Immediately I feel like an indignant schoolgirl, slouching my shoulders and sighing out of tedium while I write, ‘I will not chew gum in class’, on the blackboard 20 times. But I politely reply , ‘Well, I suppose it is because I was NOT BORN in London’. Think about it. Wouldn’t it seem a little bit odd if I actually DID have an accent? Sure, Madonna sounded like a Brit when she lived here and Gwyneth probably does now too, but what adult American moves to another English speaking country and HONESTLY develops an authentic accent? I can tell you, it is not a natural process. You have to come from that place – otherwise it just isn’t right.
I have lived in London for 14 years. But I was born in New York… in New York City…a lot longer than 14 years ago. My passport says United States of America (and another says Republic of Ireland, but that is another story) and my residence is in the United Kingdom. I AM American, and I sound like an American. Because I grew up in America.
But I am also a Londoner, even if I don’t SOUND like one, I think. I’m not normally self obsessed with these kinds of questions because, does it REALLY matter? But lately it has been bothering me because…
My children speak with an English accent. I had nothing to do with it since they were born here and they attend a London state school. However, just when I thought I was experienced in anticipating confrontational questions directed at me about my own accent, now I have to work out how to handle all of the baffled looks and perplexed faces, when people assume that my children cannot possibly be mine.
There is the occasional glaring look that suggests, ‘How odd that your children do not sound like you’ or the ogling, ‘I wonder if you are the nanny’ stare, and the response back ‘home’ in New York is even worse.
One time back ‘home’, an argument became too much for C and he marched over to me and screamed, ‘Mummy, (yes, I have a problem with the use of mummy as well but I digress), F used the ‘S’ word!’ (which by the way is not what you think it is but rather hilariously, ‘stupid’!), to which F replied, ‘But C called me a silly dope’. Apparently this is just riotously funny in an English accent, and I waste my breath with any reprimanding when my family, friends and their children just screech with delight while fawning over my children’s, ‘ADORABLE ENGLISH ACCENTS!’
My children have somehow sought asylum across the pond and are no longer within my own jurisdiction. And they are definitely aware of their confirmed diplomatic immunity. They can do NO wrong. So I think after all of this time, maybe I do need to SOUND like a local. Somehow I have to get that accent and get it quick.
Chilled glass, ice cubes
50 ml of Gin, traditionally Beefeater or Bombay Dry
Tonic two-thirds up the glass
Half a lime on top. Don’t stir and use Schweppes tonic.