Language trouble

One of the words that I had to learn to pronounce differently in the States was my name — endlessly being asked to spell “Paul”, or receiving orders for “Boll” or some other nonsense, got old quickly.

Apparently I did the job too well. I had to spell “Paul” to a hairdresser’s receptionist today.

Damn. So where is my accent from now? Or my identity, really!

On the topic, I saw a play tonight that really did require South African experience to appreciate. It was Coupé, at the Market Theatre. Of the three main characters, one spoke only English, the second only Afrikaans, and the third only French. The first two communicated fine with each other (well, verbally, though not really beyond that), but not the third. Taking place entirely in a small train cabin, the characters were really well portrayed, as well as being really, really funny.

And the Market Theatre precinct (and actually much of the Johannesburg city centre) is looking really awesome now — the urban renewal people are really doing a great job. One of the restaurants at the Market Theatre will definitely be appearing in the soon-t0-be-launched Wednesday Night Dinner list.

3 thoughts on “Language trouble

  1. Good to be reading updates again. On the subject of accents we had friends who called their child Abra, pronounced Aaaa-bra (bra like bra said like the beginning of bramble). But being American they let everyone know in an email that her name was Abra, pronounced with A as in saw…. this in England.

    Must hear you say your name in American sometime. Perhaps useful to stop the Afrikaanerism of Paul to Pow-ul.


  2. Neil Gaiman, who was born in the UK but has lived in Minnesota long enough for his accent to turn into a “primordial slime,” had the best description of a confused multinational accent I have ever read: “Really, my accent is just a universal sort of case of ‘you aren’t from round here, are you?’ ”

    My accent, like my identity, is made up of little bits of all the places I’ve lived. And, like my identity, certain parts of my accent will emphasize themselves based on who I’m speaking to. But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.


  3. That’s a great quote! Actually, I’m a little silly — when someone says they CAN’T hear any American accent in my speech, I get annoyed too. I’m just unreasonable, I think.


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