One of my new neighbours/bors (in deference to how she would spell it, I don’t know if she is a good speller, just assuming she might be) is called Cara.
When you’re Australian and you’re called Cara, both of the a’s are pronounced with the a sound from car. Car-a.
When you’re American and you’re called Cara, its more like the a sound in can for both ‘a’s. Cara.
When Cara introduced herself to me she did so using the American pronunciation and I have followed her lead, giving myself what other Aussies would term an American accent when I use her name.
I do this deliberately having actually put thought into the process. Why should I change the way she says her name just because my accent is different to hers? My friend Cara in South Africa will remain addressed in the way she introduced herself to me – the longer a sound. Just because we all speak english with different accents doesn’t mean we can’t try to call someone their name they way they say it.
I have an Aussie friend in Durban who has a South African husband called Mark, Aussies again here do the ‘car’ sound for Mark – she has totally converted to the Saffa accent and it sounds a lot closer to Mork to my ears, but to his ears its just perfect, because its how he says his own name and I have a sneaking suspicion he doesn’t love the Australian accent, although he does love his Australian wife.
I only have to recall my time working in an office in Hong Kong with Creamy, Apple, Homer and Maverick* to know that there are obviously many people like me out there, unable to master the Chinese language, and tired of butchered attempts these clued up individuals have picked themselves a more easily pronounced English alternative.
I would never have dreamed of trying to ‘Australianise’ Mvithi, Sanele or Njabulo in South Africa and while not being born in a country that learns to roll their rrrrrs I always tried my best with Birgit and Marga my German and Dutch friends. I mightn’t always get it right mind you but I try with the best of intentions.
Enter the world’s angriest six year old (WASYO – known until just last week is WAFYO) fierce advocate of saying people’s names how they do themselves, her Zulu accent being particularly good and mine particularly bad – but becoming frustrated with the mixed messages she is receiving at school.
‘Your daughter has just the cutest accent, say something honey’ is regular commentary when we’re out and about. WASYO has what is known as an Umhlanga South African english accent and is sometimes paraded before other classroom teachers and visitors to the classroom and told to ‘talk’.
It is precisely because everyone makes a fuss of her accent that she reduced herself to tears the other night saying that no one understands her. Her grandmother was worried six was the new thirteen when she explained the ‘not understanding’ part were the children in her class because of her accent. There was a lot of focus on the word Tuesday for some reason.
‘They say its Toosday and I say it like it has a ‘ch’ sound – Chewsday. But it doesn’t start with a Ch it starts with a T’
Confusing times for a Third Culture Kid learning to spell.
What to do, what to do? Struggling with knowing her current accent is an attention getter (positive in her book) but that her peers can’t always understand her (negative in her book) we decided its OK to have an American accent for school and her ‘other’ accent everywhere else, and its perfectly acceptable for people to say words differently, thats just what happens in the world. Two days since the decision and already the old accent is fading fast – that’s fast with a short a.
* These names have not been changed to protect the innocent, these are real people and real names *waving*