you like tomato and I like tomahto

February 25, 2018

I now say tomahto more often than I say tomato. Both in my head and out loud. My kids say tomahto 100% of the time. My partner resists (he resists everything but this especially). My Canadian friend, whom I spend a lot of time with, asks questions with a British inflection. A Canadian question, let's say, "would you like some more?" expressed musically would be something like C-C-C-C-F? A British question with the same words would be more like, C, D, E, F, G falling to E (the word more would be melismatic). If you are not a musician, maybe find one to explain the last few phrases to you. It's worth it, learning is fun. 

 

My point is, it happens. British sensibilities, jargon, and pronunciation sneak in. I'm not exactly resisting, but I also would not adopt a false accent just because I live in the UK, I'm not Madonna. Perhaps some people pick up the pronunciation differences more easily. Children certainly do. I don't remember the last time I've heard Mr. G pronounce an ah [a] vowel in the Canadian way. It's always, "ohl done" (all done) and "sohlt" (salt). His identical twin brother, still continues to pronounce ah [a] the Canadian way (most of the time). So here we have the perfect duo to study, who have near identical experiences as well as genetics, and they are picking up Britishisms in different ways. 

 

I am still occasionally misunderstood due to my accent. When ordering water, I have put on a false British accent, it saves me from accidentally receiving the wrong thing. Once I was brought white wine when I was sure that I had ordered water. I once received a latte. Both beverages were accepted happily, maybe the universe knew what I needed those days, and it wasn't water.  When out for dinner with a friend, I asked the waiter, "Could I please have some wohtah (water)?" in classic British inflection, C-D-E-F-G-A falling to F. That evening, I did receive water, but I then spent the rest of the night fretting about whether I should keep up the false accent. It seems I'm relating more to Madonna each day. Her accent change probably began with ordering water. My partner had a conversation with a Brit at work who was mocking the Canadian pronunciation of water, which admittedly, is quite lazy, "wahder." The Brit pointed out that there is no D in water, to which my partner replied, "but there is an R!" Don't worry we don't spend all our time squabbling about pronunciation, that would leave us with no time to agonize over words that literally mean two different things depending on which continent you are standing on. 

 

Biscuits are an obvious culprit. I still make savoury cheese biscuits to eat with stew or chowder, but I also thoroughly enjoy my crunchy English sugar biscuits, perfect for dipping in a cup of tea. In our home, we love chips or crisps. We like crunchy salty British crisps (which are chips in Canada), and we love British chips from the chippy (slightly different but basically Canadian french fries). The problem is, we use all these words interchangeably. Crisps, chips, french fries, who knows what we are talking about? My partner once asked me if we had chips, he wanted them for supper, if I recall, he was barbecuing hamburgers. I said, "yes, we have chips." Later, as my partner searched the freezer and did not find what he was looking for, we realized that we were both talking about different things. Pudding in Canada, is a very specific sweet milk based treat eaten with a spoon, similar to a custard. Pudding in the UK denotes anything eaten as a sweet after the meal, synonymous with dessert. Lollies are popsicles. When I hear the word lolly, I think of someone trying to be cute talking about a lollipop.  

 

"Call" or "calling" continues to cause me confusion. I have not gone so far as my original mistake, when the Head Teacher at my son's potential school asked me to "call on Friday at 1 pm." He sat waiting for me to appear in person at his office, I rang/called him on the telephone. Herb, pronounced with a hard H, is something to season your food with in the UK. In Canada, Herb is a man, my friend Melissa's dad actually. Food prefers [Erbs] where I grew up. In my research today, I've come across an article for the BBC disputing the pronunciation of the letter H, is it "haitch" or "aitch?" I hear "haitch" more often in my English experience thus far. I definitely hear "aitch" predominantly in Canada. I had the shock of my life when spelling something to my partner, I said "haitch" without hesitation. It's only happened once and I don't even know who I am anymore. I often must spell out my last name over the phone, it has an H, and the subsequent typed correspondence I receive consistently has an F where the H should be, so my accent must be absolutely horrid. While travelling in Australia, many years ago, I was searching for the Height G T Building in Melbourne, with very little success. Hours later, I realized that my failure to find this building was due to the fact that it did not exist. I should have been looking for the HGT building. Australian accents are a whole new level of confusing, and life before having internet on your phone was a trial. 

 

There is continuous mislabelling of clothing in our home. It took me longer than it should have to understand why Mr. K was consistently stripping naked from the waist down when I asked him to take off his pants. Pants are underwear in England, and he spends 30 hours a week in a British school where they must change out of their uniform into gym clothes (also a uniform) regularly. To remedy this, we have been using hybrid words, trouser-pants, underpants, wellie-boots, jumper-sweater, plimsoles (?). I don't think our hybrid words are really helping anyone. We are headed for a mishap such as the chip incident. Stay tuned.

 

Gloucester, Leicester, Gloucestershire, Worscestershire, Leominster, Mousehole, Alnwick, Bicester, Prudhoe, Godmanchester, Marylebone, Fowey, Teignemouth, Cholmondeley, and absolutely everywhere in Wales; these are places that are pronounced completely unlike they are spelled. I can only say half of them, and thats 50% more than I could say when I first arrived on this island. We all speak different versions of English, and it's really charming most of the time. I have a British friend who enjoyed the novelty of living in Canada. Canadians love a British accent and will tell you so. No one has ever told me that they liked my accent in the 1.5 years I have been living in the UK. The closest I get to a compliment is when they ask me if I am American, I tell them that I am Canadian, and then they apologize. We do receive excellent service and are remembered or recognized when (Canadian) calling on the phone. I don't notice British accents most of the time at this point, only when a miscommunication has occurred due to language differences I am reminded. Recently, whilst watching a Ted Talk, the speaker began to reference Brexit. My partner and I turned to each other, "he's British?!" We honestly had not noticed. It's all blurring together at this point. 

 

Ta, for reading. Hopefully you've learned something about my language adventures and I've not just left you more confused. We all use speech differently, having a less verbal autistic son, I feel this more than most. Difference is beautiful, and I am glad that we all have contrasting ideas and viewpoints to keep life interesting. Some people might look in my purse and see sanitary pads. Some people might see eye-patch and tummy decorative stickers. Let's celebrate it all. 

 

 

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