Thursday, February 19, 2009

Being intimidated by British accents

I'm a Mississippi girl who married an English man and have lived in the UK for almost 20 years.

I've been noticing that Brits are starting to call each other 'Hon' or 'Honey' with abandon. Being a Mississippi girl, I used to be the only person in the UK who called people 'Hon' but now they are all doing it. There is nothing stranger than hearing British people use American slang, especially when they say something is 'way cool' or something similar that they heard from a Simpsons episode. It's just not right.

But just because Brits assume I am stupid because I have a thick Mississippi accent, I have learned to avoid the mistake of assuming that a person with a posh British accent is intelligent. In fact, it can often be the opposite -- the posher the accent, the dumber the person.

Americans, we have to stop being intimidated by their accents. One time I saw Jeffrey Archer (before he became a convicted criminal) intimidating an American interviewer on TV by speaking like he was a member of the Royal Family. (Brits exaggerate their accents when they feel the fear of an American being intimidated, I can tell you.) I was annoyed with her for displaying her Accent Insecurity like that.
Remember, a posh accent does not equal intelligence!


priscianus jr said...

I'm an American who lived in England for nearly seven years. I had an English girlfriend for many years. I agree with you. The real English word is (or was) "Luv" (or in the North, "Loov"). This widespread adoption of American words and expressions occurred under Blair. I've never understood the reason for it, since Blair's whole thing, supposedly, was to get the Brits to be more EUROPEAN. I was already back in the States by Blair's time, but I found it jarring on visits there.

CobaltBlueSky said...

I have to admit to feeling more than a pang of shame and embarrassment at your accusations. As an Englishman who no longer lives in the UK (but loves it all the same), I am now far more aware of how other nations view the British people and the British ‘attitude’.

Many British people (though not all) make almost a national sport out of condescending or patronizing behaviour towards foreigners, and it is an activity frequently initiated or endorsed by our gutter press. Such behaviour, including your example of some British people thinking you ‘thick’ based on nothing more substantial than your having a foreign accent, is an emotional response based on the irrational, probably unique British trait of needing to feel superior. This need is, of course, the result of ignorance, prejudice, fear and insecurity and is grounded in Britain’s colonial past.

As most people are aware, Britain, many years ago used to be a world power. At that time the British thought it right and proper, in the name of the King or Queen, to march across the globe, colonising countries, imposing rule, demanding deference and generally exploiting and mistreating all and sundry. We called it the ‘Empire’ and felt very smug and superior about it indeed. Although, happily, today we no longer have the Empire, the “Empire attitude”, consciously or subconsciously, still exists within many British people and is still transmitted across the generations. This false perception of superiority is perpetuated by our class-ridden system, our island-nation attitude and by that most outdated of institutions, our monarchy. Once we have consigned these three items (as well as our appalling national anthem) to the history books, and replaced them by a classless, pro-European, secular republic, the British ‘attitude’ may finally attenuate. We could be waiting a very long time.