My accent is most confused. It was never one of those broad Steve Irwin or Paul Hogan accents to begin with. Now after living in Minnesota for six years, I realize that to most Americans I sound only slightly Australian (or English), and to most Australians I sound slightly American. This is what people tell me, because I don’t really know how I sound.
All of this has happened despite my best efforts at keeping my accent. Of course, I’ve had the notion that I sound perfectly normal, have always sounded normal and that my accent has never changed. After all, it’s only other people who really have an accent.
It’s this sort of thing which makes accents such a slippery thing to work with. But I’ve worked out one way of keeping a loose handle on it. Australian accents, and especially some of the speech patterns and expressions, still sound different to me. American accents sound normal and unremarkable. This will change – and in a few weeks, it will be the American accents which sound different and the Australian accent which is normal. When this happens, maybe I’ll start getting my Australian accent back.
Until then, I am in the strange situation of appearing like an outsider in my hometown. It’s very interesting and isn’t all bad to see how the other half lives.
I know that readjusting to Tasmania won’t be as difficult as my first few months in Minnesota. There was one time when I needed some to buy some butter for a meal my girlfriend was working on. I hoped that I could buy it from Walgreens, the drug store which was only a couple of blocks away from my apartment. Before walking over, I decided to call them up and check that they sold butter.
“Do you sell butter?” I asked.
“Excuse me?” Was the shop assistant’s response. “Bath Salts? Yes we sell those.”
“No, I was asking about butter. Do you sell butter?”
We went back in forth like this for an interminable time. He had no idea what I was saying, although to be fair to him, he probably thought I was saying something like butt-uh.
Getting desperate, I said, “No, butter. You know, the stuff you put on bread It comes from cows.”
“Oh, you mean budderr! Yes, we sell that.”