Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Speaking Klingon

I've discussed this before, my insatiable desire to speak with a British accent. Where does it come from? Too many sources to name, but I'll give it a try:

1.  My love for Shakespeare, begun just before ninth grade, when I attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival. 
2.  My love for Harry Potter novels and movies (can't wait for July 15!).
3.  My wish that I'd been born in England.
4. My love of British literature in general, including such authors as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, etc.
5. My belief that the accent sounds infinitely more refined and polite than the standard American accent (only the deep southern accent, to me, gives it any competition). I have a similar reaction to people who speak with a Spanish, Italian, or Russian accent. 

So I slip into the accent several times a day--with my kids, with the church choir, etc. I have even considered interviewing for work with a British accent, and maintaining it 24/7 (at my husband's encouragement). 

Only now the roof has fallen in on all of this. Richard's mother came for a visit this weekend, and she told me plainly (more than likely parroting what her other children said last time I visited Shelton) that speaking the way I do is "creepy." I told her it wasn't (and it ISN'T!!!), and she insisted it was weird, like "speaking Klingon." Not only that, but my husband--the one who had once encouraged me to interview using a British accent--admitted, in front of her, that he found my accent "annoying"--after I had just written a blog praising the dork! My MIL insisted that it was creepy because I'm "not British."

Needless to say, I got pissed. I told my husband--in front of his mother, no less--that he was not only wrong, but he was wrong to have brought it up this way, after telling me otherwise. I went upstairs as I burst out crying, and I didn't stop until my husband came up to apologize (and I still cried for a while after that). 

It wasn't the disloyalty, though, that hurt. I was devastated by the whole thing because I truly am an Anglophile. I love all things British, and to be told that something I found so much joy out of was "creepy" was devastating, somewhat like wearing an outfit I love more than any other, only for someone well-meaning to tell me it made my butt look huge.

On the other hand, I think both my husband and his mother are wrong. "Speaking Klingon" is equivalent in one way, for it's an affected way of speaking, and a few Trekkies probably get some joy out of expressing themselves in that way, even though it isn't their usual way of speaking. Honestly, I don't think there is anything wrong with that (people should do what makes them happy), but my habits are only somewhat equivalent, and here's why:

Difference #1:
*  No one is raised speaking Klingon as a first language.
*  Millions of people speak with a British accent, and have for centuries.

Difference #2:
*  Klingon was a fictional language from the start, with varied words that must be subtitled to be understood by the English speaking populace.
*  British English is merely a dialect of English, and is understood rather easily, especially by those who have heard it before. The fact that Richard and his mother do not understand it as well means they have simply not experienced it enough. Subtitles are NOT needed--if anything, British English is easier for me to understand than many American dialects.

More than anything else, it's a matter of being non-judgmental. I don't tell Richard that his football watching is "stupid." It makes him happy, even if it bores the crap out of me, and therefore I want him to watch (so that he's happy). His happiness outweighs my own personal opinion. In the same way, all of my relatives and friends have little quirks like this, yet I don't mind them, for those quirks and habits make them happy... and it's not my job to tell them what I think they should do with their lives. 

Yet much of my family (well, Richard's family) believes it's perfectly fine to tell each other where they are going wrong in their lives. One person is told he eats too much, another that she is too angry all the time, etc. The problem isn't my accent. It's that my husband and MIL think they have a right to correct me for it, to judge me for it. I don't think they have that right at all. It's my accent, and therefore it's my business. They should leave me alone.

What do all of you think? If you're afraid to tell me the truth, feel free to write in as "anonymous." I'd love to have another perspective... though I doubt you'll change my mind (you can try, though).


  1. Ha! I'm not afraid to tell you the truth! I think your accent (in fact all your accents) are GREAT! And I've heard them.

    I not only always thought you SHOULD interview with a British accent, I still think it, so there!

    I think if you want to walk around with a Brit accent or a Cockney accent or a French accent or whatever, SO WHAT?

    My husband wears a kilt! That's cool.

    My daughter draws in sharpie on all her jeans. Not cool but distinctly her.

    Life is too damn short (and has too much stress) to suck any of the joy out of it, whether the joy is your or someone else's.


  2. I don't know...I think I'd start studying Klingon - and refuse to speak anything else for awhile.

    I am very sorry that Richard did not support you; he should have.

  3. Ah, this reminds me of the time my in-laws sat on MY couch and told me I was breaking up their family. Hubby sat by and said nothing. Almost got divorced, that day.

    I, as a rule, ignore my in-laws. It's a little harder to ignore the husband, though. Maybe he was forced into this? Or felt forced?

