Thursday, June 29, 2006

Righteous Indignation

For the last couple years, while I have been coming to the United Kingdom, there has been one phrase that I keep hearing in one form or another directed at my person. That phrase is: "You talk strangely." It may not always be phrased that way. It is sometimes as innocuous as a strange askance look when I a word.

Some times it is as good natured and humorous as having words that I pronounce "strangely" parodied back to me with my accent exaggerated to an extreme. ("Cheddar" is one that I get a lot.) It is sometimes as offensive as having someone protest that Americans cannot speak English and I should learn that the language was invented here in the UK and that I should speak the way they do.

This last one is the most humorous as the language was not "invented" in the UK. While it may have been cobbled together from a base of the German with bits and pieces stolen from practically every other language on the planet here in the British Isles, but (and I am sorry to inform the language snobs who keep insisting that the UK invented English) English predates the formation of the United Kingdom by a good many years!

It is in this spirit of good natured mirth brought about by my strange pronunciation that gave me one of the best laughs I have had in quite a while over here. The occasion of my amusement was last night at The Ferry tavern just up the road from my home in Thames Ditton. I went in there with a coworker that was in-town for some meetings today and so he stayed over night at The Villa.

We had a couple beers after dinner at the tavern and it was just our luck that the pub had a live musician last night as the featured entertainer. In all honesty, the guy was pretty good! He did some pretty faithful renditions of some great old songs. I can fault neither his interpretation or his execution of most of the songs he chose. It was, in fact, not until his encore that I found anything at all humorous in his performance.

His choice of encore, however made me snicker. Let me just say, if you have never heard someone with a northern English accent sing Lynyrd Skynyrd, you have no idea of what you are missing! It occurred to me that of all the people in the pub, it was likely that I was the only one who had ever actually been to Alabama! At the conclusion of his song, I mentioned to him that while his performance was excellent, it did afford me an opportunity to use a line that had so often been used on me!

"The way you say that," I said affecting my best Alabama accent "it just ain't right! Y'all just cain't sing that song convincingly." In response to his questions, I informed him that, although the city may have the same spelling as the one here in the UK, the state capital of Birmingham actually pronounces all the letters in Alabama instead of swallowing half of them as is done when it is pronounced over here.

I hope that today something gives you reason for mirth!

Don Bergquist - 29 June 2006 - (Still Chuckling!) Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sweet Home Alabama
by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the Southland
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think its a sin, yes

Well I heard mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
Here I come Alabama

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they've been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

Sweet home Alabama
Oh sweet home baby
Where the skies are so blue
And the governor's true
Sweet Home Alabama
Lordy Lord, I'm coming home to you

Yea, yea Montgomery's got the answer

1 comment:

Don Bergquist said...

It has been pointed out to me (by my brother who lives in Alabama, that I have made a slight error in this article. Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, not Birmingham.

Here is what Denis wrote:

The line about Birmingham loving the governor deals with the activities of the previous decade with Bull "water hoses and dogs" Connor in Birmingham and George "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" Wallace.

So, how do we pronounce the capital of the state of Alabama, USA - Mont-gum-er-ee. How do they pronounce it over there?