Sorry, Surrey

We had an off-site meeting at work the other day and I was walking to it with some co-workers. I’m always interested in where people live, both within and without London, though my concept of geography is an embarrassment. Not just English geography, but American geography as well. Hell, even NY geography baffles me. I’m not as bad as my sister, though: the first day she drove herself to high school she got lost. In the town where we grew up. On her way to a school she’d been to daily for two years.

As we were walking to the meeting Hannah was telling me about her town. “It’s a little town, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it. It’s south of London.”

Ah-ha! I knew the county south of London!

“Is it in Kent?” I asked.

“Sorry?” she said.

“Is it in Kent?” I repeated.

“Sorry?” she said.

I thought, Wow, my accent is really terrible if someone can’t understand a single syllable word. I repeated it very carefully: “Kent…”

Before Hannah could answer again Roland, who’s from Chicago, said, “She’s saying Surrey. Not sorry, Surrey.”

And that was pretty much the amusing high point of the entire off-site meeting. It’s good Roland said something because that could have gone on forever.

Another time a co-worker, Mark, told me he was from a place near the Scottish border called Carl Isle.

“Oh cool! Is it really an island?” I asked this because of the whole Isle of Dogs not really being an island thing. He just looked at me blankly. “You know, because of Isle? Carl Isle? Is it really an…” And then I realized he’d been saying Carlisle, which is a city up near Hadrian’s Wall, and that there probably aren’t many islands in the northwest of England.

To be fair to myself, accents are more than just the elongation of vowels and glottal stops. For one thing intonation can be different. Hannah’s “Surrey.” sounded like a question to me because of how her tone rose on the second syllable and so I translated it to “Sorry?”. Likewise breaks and pauses in words and sentences may be different. I would pronounce Carlisle with no break in between syllables: “Carl-lisle,” while Mark pronounced it as almost two different words: “Carl-isle”.

It was George Bernard Shaw who said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” Of course, he was Irish.

Here’s a link to an interesting blog I found about the differences between American English and British English. (She’s a far more regular blogger than I am. I promise to try harder. I’m talking to you, Mo’leary.)

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~ by kellly333 on March 21, 2007.

3 Responses to “Sorry, Surrey”

  1. Julie Andrews hails from Surrey. Just thought you might like to know.

  2. How you can eat this strange green stuff ???.
    By the way, welcome to my “weird” world plenty of Sorrys and Surreys.. They sound the same, don´t they ??.

    A big huge from NY.

  3. I like that you’re mking the effort. The more you post the more I’ll reply.

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