Expat Asides

By James Clapham

I remember when Mrs. C and I landed at Edinburgh airport a few years ago in order to travel to a conference in Newcastle. While we were on our way to the car rental place, we passed by a couple of Scottish taxi drivers talking about traffic, politics, J.K. Rowling and the weather in general. A few metres on, and Mrs. C was in hysterical laughter because the two gentlemen may as well have been speaking in Swedish.

I’m born to an English mother and a Scottish father, and I also have a tendency to mumble quietly and speak quickly at the same, neither of which helps. Even British people have a bit of trouble understanding me, but that’s ok, since *nobody* on the island can fully understand anyone else either. This is probably why online chat has taken off so well in England, as it transcends the North (with a capital ‘N’ as they feel entitled to be privileged), the South (with a capital ‘S’ because they are), Welsh people, Scottish people, Europeans, Americans, Canadians and even the French, bless ‘em.

After learning about my heritage, Mrs. C was a bit dubious before meeting me for the first time, since we had only text-chatted for a month beforehand online over Skype. There was no actual spoken conversation because of the whole “I can’t afford the bills” thing going on and so she was half-expecting this tall, handsome man to enter Slovakia for the first time with an unfathomable Glaswegian twang. If you don’t know what this is, imagine a normal Scottish accent with an extra four glasses of 12-year old Glenfiddich and you get the idea. I didn’t sound that bad, thankfully, and we got married within 11 months.

So, now we turn to my middle ground, the one that I use for Canadians that really don’t understand me. Wifey calls it the Scottish Viking Pirate accent, which does what it says on the tin. Think Thor in the imaginatively titled movie Thor when he smashes his glass down on the floor and yells “another!” in the middle of a fast food place. It’s a voice that comes from the gut, a hurricane of forceful white noise that make Canadians nod and say, “oh, I get what you mean now.” It’s an act of communication that means business, and says sorry if he sounds too much like Jack Sparrow on that particular day.

By the way, my pronounced t’s in words are slowly becoming d’s. Well done Canadians, you are turning me to the Dark Side.