The minute I board my flight to London I am accosted by beautiful looking British women with accents I crave like ice cream. The minute they start talking to me and ending their sentences on an uptick I am instantly jealous.
But instead of just coveting their accents like a normal crazy person, I replicate them. Not just a generic British accent (I prefer a cockney accent myself) but the specific type of accent they have.
I don’t do this to mock them, I do it because it’s like test driving a life. It’s fun, it doesn’t cost me anything, and I get to see what it feels like.
I fake a British accent all the time. Not to confuse people, people I talk to seem confused enough by my existence already, but because I love the sound of it. I’ll speak to my coworkers like a London tour guide when trying to spice up a spreadsheet. Or I’ll do an accent for my friends when explaining something I know nothing about.
It’s not just British accents either, all accents. Irish, Australian, French, and Italian are my personal favorites and appear the most frequently. But when I’m around people who actually have accents? Forget it. It’s like everybody is walking around with a tray of free cupcakes and I’m not supposed to take one, but I know I really can if I want.
So there I am on my flight and my flight attendant asks me if I want something to drink. And I answer but she doesn’t understand me and asks me to repeat my self. So naturally this time I say “water” with a British accent.
I tried. I really did. But I made it about 45 minutes. But I did it strictly out of a need to be understood. Because I have found in my clinical scientific studies (and by clinical I mean “beer fueled” and by scientific I mean “in bars”) that if I speak to somebody from another part of the world if I use their accent, it makes the words I’m saying easier to understand.
I think it’s because our ears become so attuned to the sound of not just our own language, but the tone and way that it is spoken. So to say even the same words, with a different tone or inflection, can seem tricky.
Really, what I’m saying here, is that I am doing the world a favor.
A perfect example of this is the usage of words pairs between different cultures. Like when my stewardess approached me and asked:
Would you like a muffin or a Danish?
I chose the muffin. And even though it was dark in my aisle I could still see that she was about to hand me something that looked like a disk more than a muffin. I took it from her, held it under the light and saw what it was.
Ah yes, a muffin top.
Now while this mythical foodstuff was glorified by Seinfeld, this was not really a muffin top. If anything it looked more like a muffin middle. I chose not to say anything, I just smiled and said thank you.
It also means something else that is entirely inedible. I will spare my own creative explanation for one that has been pre-approved by thousands of Internet denizens.
We finally arrive in London, meet our driver, and are immediately carted off to our presentation where we are scheduled to speak as soon as we get there.
Now I’m in a professional business setting listening to a room full of British accents. I feel like it has already been infused into my blood.
And I am about to make a presentation to a room full of European clients, including some British, and I find myself talking to my boss in a fake British accent when he stops me abruptly and says:
Rich, you can’t do that here!
Oh crap, right. These people know I’m from New York. Faking a British accent here will just make them think I am an ass or idiot… or both. And I don’t know these people. I still have a chance to make them think I’m bright and stuff.
Lucky for me, I made it through my presentation without faking the British, Spanish, Portuguese, Irish OR Scottish accents in the room. I didn’t anticipate so many accents. It was like a buffet of wonderful voices. I just wanted to sample all of them.
We finished our presentation and hustled out of there before I could do any damage. I arrived back at my hotel, dropped my stuff and tried to make the most of the 30 hours I had left. So naturally I took a long walk, had a beer, and a Nutella filled crepe.
I contemplated ordering both an accent, after all I didn’t stick out. I was in the one English speaking country on the planet with an entire population of people just as pasty white as I. But I opted against it and stuck to my normal speech.
And for the rest of my time in London I managed to keep myself in check, though I would occasionally find myself mouthing along with somebody else while they were speaking, like I was trying to learn the words to a song. Really I was just memorizing aspects that I could use when I got back home and was free to fake an accent again.
And I arrived back in my home country, got off the plane and into a cab with a driver who had an accent. But it didn’t excite me in the same way. It had been a long 36 hours, and I was just to tired to fake it…