Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Please Excuse My Awful English Accent


I have a confession: I lapse into an English accent from time to time. A pretty bad one.

I’ve done it for years.  Whenever I’m talking to someone from England, I automatically start imitating them.  I did it all the time when I worked for a London-based company, and I do it all the time with my English friends here in Southeast Asia.

To be honest, this habit is not that uncommon. People automatically imitate people they’re talking to in both voice and body language.  God knows started speaking Backpacking Matt’s Midwestern-Scottish-Kiwi patois after traveling with him for a few weeks!

But this time, it’s more than just imitating it…on this trip, I became a full-fledged anglophile.  The anglophilia is now taking over my life.

But I’m happy with it…and I really want to develop a “passable” English accent.  I told my lads that I wanted to become a proper English girl.  And for now, some slang has made it into my American vocabulary.

My New British Slang

Uni – has all but replaced “college” in my vocabulary.  Uni is here to stay.

Mate – now replaces “friend” quite often.

Can’t Be Arsed – After croaking this out while half-asleep when my mates knocked on my door, asking if I wanted to go to breakfast, I knew it had taken up permanent residence.

Holiday – I can’t remember the last time I used the word “vacation.”

Lads/Gents/Blokes – While I say “guys” far too often, I much prefer these alternatives now.

Chips – For fries?  Sure.  I can get behind that. 

But I Will Never Say

Crisps. I can’t not call them chips.

Biscuits. Cookies and biscuits are so different from each other that those words aren’t merging anytime soon.

Lollipop men/ladies.  We call them crossing guards.  And Dave had the nerve to tell me that our expression was the weird one.

Of course, as an American girl traveling with a host of lads from northern England, we had our share of misunderstandings.  My favorite was when Ste told me that he hated mayonnaise until his sister put it all over her body.


Butty!  Not body!” he explained.  “Her sandwich!

And there you go.  I’m no proper English girl yet…but I’m on my way.



32 Responses to “Please Excuse My Awful English Accent”
  1. Oh and I thought I’m the only one. This mostly happens to me when I talk to a workmate from New Zealand. Picking up her accent and overlaying it over my strong German one. Must be like music, hehe!

  2. Robin says:

    I lived in Oz for a while and I always laugh when the Aussies say to me – it’s so much easier to listen to you than your American friends. It’s because I start talking like them. All the words above work for Aussies too…just add heaps, ages, pissed (for drinking not being mad), shout (for your turn to get drinks), and speak up (like a question) at the end of everything you say and you can be Australian too.

  3. Sars says:

    I hear they call everyone “guvnah” – you should try it if you want to fit in!!

  4. LegallyBrunette says:

    Speaking in accents (for as long as we can, maybe the entire trip) is one of our favorite vacation pastimes. The husband and I usually do a British accent, but sometimes we’ll do Southern , especially if we’ve recently been watching True Blood!

  5. Verity says:

    Hehe… I always catch a British accent too! I can’t help it. And Canadian accents. They are very contagious.

  6. Amanda says:

    Haha, that’s too funny! I’m not sure if this happens to me… I lived in New Zealand for 5 months, but no one ever pointed out that I was picking up a kiwi accent. HOWEVER, at least 3 times while I was traveling with a fellow Ohioan around NZ, I was told I was “faking” my American accent. I actually had an argument with a guy over whether I was kiwi or not! It was strange.

  7. I’m Aussie and living in New York and NO-ONE UNDERSTANDS ME! Though speaking of Pommy lingo, one thing I tend to do when around English/South Africans is turn my Aussie singsong into their flatter, going-down-at-the-end-of-sentences melody. Now that is a surefire accent picker-upper situation.

  8. Jackie says:

    Accents fascinate me! I just met my bf’s family for the first time last week, and they’re from the East Coast. The mom couldn’t get over how cute my “West Coast” accent was. It’s rare on my travels for someone to mention my California accent so I was pretty surprised. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than a week at a time in the U.K., but I can DEFINITELY see how I’d start picking up the accent and phrases if I did spend any amount of time there. Last year when I visited Vancouver for the Olympics I could tell I was starting to pick up the Canadian accent, and it lasted for a week or two after I got home. So odd!

  9. Lauren says:

    Hahahaha, that’s funny! I do exactly the same when I talk to someone with an american accent!

  10. Do you do this when you’re pissed as a fart?

  11. Anthony says:

    Hahahaha on the butty thing! I’m guessing they’re from the Leeds/Newcastle area or there abouts? I use a few of my America mates’ vocab from time to time but I simply refuuuuuuse to say the word “soccer.”

  12. Christine says:

    I worked with all English people in France, and plenty of them in Australia now! I’ve definitely started saying uni instead of college–since college means middle school often, my friends were getting confused when I started talking about my wild college partying days! I’ve definitely picked up a bit of an accent wherever I go–but there are some American terms and accents that I refuse to compromise on!

