When we moved to America nearly six years ago, we were worried about many things. We worried whether we were doing the right thing leaving everything and everyone we knew behind. I’d just qualified as a nurse so how could these skills be transferable? How would the boys settle in school? What were the schools like? Where would we live? You know we never once worried about the language. I mean, the Americans speak English right…how hard could it be?
Apparently over here if you want slices of cucumber in your subway sandwich, you have to say “cucumbers”. Rich found this out the hard way when he tried to order one. How many ways are there to say “cucumber”? What word could the patient but confused Subway assistant be confusing “cucumber” for…CUUUU…CUMMM…BBERRRR! It seems Rich asking for “cucumber” inferred he wanted a whole unsliced cucumber plonked in his sandwich and the poor guy unsurprisingly just couldn’t make sense of it! Eventually, he managed to make himself understood that 3 maybe 4 slices would be sufficient but it was only in the last year or so we eventually found out not pluralizing the cucumber was at the heart of the misunderstanding! We’d often wondered why he’d struggled!
I remember going to this quaint little tea room with a friend after we’d been here a while. I wanted a sandwich but the sandwich came with tomato slices and a side of lexical anxiety. “No tomato please…erm, no tomato…to-ma-to?…erm, no toe-may-do?…thanks…yep, you guessed right. Yep, I’m English…oh thanks…I love your accent too”. I’m not saying that everyone comments on how they love our accent but if we had a dollar every time they did, I’m sure we’d be able to buy at least a microwave. It’s actually really sweet but being typically English, I feel awkward accepting compliments so I’ve found returning the sentiment negates the unease I feel at being complimented on something I cant really control. In fairness, it’s true though. I still love an American accent, especially the Texan one, which is really handy living here.
We actually nearly didn’t live here though. Before we made the big leap across the pond, Rich spent a year in Houston and we stayed behind in England. Once we knew we were actually going to make the move, he told me to start researching neighborhoods. Houston, a city of 6 million is mahoosive! The kids would be moving from a primary school with approximately 300 pupils to an elementary with 1000+ kids. And that’s pretty much the average number for the schools around here-the high schools run at 3300! So you can imagine trying to find a home was daunting. Luckily, his colleagues were full of great advice and soon he was instructing me to look up “Kadey” as a potential future home area. I checked. I double checked. Kadey does not exist…do you mean “Katy” dear husband!?! After checking the spelling with his buddy, he realised he did! So although we moved to Katy, we pretty much do live in Kadey now. We both work with Americans. The kids attend the local schools. My jobs here have always involved working with people where clear communication is essential so I use the American words like trash, soda and I have to admit that my previously crystal clear T’s in words like Saturday and butter have now slipped a liddle into D’s. Alex has pretty much retained his British accent but young Joshie has developed a hybrid British Texan lilt. He sounds American to us but Americans recognize him as British straight away so I’m not sure exactly how it works except he never ever stops talking. I do wonder if with the quarantine and no longer in an American school environment, his British accent may start to show again.
Then there was the time, not long after we’d moved over here that I thought a good way to meet new people and potentially make friends was to sign up for the school PTA store. They sell all manner of tat: clackers, toy aliens, and stationary that kids decide they absolutely must have and then (in my experience) languishes at the bottom of the drawer or toy box waiting for the day you can sneak in, bag it up and clear it out because although they’ve never played with or even thought about it in the 18 months since they declared a state of emergency to get it. The day you ask is the day they suddenly realize how vital it is to their very essence and there ain’t no way it’s going in that black bag. But it’s an excellent fundraiser for the PTA and they needed parent volunteers to help run it. This would be my chance to demonstrate what a nice wholesome person I was. How I may be the lovely charming new friend they didn’t know they needed. The detail I forgot however, was some English words have different meanings over here and that’s how it came to be that I was politely told off with much awkwardness for enthusiastically selling “rubbers” to kindergartners.
Hands down tho, the word that makes me cringe the most is “fanny”. If you are unsure what “fanny” means in English English, feel free to google it but don’t blame me for the images on your device! It instinctively produces an infantile response where if I’m drinking coffee, I’m immediately going to spit that delicious black nectar out with a juvenile giggle. Every single time. Fanny packs. They sound like something you’d regretfully need to buy at a chemist…why on earth would you want to keep your phone in them! Ouch! My absolute favourite “fanny” moment was when I was working nights at the dementia unit and one of the residents had woken early. He was a fan of Gone with the Wind. He was delighted when I suggested we put it on for him and asked if I’d seen it. When I replied I hadn’t, I wasn’t mentally prepared for his next command “Oh my Miss Emma! Well then! Sit your fanny down and let’s watch it together!” It was 4.30am ish so my brain perhaps wasn’t on top form but I actually gasped in horror until I realised his statement was so sweetly, innocently kind. So I did in fact, sit my fanny down and tried to watch it but in truth, I was mainly giggling in my head at what he’d said and to this day, still have no idea why Rhett doesn’t give a damn!
There’s been so many unexpected giggles along this bilingual journey. These were just a few. I hope they made you smile. As I’m getting into this blogging malarky I think I need to start adding hash tags but “fanny”, “rubbers” and “cucumbers” probably aren’t going to attract the right readers!! I’m not sure it’ll be the post they were expecting!