AMERICAN RANT – EXPATRIATE’S BLUES by Mari Wallace
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this country. I’m here by choice. What’s more, I’m one of you: a citizen. But over the years some Brits have said some very annoying things to me. I’ve decided it was time to stop ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ and instead tell all.
Did you know, for instance, that there are about 250,000 Americans living here in the UK? I imagine many of them have had similar experiences to mine. I’ve decided to appoint myself their unofficial spokesperson and the following ‘rant’ is in order to perpetuate our ‘special relationship’.
I have lived here for more than 44 years. As a result, my accent has softened. I am often asked by Brits, when trying to guess where I come from, if I’m Canadian. I know they are trying to flatter me because they think that Canadians, by virtue of still belonging to the Commonwealth, don’t have a strong North American accent. But Canadians sound just like Americans, except for minor differences in pronunciation, the main ones being words with an ‘ow’ sound such as about……house. Just listen to the BBC’s Canadian-born Lyse Doucet the next time she reports from some hot-spot.
Without a doubt, Britain has a most fascinating history. I’ve enjoyed learning about it and know it has contributed to my love of this country. But when I hear American history being belittled because of its relative brevity, it really gets to me. Could this possibly be sour grapes because in 1773 we dumped your tea into Boston Harbor (oops! Harbour)? If you visit Jamestown in Virginia, or Philadelphia or Boston, I’m sure you’d come away convinced that we, too, have a history worth celebrating.
I had the pleasure of spending 17 years teaching English to the English. I hasten to add that I’m fully qualified to do so, having been educated in the UK as well as the US. So can you understand my dismay when, on more than one occasion, I was asked, ‘Why are you teaching English when you’re American?’
I came here knowing how properly to pronounce Leicester and Grosvenor but admit to having been caught out by Bicester. What’s more, I still think that Slough should rhyme with cough. But how many Britons know that Maryland isn’t pronounced Mary-land but Merralind? And that in Maryland, there’s no such thing a Maryland cookie? I’m not laughing at you when you get it wrong – so, please, don’t laugh at me.
One last thing: I’d be very grateful if you did not call me your ‘American cousin’ or your ‘colonial friend’. Oh yes — and please don’t assume, the next time you are introduced to an American, that he voted for Trump or chews gum or carries a gun.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I feel so much better. Ah — I see by the clock on the wall that it’s almost 7pm. It’s definitely time to go into the kitchen, make myself a nice cuppa and turn on The Archers.
By Mari Wallace