Accents Across The Pond

The Obscure Penguin

--- The Obscure Penguin ---

I arrived in Cirencester, England in the eighties,  The beautiful Cotswolds!  I got a job at an electronics factory making capacitors. They store energy and blah blah blah. The point is they were made of something like old analog tape, rolled in a certain way and wrapped tight. Then they're squashed. That was my job. I was a squasher, an assembly line guy who squashed the capacitors. Basically they rolled toward me on a conveyor belt and I had a one-armed bandit kind of thing that would lower the squasher. I think you understand how utterly mindless and repetitious the job was. So I was on the night shift at this factory with only women. I was the only man in the factory with the exception of the mechanic, Andy Wright. Men would work during the day, but if women worked they were on the night shift. Honestly, they didn't really respect my work ethic because I was utterly bored with the job and needed distraction, but they liked me because I was an exotic American guy. And by the way, our modern HR departments would have been overwhelmed had I complained, but of course, why would I?
Andy and I were always called upon to do the lifting and delivering and if we delivered something, we would always make a point to stop at the pub while we were out. It was winter. The English pub is a wonderful thing, especially when it's cold. Andy and I would drink a pint, hanging out by the fireplace with a huge Irish Wolfhound. One night after just such a distraction, we headed back to work. The roads were icy. Andy was driving.
I'm telling him a story about Texas with a Texas accent.  He wanted to hear it like that.  The tv show "Dallas" was big in those days. The English thought all Texans had big ranches and were rich like J.R. Ewing and spoke with a drawl.  I was trying to explain how that wasn't so when Andy hit some black ice. I'm pretty sure we did two 360s. He said we did three. What I remember is trying very hard to concentrate on my story while we're spinning. We came to a stop and Andy, dumbfounded, just stared at me. He said I can't believe you just kept talking when we could have been killed! I said in my best drawl "Naw, I used to do donuts in the Church of Christ parking lot. You had it under control, Bubba."
That's the job I had before I started working at the Cirencester Brewing Company with the owner, Andrew Dunipace. The brewery was in an old wine cellar. I took great pains to try to affect an English accent and pass as English, although I was taller than most. I had been a theatre major so I believed I should be good at that. I dressed as the English and went to shops and ordered things but I would always betray myself. "I'll have two filets." "You mean fillets." (like fill the bucket)  And the best I would get is, "are you Canadian?"  The English ear is finely and ruthlessly tuned to accents. Their class system is partly indicated by accent and pronunciation. Wouldn't want the rabble pretending to be above their station!
Anyway, I'm in the brewery one summer and an American couple came down the stairs and were amazed by the set-up. It wasn't elaborate or large but it was authentic with a large mash tun and lots of firkins, or kegs.  I gave them the tour, trying my best to convince them of my English authenticity. They said they were from Wisconsin and after the tour the guy wanted to tip me. It may not be this way today in the U.K., but back then, tipping was considered bad form. I politely declined, confident I was communicating an air of English superiority. They thanked me and walked up the stairs. I overheard them as they left. She said "That's funny. He didn't sound English." He said, " I know. Some of them do, some of them don't."