We conducted a thoroughly scientific test at dinner last night. What was the American or British word for certain things? The boys failed miserably on ‘pavement.’ They were convinced the British word for a path that you walk on was ‘sidewalk.’ The poor things have entered a world of confusion. They can no longer remember if a word is British or American.
The same with the pronunciation of certain words. They can’t remember the correct way to say ‘garage’ and ‘taco.’ They sit and discuss it back and forth with each other. “I think it’s tarco, no it might be taco.”
And the accents are slowly starting to change. To Americans, they sound incredibly British. At a baseball game recently, Declan was at first base waiting for his teammate to hit the ball. He shouted out ‘Hit it to the heavens!’ to encourage his friend, but he sounded like a character from Brideshead Revisited and everyone started laughing.
More than their accents, it’s their vocabulary that’s changing. When I collect them from school, they’re full of Californian slang, which sounds funny coming out in a British accent. Words like sweet, fail, oh man, totally, awesome. They are completely unaware of the changes but school is definitely making the change come quickly.
I know their accents will change but I’m hoping they’ll become a blend of British and American rather than full on American. Having said that, when we moved back to the UK after I’d lived in the US for 5 years, my accent had changed. I started temping when we arrived home and I left a telephone message for someone. They called back, couldn’t make out my name on the message I’d left but said that ‘the person who called was American.’ I was devastated and explained that it might be me that they were trying to reach.
I’m trying to hang in there and use British words, ‘jumper’ and ‘rubbish’ being my main two that seem completely wrong to everyone but I’m determined not to change. At school the other day I asked a child to put their ‘trash in the trash’ then turned to my son and said ‘put your rubbish in the bin.’ Lots of giggles erupted from his classmates. I feel like Mary Poppins when I help in the classroom. I don’t know if I become even more English than normal or I just notice it more. I say things like ‘pop your name on it’ and it sounds so English.
I suppose it’s just a matter of time and we’ll be putting out the trash, but hopefully I can channel Julie Andrews just a little bit longer, even if I do sound like Mary Poppins. Spit spot.
This post was written by Lorna Harris, a British native living in Orange Country, California. She writes about her life in the US, her family, travels and what she misses about the UK (and why it’s better - sometimes) on her blog Califlorna
Photo Credit: Katie Freeland