I find accents extremely challenging. Especially when on the telephone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from Ireland or India, Scotland or Singapore, if you talk to me expect to hear a lot of, ‘Sorry, could you repeat that please?’ So they do and I’m still none the wiser. At times it’s quite embarrassing. ‘Are you taking the Mickey?’ snarled one exasperated person at the other end of my telephone earlier this week.
A Londoner pronounces J as jay. A Scott will say ji. Or, depending on the region, jee. Earlier this week one Scotsman was telling me his email address. I wrote email@example.com and read it back for confirmation. ‘Och no,’ said the disembodied voice, ‘it’s Beale.’ ‘Beale?’ I questioned. ‘Beale!’ came the reply. ‘Beale?’ (me again). ‘Lassie ah seed BEALE...B...I...L...L.’ And then the dawn came up.
Mind you, spelling things doesn’t always help. Another email address I happily sent off to air.haig@blahblah. Seconds later it bounced back to me as a fail. Upon checking with the person they expressed puzzlement. ‘Och how strrrrange, it’s definitely air dot haig, air for Rrrrrobert. Ah. Or should I say arrr?
Having family in the North of England I’ve acquainted myself with catching the booss yister-day, although chatting with my Italian in-laws was initially very challenging. When I first met my mother-in-law I assumed she was still talking Italian. I smiled politely and did lots of miming with my hands while my husband snorted into his coffee cup. Nowadays I have my mother-in-law sussed. She simply leaves the last syllable off everything. So if she starts telling you about somebody’s dort you know she’s telling you all about that person’s daughter. Telling me how she made one pasta dish was a doddle to translate. Macarone, tomart, oyn, ricot, parmes. Yum!
I remember the first time my parents met my in-laws. We went out for a meal where the mothers discreetly kicked off their shoes under the table and began talking animatedly for two hours completely at cross-purposes. My in-laws were talking about beautiful Italy, my mother agreed that Israel was indeed very lovely and asked what they thought of the beaches, and my father (who’s quite deaf) told them all about his new car to which my father-in-law said he preferred to travel by plane. ‘To the supermarket?’ asked my father. ‘Oh yes, lots of supermercato,’ my father-in-law confirmed. And when we left the restaurant, our mothers had odd shoes on.
So it’s not just me is it!