Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A Canadian Navy destroyer, at dock in Halifax
I’m not sure how it happened, but I have apparently developed a strong “Canadian” (sub-set: “Maritime”) accent.
It’s highly unusual, I believe, to develop an accent late in life like this, but I am fairly certain I never had an accent before. In all the twenty-odd years I lived in Nova Scotia, I didn't have one, right? Six years in Montreal, no mention at all - surely someone would have told me if i had an accent right?
In France a few people mentioned my accent, but I think most of them thought I was speaking strangely when compared to our mutual British friend who clearly does talk with a funny accent, one of the many disadvantages of learning English on that isolated island.
On arrival in California, one or two people, upon learning that I was Canadian would raise an eyebrow, as if to say “that explains it” but I just thought it was in reaction to my overwhelming politeness, bewilderment at Fahrenheit, or smugness in the face of the local “cold.”
Then I was hired at UCLA. Once more, I find myself giving regular interviews, and hearing myself on tape as I transcribe them. Of course hearing myself on tape while speaking to French people revealed nothing to me about my accent. But in a direct comparison against Americans, who almost speak real English, (despite their aversion to the letter “U”) I realized (realised?) that I sound like I hail from Ecum Secum
For instance: where the locals pronounce the contraction of “we are” are “weer” I am only able to pronounce it as “whirr.” Similarly, the people here pronounce “your” more-or-less like “yoor” while my pronunciation is closer to “yore.”
Those are only the words that jump out at me, and jump out they do: it’s an odd phenomenon to suddenly realize that what I thought was my completely neutral manner of speech now sounds makes me sound to my own ear like I should be yelling at my crew to be pulling in the nets because a Nor’easter’s blowin’ in.
Not to comment troll or anything, but how many of you that have spoken to me have noticed my accent before? How many of you ever hear your own?