Don’t ask me about my accent

In his play Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw commented that English speaking people are amazed when someone speaks English really well and automatically assume that person is a foreigner, because: #1) most English speaking people speak English very badly, and #2) people who learn English as a second language generally learn to speak and use English better than the natives.  Perhaps this is true, perhaps it’s not.  I’m a native-born speaker of English myself.  But one of the things I hate more than deciding if someone’s English is grammatically correct for being a college level student is when someone asks (anyone, really) the famous 2-in-1-question-and-statement: “You have an accent.  Where are you from?”

AND YOU SAY…

WOW! You have one hell of an accent!!! Where did you get it from? The trash? 

Initial response: “How the heck is that any of your business?”

George Bernard Shaw response: “Oh, my English is that good, then?”

Rude Tit-for-tat response: “YOU have an accent too.  I had no idea that there was life on other planets after all.”

2nd plausible response: “I’m from [blank].  And you are from…?”

3rd plausible response: [SILENCE]

4th plausible response: “And you guessed I have an accent from me saying “fine”?  Maybe you should re-consider your chosen profession and become a spy.”

Another rude tit-for-tat response: “Really?  I have an accent?  ‘Judge not and ye will not be judged.'”  Haha.

5th plausible response: “Why would I tell YOU such a thing?  Who are you???

6th plausible response: “I’m visiting from the Milky Galaxy.  Ask me nicely and I’ll give you a one-way ticket there.”

Last rude tit-for-tat response:  “What will you ask for next?  My date of birth and my address?  Are you an identity thief or what?”

Yeah.  Behold my hatred for such an irrelevant, ANNOYING, RUDE question.  After all, how is it any of some stranger’s business where you’re from?  Just curiosity, you say?  Well I say it’s RUDE RUDE RUDE!!!  And the best way to answer this rudeness with some witty retort or just haughty silence and a sniff.  Or whatever.

Natalie Gorna

5 thoughts on “Don’t ask me about my accent

  1. BoWe June 10, 2013 / 16:15

    To put my old feet in this discussion. Humanity as a whole is about to travel to Mars but individual humans are still tribal villagers. Hardwired are we I believe. I speak with Polish accent as distinct as the taste and the smell of Polish kielbasa. But I did have once a dear PHD! friend ( on the margin – that half of the apple we all seek to find in our lives ) who was always tormented by the fact that often people (in the academia!) were still asking her “are you from Chicago?”

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  2. Jaime Buckley June 8, 2013 / 03:36

    my sister was asked once,when she lived in Md. how she became an accountant without a high school education?she asked why they thought she did not have a diploma, and they said “by the way you talk” she does have the education but this person assumed that because of her twang she was uneducated. do most people feel this way? or was this just one rude person?

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    • Natalie Gorna June 8, 2013 / 21:54

      Thanks for your reply!

      Generally speaking, using poor vocabulary (slang, dialect, etc.) in a professional environment will reflect on people’s impressions of your academia and so forth. When in public, it’s best to speak your best in order to be viewed at your best, if that makes sense. Depending on the crowd you’re in, opinions may shift from offended to disinterested.

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  3. seballo June 7, 2013 / 14:34

    Natalie,

    As a non-native speaker of English I have no accent of my own – I just subconsciously pick up the whereabouts of the accent of people I’ve recently hung out with, which might lead to some amusing conversations.

    Usual it goes like this:

    Q: Where are you from?
    A: Poland

    A: Oh! but you sound Dutch/Norwegian/Irish/English/Jamaican – the last one courtesy of my Daughter – bless her 😉

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    • Natalie Gorna June 7, 2013 / 16:16

      lol Well, if you ever visit the US you’ll see exactly why I’m so annoyed about the accent thing. You only have to spit out one word and people jump on your “accent” as if it were a sin or something – the irony being that the US is a land of many nationalities and every person’s accent is bound to be unique to them in some way.

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