|Me demonstrating the 'What the fuck? Where is she from?' expression|
People strain to hear my voice. Not because I am quiet—Lordy no!—and not, largely, because they are deaf or constipated; but, when out and about, ordering a cup of tea and cucumber sandwiches (white, no crusts), I see brows crumple like deflated accordions. The fold of frown makes the eyes smaller, shrewder, but more sparkly, powered by the cogs behind them spinning wildly, frantic to discern: is she English? Irish? Maybe Australian? Those are the top three—although I have also been South African and, oddly, German. Ja ja.
I find this Pygmalion pigeon-holing quite fun. It makes the world a smaller place because I know that, on the heels of explaining from whence I hail, they will know someone who lived there or perhaps visited. (Maybe a hundred years ago.)
Sometimes I like to fuck with people and tell them I am Welsh. (This is only half true. Although I can hold a tune and I do like rugby, which surely makes me more three-quarters.) Welsh? This often draws blank stares, but since the fame of Sir Anthony Hopkins (now American) and Catherine Zeta Spartacus Douglas Jones (occasional American, with conveniently waivering Welsh accent), the Taffs are better known.
I cannot claim to have the Welshy Valley drawl—the rolling ‘r’ and the phlegmy double ‘l’—unless surrounded by the contagious sound and/or drunk. In real life, my...'dulcets' couldn’t really get more Hermione Granger Home Counties.
However, what seems to intrigue more than the way I pronunciate, are the words I choose to annunciate: a self-indulgent compendium of polysyllabic words woven together intricately, splaying in many different directions as if I were a verbacious spider—with mild ADD—casting out my web of words. I do like words. I love the raised eyebrows a string of Britishisms elicits. I’m a ham. I know. I shamelessly drop my 'vitamins'--emphasis on the 'vit'--with an unapologetic cheeky smile.
How we express ourselves is important on an evolutionary level too. According to Baba Brinkman’s The Rap Guide to Evolution, currently playing off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse (you should go, it is phenomenal), whilst word choice does not prevent us from being mauled to death by an angry predator, the more slick-tongued of us can use linguistic skill to charm a mate into consenting. Ergo, language effects sexual selection! I know! Think about that the next time you lamely type ‘lol.’
So I started thinking of some of my favourite words. Not every day words like 'lovely' or 'bloody' or 'arse'--the Close Personals will tell you I use them more often than Brittney says 'me,' but words that I savour saying; words I feel a little audacious thrill as their vibrations blow through my lips; words that reverberate through my inner ear, titillating the spiral-shaped cochlea with every ripple of sound that crosses the cilia-haired membrane.
Some of my favourite words are delightful, not by sensation, but by reaction or association. So this is the abridged, and by no means complete, list of words and phrases that I knowingly trill the living Brit out of:
Drip (“Don’t be such a drip!”)
Sort the wheat from the chaff
See you anon
The cut of his jib
Cheek to jowl
What would Freud say? Well, don’t judge me on the words’ meaning; say them out loud and enjoy the sounds. Aren’t they fun to say?
Doesn’t 'gargantuan' stretch your lips as if you have a runny nose and no tissue? Doesn’t the ‘p’ of ‘numpty’ pop nicely? Don’t you love the sibilant ‘s’ of ‘viscous,’ (I also love lascivious, mischievous and luscious, so maybe I have a thing for the ‘s’s.) I do most enjoy saying them with a lisp. But this can often get messy, so if trying this out whilst on a date—why wouldn’t you dazzle your dinner partner with your speech impediment showcase?—be warned: it can get messy. You might want to check your teeth for stray lettuce or other debris before you unceremonious spray it in your date's face. *dating tips from Eleanor* OOH, there’s a blog to behold!
So there you go! Do Brits hold sole rights to this random collection? Not a jot! This is no private collection! Get the tip of your tongue, your teeth and your lips around these suckers and unleash them loudly the next time you are in Price Chopper. I guarantee you some furrowed brows. (NB: this may be because they are concerned as to your mental health, but just ride it out.)
In fact, let’s do this shit! When you next shop on a Saturday morning and slalom your uncooperative trolley through the crowd, running the wheels into as many backs of heels as possible, mowing down indecisive geriatrics in the soup aisle, or crying toddlers who have just been told 'no' and are so red-faced and snot-slicked that they don’t see you coming, do try the following:
“Lordy, Moses! Hells Bells! Is that the queue for the sliced luncheon meats?”
So are we on? Will there be an upsurge in plummy-toned people confusing the little cotton socks off the Deli Counter man? Oh goody!
Here’s a little battle of words, from the indomitable Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman and true blue Brit Professor Elemental wrapping their native accents around the intricacies of the mother tongue. Guess which camp I'm in? Ah, it's elementary, dear Blogger.