  13. Odysseus says:

    Ahahaha! I have the same problem, but for me, it’s American southern accents that are my strange default.

  14. Patricia GW says:

    I lived in the UK for 6 months, and I still lapse into the accent every once in a while. “Can’t be arsed” is such a fitting phrase, I love using that myself. What I can’t get over is jam vs. jelly vs. jello. In the UK, jelly is called jam, and jello is called jelly. It’s harder to remember when they’re spiking the “jelly” with absinthe too, haha!

  15. Connie says:

    Haha! Hilarious post! I’m American and my boyfriend is English so we have these types of conversation all the time. When I first met Matt, I honestly could not understand a word he said! Now, I hardly notice his English accent anymore and notice that I say certain things like “Really?” and “shoulder” with an English accent. Matt says things like “awesome” with my super California accent. And we also make fun or (as the English would say) “take a piss out of” each other by pretending that we’re not sure if the other knows the word we’re using. For example, “I was reading this book – oh, do the English know the word ‘book’?”

    Oh and yeah, I used to start picking up on people’s accents when I talked with them too. Badly.

    • The other day, I was chatting with one of my mates and he moaned, “NO, I’m speaking American!” “When?” “Pepper spray! Seminar!” Apparently those are two American expressions…I had no idea!

  16. I dated an Aussie for 2 years and after the first couple months I could tell that I had totally unconsciously started saying some words in an Aussie accent. People started calling me out on it, but I couldn’t stop it no matter how hard I tried!

  17. jill says:

    When in Rome….. I find myself trying to sound like an Irish lassie, today. I’m sure your english is excellent. Pitch and lilt is your thing. Enjoying all your great adventures. Remember it’s all in the genes!

  18. Earl Squirrelson says:

    I lived in Leeds for a year Kate and I definitely agree with you on crisps!!! Even when i pointed out to my mates up there that the packet said “crisp chips” they wouldnt agree with me!! When I came home to OZ I had english ppl asking me where in england I was from!!!

    As for crossing guard, thats just plain weird!! LOL

  19. Kaylin says:

    I’ve a habit of picking up accents when I travel; bear in mind my normal accent is Deep South twang at its finest (if I do say so myself), y’all and all.
    I spent 3 days hanging with Aussies in California a couple years ago and came home with an weird California/Australian accent. (The funny part is one of the Oz girls started to sound like me! it’s like we switched almost) Also spent 2 weeks in the UK last year, didn’t manage to sound too English or Scottish, but something happened b/c I had people asking me if I was Canadian!
    It’s like I only have my “normal” accent when I’m actually at home, and anytime I travel it falls off naturally and I get a sort of generic North American accent (like what people on the news sound like) with little bits from wherever I am currently.

    As for different words, I like to use uni when talking to anyone not American, it makes more sense; even my American friends abroad use it now. It’s funny you should mention the English crisps packets say “crisps chips” because the Pringles cans here in the US say “potato crisps” on the can, I noticed the other day!

  20. Kelly says:

    I lived in New Zealand for a year and a half; I dont think my vowels will ever be the same (and I like them like that!)

  21. Matt says:

    Funny how a person picks up accents quite quickly once they’re surrounded with people speaking the same way. You’ll get there … crisps will come with time!

    “Midwestern-Scottish-Kiwi” thanks for that … glad to know how to describe the way I speak. 🙂

  22. Kate says:

    Oh, I’m so glad I found this. Three lads from northern England left my place this afternoon, they’d been couchsurfing at my house for the past two nights. A while after they left I legitimately used “rubbish” in a sentence. I was so shocked! Their accents & slang definitely rubbed off on me 🙂

  23. neutralaccent says:

    In general accent training helps us in sharpening our language skills towards clear pronunciation and easy understanding. Neutral accent training helps us to reduce our regional accent to speak a language in an elegant style and pronunciation.

  24. Erica says:

    hahaha This is awesome!

    The same thing happens to me- in both English and Japanese and sometimes I feel like I can’t properly speak in just one dialect without some level of concentration. : /

    Also, is it just me or do English people eat an excessive amount of crisps?

  25. I lapse into English accents all the time too. I just chalk it up to too many Monty Python marathons as a kid. I even had a women (who was married to a Brit, and had lived in England for a number of years) actually think i was British one time. (I was yelling at inanimate objects in a British accent…i dont remember why, it just came out). Took me 5 minutes to convince her the British accent was false, not the Boston one.

    I still say ‘cheers’ all the time (which i picked up from traveling with a bunch of Brits from Bulgaria back to Croatia), and ‘im going to pop-in [wherever] for a bit’.

    I’ve also learned that i’ve started to speak broken spanish-speakers english. Sometimes it just comes out (i also work with a bunch of South Americans here in the states). I don’t mean to, but sometimes I cannot figure out the correct english grammer or sentence structure. Not that I was some english savant to begin with or anything….

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