As much as Americans love hearing a British accent, there were a few special moments as we travelled across the United States when the tables were turned for My Beloved Brit. He got to hear some of those classic American phrases that he had grown up hearing only in the movies or on television.
I had gotten fairly comfortable with his British accent in the first year we were together (although the first 6 months I think I nodded my head a lot, not having a clue what he was saying). We drove to Rehoboth Beach Delaware for a beach weekend. On the way, we stopped at a McDonald’s on the edge of a small rural town in Maryland. As he ordered his not nearly healthy enough lunch, the girl behind the counter got a big grin on her face and burst out with the phrase I have since grown very familiar with, “I just love your accent!!!” After a polite thank you, hoping his french fries would come quickly, we got the rest of our order placed, and sat down.
Years later, travelling on one of our many road trips, we passed through Houston Texas, and stopped at the Houston Space Center. Crossing the parking lot towards the building, a man passed by and politely said “Howdy” as we passed by.
MBB had that same look of glee on his face as the girl behind the MickyD counter. He turned to me with a great look of enjoyment and discovery on his face. “They actually do say ‘howdy” here!”
A year later, traveling cross-country, we had to have a flat tire changed in Palm Springs California. At the garage, a young woman, also waiting for her car, asked MBB where he was from (preceded, of course, by “I just love your accent!”) When he said “London”, she turned with that familiar look like she had just found gold, turned to him, and said, with a big smile, “groovy”. He was paid in full for sharing his accent! He was thrilled. He was in California and someone actually said “groovy”.
I find it fascinating that these random small regional catch phrases that we are so comfortable with, when shared with someone from a totally different locale bring such recognition and sense of joy of placement. It is some sort of confirmation that what we had heard from far away was true. There was some sense to the world.
It reminds me of the first time I, a born and bred New Yorker, was in the south (Virginia–hardly the deep south). I was a college freshman, and someone said “y’all” to me. I thought that was said only in the movies and they were joking. When I realized it was just normal speech for them, I was overjoyed!
jacquie Read said:
just read your latest piece “Howdy” to john, we both thought it funny. jac x
Thanks Jac. It’s always interesting traveling across cultures, whether here in the US or around the world.
Gwen Myers said:
And, when in a different part of the country from that in which you were born one is inevitably called out for those little slips of speech that give us away. So many times, when living in Baltimore I was “caught” saying UM-brella, and “mash the button”, and “crack the window”. Taking the elevator once and requesting that the person nearest the controls mash the level 4 button, I was treated to a discourse by my fellow elevator rider on the word mash and how that should only be applied to potatoes. But mash is precisely what one does when one kills a bug—it is flattened by the shoe. I wanted that elevator button flattened and make no mistake about that. I think mash is the appropriate word when it comes to flattening things quickly . . . now that I’ve taken my UM-brella and departed Baltimore, there is no one left in town to mash the elevator buttons or to crack a window in a stuffy room. Sad. Are they pressing the bugs and the buttons, still, I wonder? Saving that wonderful word, mash, just for potatoes?
Being the traveling gypsy that I am, I know just what you mean.