I don’t have much of an accent. I’m from Colorado. I don’t have a southern drawl. I don’t have that obnoxious northeastern inability to enunciate. I speak a relatively clean American English. Which is why I was so very confused when speaking on the phone to my local cable provider.
I do have a habit of mumbling while speaking on the phone. Mostly because I hate it. But mumbling does not equal an accent. The lady on the other end would apparently disagree.
I explained that I needed to set up internet and that I had just moved here. She asked if I had moved from overseas. I was taken aback, because, technically I had. She went on to explain that I had an English accent. As in British. As in God Save the Queen. I explained that I was actually from the United States. As in American. As in God Bless America. She continued to shove her foot into her mouth when she explained that her mother was Irish. As in born there. As in speaks with an Irish accent.
This made it so much worse. Her own mother has an accent, and one that is much closer to Great Britain than the United States.
To be perfectly honest, an inability to distinguish between an American and British accent is concerning. Almost as concerning as an inability to recognize that Swedish is not, in fact, English with a Swedish accent. Let’s just say the linguistic knowledge of my new surroundings is lacking.
This was not the only time in the past few days that my new home has struggled with accents.
My father has been living in this country for 20 some years. Hell he has lived in the US longer than I have and he doesn’t even have citizenship. Silly alien. He also does not have an accent. In fact, if his name was John Smith rather than BGC, you would have no idea he was Swedish. Aside from his Viking-like constitution. Obviously.
So when I was recently told by a Wisconsinite that my father had an accent, I was taken aback. Mostly because the whole time I was listening to him speak, I was hearing a Midwest stereotype come out of his mouth. I was waiting for him to break out a wheel of cheese and start gnawing on it.
The guilty party in this sordid tale knew my old man’s story before he actually met him. Knew he was Swedish. It’s almost as if he was hoping to hear an accent. Drumming it up in his mind before he had met him. Trying to validate the stereotype he had created.
Welcome to Swedish-America. And linguistic adventures.
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