    Speaking in an accent is hardly grounds for an intervention. I can think of LOTS better reasons to have an argument with my spouse. You might remind him of that. I know I would.

  4. I am the same way, though I don't do it as often. I have always loved accents. My grandparents have a farm in Kentucky and I spent a lot of time there, so I started picking up the accent trying to perfect it. When I came home, i kept it up. I also love the British accent for the same reason. The word "shit" even sounds nice in that accent.

    I had a job in a home improvement store in high school as a cashier and I used a different accent every day. British, Kentucky, gentile southern accent, New York, New Jersey. It was fun.

    I say, ignore them. If someone feels the need to knock the wind out of someone's sails it is because they feel insecure about something themselves. If you are having fun with it, screw them! You are having fun and being creative, something that your MIL doesn't understand. She needs to learn to loosen up.


  5. I'm with The Mother... as a rule I ignore my in-laws because most of it's just nonsense. Blimey, who cares what accent you use as long as you're a caring, loving and fun person (which BTW it sounds like you are).

  6. I think it is more imporant to be a caring, loving, supportive person (which you sure sound like from what I have read) than how you speak. If we were all the same == what a boring world this would be.
    Hope you can find some way to educate your husband. Respect your MIL and ignore those things you are responsible for (like how you speak, what you enjoy, etc.) In other words - smile and let most things go in one ear, out the other.
    Good luck.

  7. If you lose the silly, you've grown up. Who wants to grow up?

    My bff in high school and I used to say "Joke em if they can't take a f". A messed up version of "F em if they can't take a joke". We used to have a blast no matter what we did. My partner is actually a lot like that too. Who knew that shopping for tires would be so entertaining? (One of my recent posts.)

  8. (my first comment vanished--this one will be shorter and less funny, sorry.)

    I used to speak with a British accent back in the day.
    Now I just use British terms like "housewife" and "skip".

    I also speak Klingon. Really. (Professional translator, actually)
    And speaking Klingon is TOTALLY different than speaking with a British accent.

    No one has to know that you're American.
    Your waiter isn't going to insist that you drop the accent.
    If my waiter realizes I'm capable of English, they're not going to want to hear another word of Klingon.

    It's your hobby. It costs NOTHING. Ignore them. Enjoy it.

  9. Thanks, everyone! You make me feel so much better! Nice to not be the only one who feels this way...

    Stephanie B: Actually, I forgot to list another reason I love accents--the days we spent reading Shakespeare with every accent imaginable. Thanks, as always, for your enthusiastic encouragement!

    Flit: Not sure Klingon is on the immediate horizon. Perhaps Spanish, since I know that pretty well... I've always wanted to learn Latin... and Italian... and Portuguese... and ... well, you get the picture.

    The Mother: That is exactly what it felt like--and intervention! I told my hubby later (after he was apologizing in every direction imaginable) that it felt like I was on drugs and they were recommending a good rehab. Terrible!

    Kelly B: LOVE the Kentucky accent! I wish I could manage New Jersey or New York. I have a really incomplete Boston, but other than that I can only say "Pahk the Cah, Nohman!" like my now deceased grandmother.

    Quadmama: Thanks for the "blimey"--makes me feel like I'm back in the old country again :).

    Flemisa: Great advice. I've been nice as can be to her--and she to me--since, and she hasn't mentioned the accent thing again. I doubt she will. She'll never admit it, but she likely figured out she'd gone too far.

    Lola: That's it! It makes everything more interesting--more fun. I should speak in a British accent next time I go buy tires. That sounds spectacular!

    roneyii: How amazing you are a Klingon translator. I wish I had that resource to fall back on. As soon as she said it, I could have spouted out a bunch of explanation in Klingon and refused to translate it for her. THAT would have fixed her!

    What a supportive bunch you all are! Thanks so much!

  10. what ever make life more enjoyable,

  11. As a Briton, there is nothing that annoys me more than when an American tries to put on a British accent, especially when they get it in their heads that 'British' means either 'Dick van Dyke' or 'posh'. I'm no fan of American accents, but if you came up to me trying to speak like Hugh Graarrrnt then I'd tell you to either speak in an American accent or belt up. It's like kids telling their grandparents about how much they hate modern music and how the Beatles were just so much better than everything else. It's pathetic, it's pretentious and it's obnoxious, and your husband's a good man for putting up with it for so long.

  12. Wow, TomR, I'm not sure whether to feel hurt or elated that you've commented on a post from over a year and a half ago.

    Be assure, before you grow too angry, that I would NEVER attempt my accent in front of a Briton. I do, however, tend to drift towards a person's accent, whether it be an American regional one, or more global.

    And every relationship is an exchange... we all put up with each other, now, don't we?