Friday, February 18, 2005

Accents and phrases

my best mate, Heino, used to stir me about being an Aussie in the US. 'You'll lose your accent mate' he'd say. Well, given that I was 48 when I moved, that wasn't terribly likely and he's since admitted that I still sound the same.

But I've been noticing a creeping change in the phrases and words I use.

'Say what'* is the one that distresses me the most!

But perhaps the most embarassing one occurred more than 2 years ago, before I moved. I was having a conversation with a workmate, Vadim, and whilst I don't remember what we were talking about I do remember that I said (rendered phonetically).

'it's as easy as ex, wy, zee'. Then I stopped myself. 'Mate', said I, 'did you hear what I just said?'. The look on his face showed he had. 'Just bitch slap me upside of the face' I said.

So what was my sin? I'd said zee instead of zed.

I'm not sure how to treat the subject. If you're an American you're probably scratching your head and wondering what I'm going on about. If not, you're shaking your head and thinking (in Australian terms) 'you poor bastard' . Whichever way you cut it, zee/zed is a problem. I can't bring myself, consciously, to say zee the first time, but the people to whom I say zed never grasp my meaning. Geeze, I've even resorted to the lame device of saying 'the last letter of the English alphabet'.

*(parenthetically) it really annoys me when my step kids, having failed to hear what I said the first time, peremptorily demand 'what!'. I know it's a part of their culture but it still comes across, to me, as very rude. I've tried to get the little bastards to soften it by the use of the word 'pardon' but it's not working.

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