One of the first things my friends asked me when I announced that I was moving to the UK was if I planned to start talking like Madonna. Now, while there have been moments in my life when I have wished to be more like the Material Girl (don’t judge; most of you grew up in the ’80’s and ’90’s, too), the faux-British accent she developed during her brief marriage to Guy Whatshisname is not something I ever intend to emulate.
“Oh, it’ll happen,” my friends laughed. “It’ll just happen.”
“Not to me,” I declared. “Never to me.”
Well, after nine months in the UK, I am very happy to report that my natural, slightly Southern way of speaking shows absolutely no signs of going posh, despite the beautiful voices that surround me every day.
And if that was totally true, this would be a very short and boring blog post.
No, I haven’t started speaking with an accent. My vowels sounds are still flat and “ya’ll” ain’t goin’ nowhere from my lexicon….but new words and phrases are starting to creep in. Slowly, insidiously, like really lovely mold.
Ironically, that’s where it started. Lovely.
1. charming or beautiful
2. having a beauty that appeals to the heart and mind
“Lovely” is certainly not a foreign word to Americans. In the South, it’s a very high compliment that, when given by older ladies, is tantamount to social acceptance, ie: “Isn’t that girl lovely? Her mama must’ve raised her right!” It is not, however, a word you hear much outside of tea parties, weddings, and cotillion balls. It’s certainly not a word that’s bandied about by burly men in bars.
Yet in the UK, “lovely” (and its companion “gorgeous”) are often used to describe things like meat pies, good ciders and footballgoals, ie: “These chips are gorgeous, mate. They’ve got a lovely curry sauce here, eh?” ‘Cause curry sauce on fries…yum. Just yum.
One day a few months back, I was chatting with my mom online and I dropped a lovely into the conversation. This was her response, “Lovely? Oh, you are going native!”
I fought it. I started using awesome as much as I did when I was eleven, so much so that my mother-in-law actually picked it up and has been heard describing her garden and her monthly WI meetings as such. And let me just say, it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.
But then this phenomenon started spreading. You know, like mold.
“Chips” are now interchangeable with “fries,” and I usually only say “fries” automatically when we’re at McDonald’s. Aubergines and courgettes have almost replaced eggplant and zucchini. I still call a cookie a cookie, and I refuse to let go, but it’s hard battle when everyone looks at you oddly when you say you miss biscuits and gravy. “I need to spend a penny” comes from my husband and his family, and is certainly nicer than announcing “I am going to the toilet,” which is perfectly acceptable here, but a little too much for the prudish American. There is a big difference between going to the theatre and going to the cinema, so “movie theater” is slowly being phased out. And I said goodbye to “soccer” a long time ago. It just isn’t worth the battles.
The kicker, however, came this morning when I was texting my sister-in-law and I told her that one of our friends was “coming over to ours” tomorrow night. “Coming over to ours.” Not coming over to our house or our place, but just “ours.” Because although the British love to add the letter “u” everywhere they can, they are remarkably willing to cut out as many words as possible, I can only assume to keep conversations efficient.
To reiterate, I have only been here for nine months (and one day). If all of this has happened in the length of time it takes to grow a human being, what is going to happen to me in the length of time it takes to raise one? Will I really end up more like Madonna than the entire year (sixth grade) that I spent trying to Vogue? Those were dark times, my friends. Dark times.
I have no idea if my pre-move protestations to my friends were some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, but if I am doomed to slowly lose my natural speech, I suppose there are worse things to have it transform into.
And instead of insulting anyone by providing examples, I am going to end this post with dancing baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Why? Because I was wrong and this is the cutest thing ever.