad was living in England for a little while and he rented a bungalow . The owner of the house lived next door, and she invited me over one day to play with her daughter. She brought out some cookies and said something to me. I asked her to repeat it. She repeated. I asked again. She repeated. I still didn’t understand, so I said “Yes”. She gave me a strange look and went back inside. I will never ever know what she asked me.

I think the worst “misunderstanding” occurred on the night my husband proposed. My then-boyfriend, Jay, was at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver for tech school. I flew out to visit him after not having seen him for about two and a half months. He had already told my mom and my Aunt Linda (I was to stay at her house in Denver) about his plan to propose. My Aunt Linda knew just the restaurant and just the waiter at the restaurant. She called ahead and arranged for Antonio to be our waiter. She said he was really fun- he did magic tricks at the table. The restaurant was a really nice place that looked like a lodge and was set in the mountains. Antonio greeted us and did a few magic tricks. He had a very thick Italian accent, which didn’t matter while he did the tricks-I knew how to “pick a card” in any accent. But when our food arrived, he said “I’ll leave you two alone.” And I called after him “I love you too!”. Jay still proposed to me that night, although I think he may have had his doubts after that.

1 comment:

baratron said...

The time before last that I was in the US, I stayed with some friends in Seattle. All of us are severe accent-sponges. So, after 24 hours together, we were all talking in a bizarre mishmash somewhere between Southern British English (basically, the accent that most Americans think of as "the English accent") and Pacific Northwest. The vowel sounds were just... all over the place. I phoned my partner at home, and _he didn't recognise me_. Eeep.

I continued to talk in this strange accent right up to the point where I left Seattle and flew to Colorado, for the conference I was attending. I met up with my friend David, who is from London and more English than the BBC, and just suddenly, abruptly, snapped back into my usual accent. And I was sitting there just going "oh my God" (in British and American) at myself while all my USian friends laughed, and people who hadn't met me before were confused.

My most recent trip, I went to Baltimore, New York & Boston. Fortunately, I only stayed with one accent sponge, and his accent (western NY state) is insufficiently different from mine for us to get too muddled. We just mutually picked up vocabularly, instead.