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Tuesday, December 10, 2002
 
Accents

In my travels in Australia, I often find myself passing the time of day with all sorts of people: waiters, cashiers and supermarket staff, for example. Everyone is so friendly; it is a delight to talk to them. They find me rather difficult to place and eventually they ask me where I'm from. I take it as quite a compliment when they guess somewhere in Australia. I suppose that one unconsciously adopts a slight local accent and way of speaking when away from home. This prevents one standing out like a sore thumb.

It is the same in most English-speaking countries, but the USA is memorable for an oft-repeated conversation I have there. Usually, but not always, this conversation would take place in a rural area, often word for word, with - let us say - a rural person (RP).
R.P: Gee, I just love your accent.
Self: Accent, what accent?
R P: You know; your accent; the way you speak.
Self: But I don't have an accent.
R.P: Yes you do - you have a quaint accent.
Self: (with suppressed mock exasperation) No I don't. You have an accent; I don't. I'll prove it to you; OK?
R.P: OK.
Self: I'm going to ask you two questions and I want you to ask me the same questions, afterwards. OK?
R.P: OK.
Self: What language do you speak?
R.P: English.
Self: (Suppressing mirth) OK. What country do you come from?
R.P: America.
Self: OK; now you ask me the same two questions.
R.P: OK. What language do you speak?
Self: English.
R.P: What country do you come from?
Self: England. So you see, I don't have an accent; you do.
This conversation is amusing and typical. One of these days, I will blog on the difference between the Australian and American attitudes revealed by their methods of dealing with something unusual. Unless, of course, you would like to decide for yourselves...

Watching the News on TV

Another example of Australian openness has just occurred. I am sitting in my suite at the Essendon Ritz, just before 9.00 a.m., wondering what the World has been up to while I've been asleep. I turn on the TV and the only news programme is in Greek. I follow it for a few minutes, without making much sense of the broadcast. Then, there is a news programme in French. This is a bit easier to follow and I relax because there is currently no sign that the end of the World is at hand. (And, bloody hell, here comes the News in Russian.)

One piece of good, local news is that rain has come to Sydney. Relieved as I am that it has left Melbourne, I am even more delighted to hear that the many forest fires raging in New South Wales are either now extinguished or under control.


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