Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Water and butter

The equivalent of me trying to speak AmE 
It's been over a year since I moved to the US, and I have to say that I think I'm pretty well settled, and not just in the circumstantial sense (house, car job). I feel like I live here and, as I've mentioned before, leaving here makes me feel like I'm leaving "home", albeit not in quite the same way as leaving England did and does. I feel settled, and very fortunate to be in that state of mind this early in the game.

Of course, my Englishness is still probably my most prominent feature when people first meet me, and this was never more obvious than today when, in Harris Teeter (like Tesco, but nowhere near as good in terms of range or price), I went to get a sandwich from the deli'. I asked for butter on my bread, rather than mayonnaise or mustard (the two things I was offered), and was met with a totally perplexed (although still friendly) look from the lady serving me. At first I thought it was because of the abomination of not selecting mayo - something that Ben finds hard to understand, too. It seems it's quite normal to use mayo in sandwiches in NC in the same way we use butter back home: to moisten the bread a little. However, I see butter as a bland spread (if it's the unsalted, lower fat variety) so it is a simply functional addition rather than really adding any flavour, whereas mayonnaise definitely has that vinegar tang to it, which changes the taste of the sandwich. Plus you can get egg or chicken mayo sandwich fillings, so then do you double up your mayonnaise, or simply put the filling between the bread and chow down?

But I digress. The lady at the counter was not balking at my choice of bread lubricant, but puzzled because she did not know what I had asked for. Because I cannot - and will not, because I sound ridiculous and a little bit like I'm taking the mickey - say "budder", many Americans don't know what I am asking for. The annunciation of the "t" has a habit of throwing people here, and the following conversation is not uncommon:

Me: Could I have it with butter, please.
Lady: With what, ma'am?
Me: Butter, please?
Lady: What?
Me: Butter. You know, like margarine, but not margarine? The good stuff?
Lady: Oh! Budder!

The same thing happens with "wadder", another word for which it seems impossible for me to soften or fake my accent. It's happened in restaurants more times than I can remember.

But we get there in the end. Once the lady knew I wanted butter, we laughed about whole thing. She then went in search of some, and quickly returned with it. In a bottle.

I've still got a way to go.


  1. No! It's the R! We can't hear the R on the end!!!! That's what I think at least... maybe....

    1. Is that it? I really don't know!

  2. Eww! Butter in a bottle?! :S

  3. Oh my. Bottled butter. I haven't stumbled across that yet.

    And I get the same thing with water/butter too.

    I volunteer at a soup kitchen and when the manager clocked I was British he asked "can you say 'water' for me?"

    I obliged, and he just fell about "you say it 'war-terr' - that's quaint!" and then we had a conversation about the movie Love Actually :)

    1. Yes, it's not something I care to experience again!

      It's great that you are volunteering in the US already. When did you start doing that?

      "Quaint" is something I expected to hear more of when people talk about England/English/my accent, but it hasn't happened much. It's a funny word because it can sound patronising, but I think it's meant affectionately!


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