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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Excewze Mee Ay dewnt speeke yewr Ingglissh

I don't speak English any more.

That is, I always thought I did. I was brought up to pronounce my t's and never drop my h's. I got beaten up at my private school for sounding posh, until the kids realised I was from a single parent family, whereupon they beat me up for not being posh.

I remember giving a speech on the quality and importance of maintaining the grammatical order and classical pronunciation of English once at the English Speaking Union. When I got hounded down by a smart-arsed 6th Former from a competing school accusing me of lack of cosmopolitanity (yes, she thought that was a real word) I should have been warned to change before it was too late.

But now it is too late. 13 years on and I realise I do not speak in a way that others can understand. The past two weeks' worth of interaction with the general shopkeeping public around Oxford Circus has convinced me of this fact.
To wit:

1) I endeavoured to get €100 for a trip to Greece from my local high street bank, which shall remain nameless, although it has a blue eagle for a logo. So the conversation went thus:
"Could I please have €100 - I'm going to Greece"
"You want three hundred locker keys? For a safe deposit?"
What? What on earth could he have possibly thought - how???
Me (for that is who it was) "No - €100 euro please."
"€100 - just €100 please."

2) I went into my local bead shop to buy some bails - small silver clasps that attach crystal pendants to necklaces.
"May I please have some bails?"
"Bows?" said the lovely lassie behind the bar, a Kent girl through and through.
Me (for that is who it was) "No, Bails, please, for necklaces."
"Bails. BAILS."
"Oh! said the assistant, brightening. You want BELLS."
"No" (still me). Not Bellz, Bay-ls." Thinking phonetics would help. HOW on this green earth can Bails sound like Bells? "Bails Bails Bails," I repeated like a madwoman, desperately pointing with each word to a picture in the order book. I felt like a foreigner pointing sheepishly to some unpronounceable portion of Polish sausage in a restaurant.
"Oh! You mean Ba'wls".

I did not say AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH. She may have put that on the order form too and charged me for "ostrich feathers".

But the worst came at Subway. The chap had just served an entire Italian family who had as much English between them as a tree stump. All I asked was:

"Everything except the onions please."
"You want more cheese?"
"No thank you" (still me) "Just all the Salad, except the onions."
"Just onions?"
"NO ONIONS. Onions, no" (I said, gesticulating wildly and pointing at the offending tub of raw bulbs). "Salad, lettuce, cucumber, yes yes, Onion - no!"
Papa Italian turned round from the payment area and smiled. "She has no onion, all other yes." He beamed kindly.
"I see" said the assistant. He turned to me. "Sorry, I could not understand your accent."

If only my English teacher Mrs Smith could see me now, a sorry form of humanity, forced to drawl only inanities and relegated to a morass of incomprehension. It won't be long before I am reduced to drawing pictures of apples and showing them to the checkout girl at Sainsbury's. "A-p-p-l-e... hur hur, me speketh gud, gibber gibber..."


Gorilla Bananas said...

I don't think your accent is the problem Your anecdotes imply that your vocabulary is too large for the people you deal with.

Which reminds me:

Blonde girl under James Bond: Oh James, I cannot find the words!

Bond: Let me try and enlarge your vocabulary.

A prize if you can tell me which film that's from.

Gorilla Bananas said...

So you're off to Greece with your mum, eh? Looking for a Shirley Valentine experience? If a Greek man strokes his moustache it means he wants to 'make fock' with you.

Simoney said...

Ha! I'm a bit too young and mum's a bit too old to be Shirley Valentines! Do Gorillas have mustaches?

Gorilla Bananas said...

We have moustaches all over our bodies, as you know. Enjoy the holiday and why not take a few pictures for the blog?

ghost of tikkles said...

Wow. That GB is a total prevert, there's no getting round it. Or rather, is he just a misunderstood full-blooded non-human primate?

One things for certain, love. Keep visiting the subway, and you're well on your way to achieving the blogshape you so desire.

Biggles said...

Halo Simmonee its' biggles hear replaying too yore massage left on my blog. i hope yoo do'nt minde but i let my dad has a look as he rembers more goodlier (sea, good grammer, eh?) than like wot i doo wen i woz a lad bout 6 months old. Monty B is beeing ver norty.
We think you need to be firm without being horrid cos yoo shood not hit a cat. wen he clore yoo nasty take him off and put him down fermly a few feet aweigh in a weigh he wo'nt like and not stroke him for a teeny bit. but if he is attacking at Will i shud tell Will to ware long trousers for a start.

when zo yoosed too doo her home werk on her bed and runty wonted attention orl the time zo yoosed to put her fermly down the end of her bed each time she came up and eventooally she lerned to stay their and be quiet and nice and then she wood get her cuddles when zo wa'snt two bizzy.

I hope yoo is gowing to bring monty up too bee a nice mr hills science cat wot gives yoo a balanced diet and keep the teeth cleen!!

so, yoo is going to grease? wot is that? is it a plaice or a thing? it sounds outside my territtorree too mee.

if yoo still has trubble with monty when yoo get back from beeing greasy just yoo let me no agen.

yore frend, the clever, wise top cat, biggles

Fatman said...

People often have a hard time understanding me. But that's because I burp in between words. And swear a lot. And drink. And gesture with my elbows. As a result I've been mistaken for a New Zealander for most of my life (True, yet pointless, fact)

Fatman said...

Oh, and to answer the talking ape its The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Simoney said...

Fatman. I'm sorry you've been mistaken for an antipodean. That must be very hard for you. You're welcome here

Ghost of Tickles... ah! but Subway has lite lunches!! And GB is misunderstood, after all, he is a gorilla and they are driven largely by primal primate instincts...

Thanks Biggles for being a top cat. Monty is being a little better now he's realised he's got no balls. I've also discovered that a little plant mister spray helps...

Oscar's staff said...

have tried re-adding you to facebook but it says it is already pending. am up and running on it again. can you try and add me?

p.s. innit.