Tuesday, September 20, 2005

English Snobbery

Taking the bus from Haverford back to Swarthmore, I was roped into directing a representative of Oxford University to the study abroad office. Wanting to get in my little bout of "how special am I" I asked her where she was from. "St Edmund's Hall."
"No, where do you live in Oxford?"
"Twenty miles north: Chipping-on-Norton."
"Oh, I grew up partially in Oxford, East Oxford, on Aston Street."
"What years?" she asked.
"1986-1992."
"We were practically neighbors! I lived on Henley Street from 1990-1 when I was at Magdalen College."
"How funny. Sadly, as you can hear, I've lost my accent: I learned english with an East Oxford accent."
"Hmmph. Or not so sadly [that you've lost that horrid lower middle class accent]."

She spoke with a very posh accent, not quite the Queen's English (it's very hard to be that plummy), but something close. This is the first time anyone has ever shot down my lament of losing my English accent. When I joke that I learned the "Queen's English," my American friends don't think to wonder if I really had such a plummy accent. I think I'd be a lot better off in the U.S. if I had kept that English accent -- even a lower middle class accent, because Americans are such hopeless anglophiles (as am I, sort of). But in England, apparently, my American accent would hide my class background, giving me a hope of fitting in among more high and mighty folk.

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