English, Sweet English

Oh, so I’m home now. Surprised? I am too. See my previous post for details.

Being at home certainly has its ups and downs. More ups than downs of course, owing mainly to my wonderful family, who are more supportive than I could ever ask or hope for. (Dang, I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but the alternative is just too awkward to write, so I’m leaving it. Grammar snobs beware!) There’s good food that I missed whilst in Spain (e.g., cottage cheese, hummus, baby carrots, good trail mix, wheat thins (!), etc.), warmer houses with cozy fireplaces, and of course the ubiquitous presence of my native tongue, otherwise known as English. Now, to most of you readers (the two of you that exist), the abundance of English is not something, well, noteworthy. To me, it is astonishing! Simply astonishing. Let me give you an example …

You walk into a store, looking for, let’s say, a can opener. But the store’s layout leaves something to be desired. What do you do? Easy, right? Just ask the store clerk. They’re usually right behind you anyway, lurking in aisle 7, ready to burst out and scare the bejeezus out of you any second. “HOW can I help you today, ma’am?” “Well, for starters, you could not cause me to nearly wet my pants, thanks very much.” Well, in Spain, this is not such an easy task. First of all, the help is not nearly as abundant and they are much less willing to help. In fact, they often seem rather reluctant – “Well, if you simply must know, it’s over there somewhere. Don’t ask me where, exactly. I’ve no idea.” So, you search out such a person, but then what do you say? Can opener isn’t exactly a word they teach you in good old Spanish 2. No, in fact, I’ve no idea where to say it. Since I’m here on the computer, it’s rather easy to look it up; I just check my Spanish Bible, a.k.a. Word Reference. But in a store, there’s fewer options. So I usually try to do something we call circumlocution, going around the word. “Oh, you know that thing, um, kitchen appliance you use to open cans. It has a sharp metal thing and you make it go round and round the can.” The clerk may respond with a word you never heard before, so you have to shrug and hope that’s it, because if not, well then, you’re screwed. It’s an ordeal, to say the least.

I’m probably paranoid, but I also like not having an accent. Although I’ve been told my accent isn’t terribly strong, still, I hate having one. Americans tend to have a rather noticeable accent, at least to my ears, and I hate it. It just doesn’t so good, like a sweet Spanish accent does. It sounds awkward and clumsy and I just like avoiding it altogether. In the U.S., I have a rather flat Midwestern accent – I don’t drop my r’s, like those in Boston (pahk my cah), insert extra r’s like the country folk (I’m gonna warsh the car), or talk like someone from the South (slow like molasses). It’s nice, really. I’m lovin’ it, and my love has nothing to do with a quarter pounder with cheese.

So, take heart, all. You are blessed with speaking your own native language, and you didn’t even know it!

One thought on “English, Sweet English

  1. I miss:
    1) Being in another country and wasting half an hour at a tiny supermarket just attempting to find where the heck the salt is. After the thirty minutes of the unsuccessful quest for the salty element, I asked to find out that the salt was in the same aisle where the sugar was! By the way, this another country is Germany and the tiny supermarket was in Bonn.
    2) The author of this blog.

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