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May 16, 2005

My Fair Lady

Visitors to England, even those raised by English parents, should expect to have their pronunciation and colloquialisms challenged upon their arrival. The expression "I'm good", for example, was near invisible to me until I was roundly mocked for using it when asked if I would like my gin and tonic refreshed. "Only God knows if you are good," was suggested. "We know you are good," was another, "but would you like more gin?" I am told the turn of phrase is employed only by "chavs", "Essex girls" and "people sucking up to Americans." But what about those of us for whom it is as indigenous as the Americans to whom people are sucking up? No good answer was given.

Despite the beating my vocabulary has suffered I do know to enunciate the letter-H in "herb", an habit that has fallen into disuse in Canada echoing, I fear, the usage of our southern neighbours. An American friend corrected me recently, H-minus. I quoted Eddie Izzard to the effect that the word is pronounced "herb, because there is a f***ing H in it." This no more convinced my American chum than any of my Canadianisms pass muster with my English friends and relatives. My yet more clever rejoinder follows: "In 'ertford, 'ereford and 'ampshire 'urricanes 'ardly ever 'appen." She did not get the reference. But then she has a PhD from MIT and one must make allowances.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 16, 2005 11:33 AM

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