Triple Take

   We hadn’t been in England very long before I, as young people will, started picking up the various English accents. The Cockney accent was the most fun, and the most useful to know since my parents, especially my Mother, couldn’t understand it easily, and I sometimes had to translate for her, and on occasion translate her Midwest accent for the local sales people. And, as a child will, I sometimes just played around with the accent. And that is just what I was doing one weekend when my parents and I and another couple and their son went to Oxford to have a look at the University and Law Quadrangles there.

It is usually easy to spot someone from another country, and Americans were easy enough for the English to identify, and with my black and white saddle shoes and a red trimmed white coat, I was obviously American. Which is what accidentally set up the situation.

British barristers make a fetish of being proper, in their bowler hats with the inevitable black umbrella in hand along with a brief case. And that was just the way this paragon of the legal profession was dressed, in his dark suit, and air of being both important and busy. Such an upper class member of Britain’s legal profession would never ordinarily deign to notice mere tourists. But he did notice us… I unintentionally saw to that!!

There I was, and obviously American girl, chattering away in a definitely working class cockney accent! What his eyes had seen definitely didn’t match what his ears were hearing. Before he realized what he was doing, he just had to stop to take a second look! Then he realized we had seen him taking that second look, and strode off as if he’d never done any such thing. But my accent was just too much. Before he could prevent himself from doing it, he stopped to take a third look! By now, he knew the adults in our group were watching him, so he put on a stern face that clearly said, “Crazy Americans”.

Jan Wertz


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