My daughter has an English accent. And both her parents are American.
Believe it or not, British people seem to have a hard time processing these facts.
At least a half dozen times, I’ve spoken to people who were incredulous that American parents could produce a child with an English accent, despite my telling them that our daughter was born and raised in the UK and has never lived anywhere else. It’s almost as if they think that one’s “American-ness” is so innate, that it is passed down to your children, regardless of where they’ve been brought up.
The conversation goes like this:
British person: “So how long have you been living over here?”
Me: “Oh about 10 years. Our daughter’s never lived anywhere else.”
British person: “Wait, does she have an English accent?”
Me: “Yes, of course.”
British person: “But your wife is British then?”
Me: “No, she’s American as well.”
British person: “And your daughter has an English accent…. ?!”
I suspect this conversation would never have happened with an immigrant from India or Pakistan, but somehow it’s okay to question Americans about their children’s Britishness. But I suppose it goes to the core of two of the things that British people value most about their identity: their accents, and the fact that they consider themselves distinct from Americans.
But trust me, my daughter is English and she’s not some kind of 7-year old fifth columnist out to destroy trans-Atlantic cultural and linguistic barriers. When you’re raised in a country, you become part of that country and it becomes part of you- your accent, your culture and your attitude. Her first nursery rhymes were “The grand old Duke of York” and “Polly put the kettle on,” not “Mary had a little lamb” or “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Here’s an example of her British-ness. One day this week, I came upon this sign on her bedroom door:
This led to the following conversation that I quote verbatim:
Me (knocking): “What’s with this new sign on your door? Let me in.”
Daughter: “Sorry I can’t answer you without an appointment.”
Me: “So give me an appointment so I can come in.”
Daughter: “All appointments have to be made in advance.”
Me: “Er, so can I have an appointment for a minute for now?”
Daughter: “Yes, you may.”
(1 minute passes)
Me (knocking): “So can I come in?”
Daughter: “Do you have an appointment?”
Me (frustrated): “Yes I do, I made it a minute ago.”
Daughter: “Oh yes Mr. ‘Expatclaptrap’ I see you here on the list. You may come in now.”
Now tell me my daughter’s not English…