A hopfully comic article on the changes to my accent.
| Notes from a big island
I didn’t mean to, it happened by accent.
I have lived in Australia for a little over 2 years in total, and in recent months I have noticed an alarming trend. Australian born Australians are beginning to think that I am an Australian. The reason they are failing to ‘pick me as a Pom’ is apparently due to my accent. My wife and Australian family don’t understand it, as to them I still sound as Pommie as steak and kidney pie in a tin.
I spent 3 months at Uni (in London) with an English guy who’d come back from a year in Oz, and he sounded like he’d walked straight off the set of Neighbours. I with my general mistrust and dislike of people, assumed that this faux Aussie accent was put on, a trick to lure people in to talking to him about his travels and how grown-up and worldly wise he was. My assumption was somewhat vindicated when it turned out that he was full of stories about his travels, and how grown-up and worldly wise he was. Pleased with my powers of prejudgement and prejudice (in fact so pleased that I failed to notice that with my own accent I’d failed to cultivate any meaningful relationships with my fellow students, and was in fact becoming increasingly ostracised from the fake Aussie and his group of followers) I decided there and then that If I were to ever spend an extended period of time overseas I would try to ensure that I retained my own accent. Not because I think there is anything wrong with not sounding English, I just think that it should be left to those that don’t actually come from England.
My English friends and family haven’t said anything about my accent changing, but my telephone voice is ridiculously posh and English (a hangover from working in the Pension Service and spending so much time speaking in a overly clear voice to the over 60’s). My Aussie wife and family still think I sound English, but they see me everyday and any accent changes would have happened gradually. Also whenever I mention it to them I always assume my best English voice to try to prove how ridiculous anyone believing me to be an Australian is.
Those best situated to judge my accent are those that don’t know me, and they are judging it, and they are judging it to be Australian sounding. I knew I’d be susceptible to an accent change as when I lived in London I developed a mild Kiwi accent (due to the number of Kiwis that worked in and frequented the bar in which I worked). I began ending sentences with ‘hey?’ a trait I am still to fully lose, hey? Luckily I didn’t pick up the Kiwi quirk of pronouncing ‘i’ as ‘u’, as in: ‘Could I have an extra strong munt, as my breath stunks?’ In fact there’s an easy way to tell if someone with a generic antipodean accent is an Australian or a New Zealander and that is to ask them what swims in the sea. A Kiwi will usually reply ‘Fush’, whereas an Australian will usually reply ‘Who gives a shit mate? How did you bastards go in the cricket?’
I’m due back in the UK soon, so my English friends and family will be able to judge for themselves if I’m now sounding like someone with a faux Aussie accent trying to lure people in to talking about how I immigrated to Australia, and how grown-up and worldly wise I am. My hope is that I still sound like I have done all my adult life (apart from my brief stint of sounding like a Kiwi), and that the only reason Aussies aren’t assuming me to be an Englishman is due to the fact that I don’t sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, and I don’t go around saying ‘Gawd blimey love a duck would you take a butchers at those sparra legs?’.
However I do find myself sometimes listening to an English accent on the TV and thinking that it sounds like a caricature of an English accent, like a parody of how an English person should sound – but it’s not, it’s just an English person talking and beginning to sound foreign to my ears. This would suggest that my ‘ear’ has changed; that accent might be following would appear only logical. I have also adopted many Australian terms such as calling mosquito’s ‘mozzies’, and referring to the afternoon as the ‘arvo’. Though I do make a point of trying to pronounce them in an English accent; so instead of saying ‘Good onya mate I’ll see ya this Ahh’vo’ I’d say ‘Fair enough mate, I’ll see you this Are’vo’.
Maybe then it is inevitable that I’ll begin to sound like some Aussiepom hybrid, maybe the dignified thing to do would be to let nature take its course and assume whatever speaking style I naturally develop. But there is a part of me that wants strongly to retain my accent and I think I have found out what part of me it is. It is that part of me that loves it when someone does pick up on my accent and asks where my accent is from. It’s the part of me that at that point loves using, and re-using Jimmy Carr’s line: ‘I don’t have an accent, this is just how things sound when they’re pronounced properly’.
My wife tells me that this makes me sound like a pompous arsehole, to which I tell her I don’t mind sounding like a pompous arsehole as long as I sound like an English one. She assures me that if I want to go around sounding like a pompous arsehole that her fellow Aussies won’t have any further trouble picking me as a Pom.