Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

This is a story for Friday Fictioneers, https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/11/08/10-november-2017-2/.  It was prompted by the photo below, kindly provided by Marie Gail Stratford.

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Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

Broughton Drive was never-ending, especially on foot. If John wanted to get to the interview he’d have to ask for directions.

This lady looked friendly.

“Excuse me”.

“You’re Briddish.”

“Er, yeah, I_”

“Been there, lotsa times.”

“Oh, _”

“Edinburrow, Glassgow. You from London?”

“York.”

“Been there too. It’s near Canaressbaroo.”

“Where?”

“Canar-ess-ba-roo. There’s a witch’s cave?”

Knaresborough, John realised, but chose not to correct his helper.

“Sorry to seem rude, but I need to get to Michigan Avenue … soon. Could you _”

Mitchigan Avenue?”

“Yes, I _”

“Oh, perleeze, it’s Mishigan for God’s sake,” Lydia answered before flouncing away.

100 words

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Sorry, here I am again, feeding my fixation with the clash between British and American English.  At least I’ve looked at pronunciation rather than interpretation this time.  I started a story about the umbrella sellers who appear from nowhere outside US department stores when there’s a heavy downpour.  However, the location of the Chicago Bloomingdales (Michigan Avenue) reminded me of a conversation I once had in New York, so I changed tack.  I admit to saying “Mitchigan”, but surely that’s a minor transgression compared to completely mangling Knaresborough (which has a silent K).

 

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35 Responses to Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

  1. neilmacdon says:

    Two peoples divided by a common language, as Churchill said

    Liked by 2 people

  2. James says:

    As I’ve been reminded periodically, there are many different kinds of accents that come out of the UK and while the US doesn’t quite have the same variety, a Midwesterner will still sound different than people from the East, West, and South. I’m told there’s even a difference in accents from people living in East vs. West Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      I agree entirely James. We Brits sometimes feel that American actors think there are only two English accents – cockney and “received English” (super posh), when in reality accents vary noticeably within counties and cities, and sometimes from one part of a town to another. The same applies in Scotland and Wales (and probably in Northern Ireland). Those of us who open our ears realise that some of our own actors settle for a generic London, Yorkshire or Scottish accent, instead of working hard with a dialect coach to get it right. We’re hypocrites too, as we’re slow to recognise the wealth of accents that Americans have.
      When it comes to place names that’s just as/more complicated. Sometimes you have to be local to know how to pronounce the name of a town properly, e.g. Shrewsbury could be shrewsberry or shrowsburry. Happisburgh is pronounced Hazebruh by locals (I could well be challenged on this). Turning to the US a Brit would probably call Mobile mobile. And don’t get me started on Appalachia!

      Liked by 1 person

      • James says:

        Ha! Most people pronounce the city where I live Boise as “Boy-zee” when it’s actually “Boy-see”. We have a small town called Kuna in the area but it is pronounced “Q-na”. The list goes on and the fact remains that how we speak and various people and place names are far more nuanced across the globe than I think most of us realize. Of course Americans are guilty of expecting everything to be as they (we) expect it when we travel abroad.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Iain Kelly says:

    Ha, nicely judges piece 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      Thank you Iain. I’m waiting for someone to tell me “Glassgow” is an OK pronunciation. I’ve never heard a Glaswegian pronounce the s as an ss sound, rather than a z, but my father-in-law’s from Edinburgh; he says Glass-go, but never Glass-gow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Iain Kelly says:

        Well, here in a thick Glasgow accent we say ‘Glesga’ – which would leave most Brits and Americans equally miffed!

        Like

      • JS Brand says:

        Thanks to growing up in an English town with a large proportion of Scots who’d moved there for work (including my now in-laws) I feel as though I’m fluent in listening to Scottish English (depending on the exact origins of the speaker) and not bad at speaking it when under the influence.

        Like

  4. Dear JS,,

    This made me chuckle. We have a niece who married a young man from Liverpool. She’s picked up a bit of an accent although her husband says she still sounds American to him. I’ve noticed with delight the difference in the way Brits pronounce certain words. AmazAHN here is AMAzen there for one. We are two cultures divided by a common language, aren’t we? Loved the dialogue.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 2 people

    • JS Brand says:

      Thank you Rochelle. The Liverpudlian accent can be very challenging to understand (fame probably persuaded the Beatles to moderate their accents, although I think Paul McCartney always sounds like he’s sucking a jawbreaker/gobstopper and still sounds unintelligible, except when he’s singing). My favourite aspect of Liverpool speak is that what you probably call a popsicle and I call an ice lolly, they call a lolly ice. Why?!?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m laughing out loud. Even as an American…(thanks to the four lads, I suppose) I can usually pick out a Liverpudlian. Ice Lolly? Lolly Ice? Loverly. But then I’m a language nerd. I can usually tell a South African, a Kiwi or an Australian from a Brit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JS Brand says:

