I live in a building called College Wynd (which rhymes with ‘find’ and means ‘alley’ or ‘laneway’). I tend to pronounce it exactly as it’s written, in my very neutral Canadian accent, but last night I made an inevitable slip. It was during dinner at The Three Sisters Pub where I was chatting with a friendly girl named Becky who comes from Dundee and speaks with a pronounced Scottish accent.
“An’ where do yeh live?” Becky asked me.
“Just down the road at College Whyyynd,” I answered, before realizing…did I really just say that?
Apparently so, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. There seems to be an instinct that I develop, usually post-pint, to echo the accent of whoever I’m speaking with—and indeed there was an empty glass of cider on the table in front of me.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to mimic anyone. Rather I’m realizing how much my accent stands out and trying to make it a little less conspicuous. My first worry is being mistaken for a tourist and my second for an American, although that one is probably a lost cause.
I’ve been in Edinburgh for two and a half weeks now, which is long enough to make a habit of using some of the local vocabulary. I live in a flat, with flatmates, carry a mobile, and attend lectures, not classes. If my room gets messy, I hoover it, and when my flatmate makes biscuits, cookies come out of the oven. This takes some effort to remember.
Minding my accent is even less natural, but least I’m not the only one who stands out. Because of the bubble of university, it’s fair to say that roughly half the people I’ve met in Edinburgh have been Scottish. Students here come from absolutely everywhere and speak with an endless variety of accents. However, it’s the North Americans who tend to be the most cashul and unaware of how they sound, yo.
Myself included, and this is probably why I slipped into a brogue last night. I hate to repeat a word in my very different accent, like I’m trying to correct (or corrupt) someone’s pronunciation. But then I remind myself that my own accent has its own merits. It never gives away what kind of neighbourhood I grew up in or how much my education cost—something that a lot of UK accents reveal instantly. Plus, it’s the sound of Hollywood and so many things cool.
Which brings me to the conclusion that there is no point in worrying about my accent. I should really drop some of the slang from back home and rock my new vocabulary, and no doubt I’ll pick up an expression or two whilst I’m here. I just hope no one lets me get away with using “College Whyyynd” again.