Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No, YORE a hoser.

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?


Victor Chisholm said...

Yes, Mark, I would say you have a perceptible Nova Scotia accent. I hear it both in the cadence of your speech (a charming lilt-o-the-sea) and your vowels (a bit more "squished" than some "flat" North American vowels, and not prone to some of the most egregious diphthongs of certain American and Canadian [Ontario and BC] accents). We all have accents of course!

Jul said...

Now I want to watch Strange Brew again. Or perhaps have you act it out for me.

Anonymous said...

By the rabbi jesus, you might have an accent but you're still from away.

Natalie Joan said...

I've often been told I don't have an accent... until I get in the phone with relatives from Cape Breton.