        But can you tell an Australian from a Kiwi? I struggle to do so. Did you watch Flight of the Conchords? The main characters drew a lot of hilarity out of that confusion as well as the rivalry between Ozzies and Kiwis. I must admit that I find it hard to differentiate between some Americans and some Canadians (Minnesotans seem to do the “aboot” thing).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Minnesotans, North Dakotans and those from Wisconsin sound like Canadians. I, too, have noticed that aboot them. 😉 I can’t really tell Kiwis from Ozzies. We had some married friends. He’s a Kiwi and she was raised in Sydney. Hard to differentiate. Stateside, someone from Texas would never be mistaken for a New Yorker.

        Liked by 2 people

      • JS Brand says:

        True dat. And the world is much richer for that spread of accents. I’m often struck by the way a phrase can sound so different (funnier, wiser, more menacing or whatever) depending on the accent it’s said in, even over the phone or on the radio, so there are no visual clues.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Nan Falkner says:

      We do talk about things differently than the English do. I get a kick watching PBS at night and trying to understand what they really mean. Cute story – Thanks.

      Like

      • JS Brand says:

        Thank you Nan. I suspect the differences are growing smaller, but will never disappear completely. According to the writer Bill Bryson (who we were happy to adopt as one of our own when he moved here from the US), many of the idioms that we thought we’d invented years ago were actually borrowed from American English.

        Like

  5. JS Brand says:

    I’m not from Shrewsbury, so I daren’t answer! ( or daresn’t answer, as some might say).

    Like

  6. granonine says:

    What a grumpy woman. Shame on her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      She’s based on a college professor I met in New York. After a conversation in which she mispronounced the names of several British cities, she told me she was from a city I wouldn’t have heard of, Flint. When I said I had heard of it, as the home of filmmaker Michael Moore, and that I thought it was in Michigan (which I mistakenly pronounced as if it included a ‘t’), she looked as though she’d just sucked a lemon, while pointing out my appalling ignorance. She WAS grumpy and not overly popular in the faculty.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike says:

    You portray the differences in languages very well in your writing. I could hear the ascents while reading them. Very good !!

    Like

  8. Sandra says:

    Mother Shipton would turn in her grave if she heard that. 🙂 Good one!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pennygadd51 says:

    Beautifully written, beautifully paced, with a most satisfying conclusion!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover says:

    I thought your dialogue was spot on. It reminds me of a time I ask a Garda for directions in Tipperary. I smiled and thanked him and left not understanding a word he had said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      Thank you. There’s an old joke about someone visiting Ireland who asks a local for directions. The Irishman answers, “If I were you I wouldn’t start from here”. I doubt that’s what your Garda was saying, but I don’t think I’d have understood him either. That said, although an Irish accent can be really difficult to understand, the unintelligible stream of words still manages to sound poetic and entertaining. So at least we can be lost with a smile on our faces!

      Like

  11. Dale says:

    I’m thinking your Lydia should hook up with Edith’s grumpy old man…
    Neither of which helped the poor person asking questions!!

    Like

  12. Ha ha – that reminds me of the time I asked for ‘butter’ in a diner and received a blank look. Apparently I should have asked for ‘budder’.

    Like

    • JS Brand says:

      Yes, it can be harder to order food in America than in countries where English isn’t a main language. In Italy a waiter would be used to us asking for parmesan when we want Parmigiano, but in America we’d go without unless we asked for parmejarn. Ordering lasagne, though, can be difficult even in England. Where I live we pronounce the ‘s’ as ‘ss’, but I’ve found that in some places they pronounce it as ‘z’ (probably correctly). It’s easier to stick to the pizza section, unless you like calzone of course.
      On the butter/budder thing, I’ve noticed a lot of politicians and TV journalists now say better as bedder, somegimes when they’re talking about the “siddy”. Presumably they have an easier time in American restaurants, unless they cause confusion by asking for ” tap warder”.

      Like

  13. This made me laugh! Ah, the inpenetrable and nonsensical spellings of English place names!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      Thank you. You’re right, we’ve brought the mispronunciations on ourselves, and Americans have played us at our own game with the likes of Spokane, Sequim and Puyallup. Their most cunning trick was to call somewhere Worcester and pronounce it the same way we do!

      Liked by 1 person

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