Accents (UK)

Hello and hi. Please know that the above meme is meant as a joke. True it is misleading and wholly inaccurate-the English have no hatred of comfort (that I have ever come across)-so please know that it was meant as a joke. If anyone is offended…well, ‘Cash me outside-how bow dah?’ (It just means: Let us settle this outside. Meet me outside…shall we duel?)

Anyway… I have managed to maintain my American accent whilst living in the UK. Yup. Thank goodness! However, there are some days, however, when ‘I drop the ball’ or ‘let the team down’ and end up sounding a little British. Adapt or die is the name of the game. On the days that I sound distinctly British (which are very few and am usually politely complaining about the length of the queue/line in the post office) I tend to sound like Lady Cora of Downton Abbey. Remember-she was the American woman who had married into the Crawley family, who were of course, English. Actually, someone once told me that I sounded like her-I couldn’t believe that I actually sounded like landed gentry.  When I heard that, I thought to myself: well, hot damn! But instead, I smiled demurely and said in my best Lady Cora voice:

Naah, I didn’t say that. I don’t say ‘golly’ that is real British-speak. I just smiled politely, and thanked them graciously for the compliment, sounding as American as possible. For real.

So yeah, accents…here in the UK there are dozens of them. You can tell straight away if someone is from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or England. In England, you can tell if someone is from the North or the South and then that being discerned, you can probably pinpoint what city, town or village they hail from. Many cities have distinct accents-like Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle et al.

When I attended Durham University (near Newcastle-they had something of a ‘Geordie’ accent-but softer) I had difficulty understanding their accent initially. I sure did.  In brief, you will have a ‘Geordie’ accent if you come from the North East of England-normally associated with Tyneside, south Northumberland and northern parts of County Durham). The accent was tough..and I have an ear for languages, I mean, I speak Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, a little Portuguese and loads of French curse words (thanks, Mom). But the Durham accent was a challenge, initially. For the first month of University, I smiled and nodded quite a bit. God knows what I agreed to or even condoned. Now that I think back, it kind of explains why I went on to be the owner of 3 goats. I kid. Hahahahaha.

Here in London (and other places too) you can almost always tell by someone’s accent which socio-economic class they belong to. (Mostly) Working class. Middle class. Posh. Russian. There are loads of Russian oligarchs in London-their accents are pretty easy to spot. I have come across some Americans back in the US who think that all Londoners sound like Dick Van Dyke (when he was in Mary Poppins). This is not the case at all and British people get quite cross (albeit politely) when they hear that Americans think that Brits they sound like Dick Van Dyke. Truth be told, no one has sounded like Dick Van Dyke in London since the 1950’s (or ever-according to some Brits).

In addition, your accent will usually alert people whether or not you went to a state school or a public school (meaning private/boarding school). Once someone has pegged you by your accent, assumptions are then made. You will hear things like: ‘Oh she’s rather posh’ or ‘Ahh she went to public school-I can tell by her accent.’ Sheesh. Who cares anyway? I don’t care if you went to a state school, private school or were raised by wolves. I just care that you are a nice person, will offer your seat up to an old person on the bus and will make silly faces at small children when their parents are not looking. That is what I care about. Truth.

So accents are a thing here and sometimes they define you (if you let them). I sound American. Of course I do. Once I open my mouth, people know I am American and they seem either mildly interested or wildly fascinated by my accent. Then come the questions…

‘Are you American?‘… ‘yes’

‘Do you like living here?‘… ‘yes’

‘Don’t you find the US cheaper than the UK?‘…’yes’

‘I have been to FL.‘…I get that a lot. Although it is not a question. When I get to talking to random Brits, they tell me they have been to FL. I am always tempted to say…’you know, we do have other States, 51 in total.’ But I don’t say that, instead, I smile politely and make small talk, while I try NOT to sound like Lady Cora of Downton Abbey. For real.

Toodle-pip/ Bye/Peace Out




  1. Laura (PA Pict) · May 13, 2016

    I get the accent thing in reverse. People ask me if I am Irish all the time. Close but no coconut. I also get New Zealander or South African. (I wrote about this several months ago: My accent has not changed at all. I try to not use Scottish vocabulary when speaking to Americans but my accent is still as strong as ever and sometimes I just cannot think of the English word for things let alone the American-English word. I obviously know my British accents well and I can pin someone to a region of America but only rarely to a more specific state and would never manage (yet at least) to pinpoint where in a state someone hailed from.

    • samdfb1 · May 13, 2016

      Thanks for the link. Am sure you will be able to pinpoint a state accent eventually. We have a Family friend fron Scotland who has been in the US for years- close to forever, and her accent is still pretty strong-which is cool i think.

      • Laura (PA Pict) · May 13, 2016

        I think some people are prone to adapting their accents and others of us are just very fixed. My Uncle lived in Australia for over 50 years and not only did he still sound completely Scottish but he sounded entirely Aberdonian still. Oddly, my middle two children have accents that have drifted to being mid-Atlantic (they sound American to me but sound British to their classmates) while the oldest and youngest still have their original accents.

      • samdfb1 · May 15, 2016

        50 years in Oz? How great. Interesting that your kids have a variety of accents. When Susan Boyle was on Oprah they had to put sub titles! Guess they thought Americans would find her accent tough.

      • Laura (PA Pict) · May 15, 2016

        Funny. I watched a documentary recently where one bloke being interviewed was from Ireland and they put subtitles on even though he was perfectly intelligible.

      • samdfb1 · May 15, 2016

        Hah. Funny. The Irish accent is pretty ok to understand, of course if you are from Northern Ireland well then….

      • Laura (PA Pict) · May 15, 2016

        This was very much a southern Irish accent with a strong lilt but still understandable. I find though that some people hear I have a different accent and its like their ears shut down and they almost persuade themselves they don’t understand me.

      • samdfb1 · May 15, 2016

        Very understandable- the Irish accent. Yikes- those people you mentioned seem a bit ‘meh’ in my opinion.

      • Laura (PA Pict) · May 15, 2016

        Thankfully they are the minority.

      • samdfb1 · May 15, 2016

        Thank goodness!

  2. samdfb1 · April 9

    Reblogged this on Life in London.

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