There’s no denying that I was kind of an odd child–not so much in an overt, point and stare at the weird girl kind of way, more so in an understated quirky way. Also, from a pretty early age, I had a fascination with most things British. The Union Jack, Big Ben, my namesake the Queen! And the accents, oh the accents! Everyone sounded so smart and proper! It’s not that my life was bad, I was just pretty sure it would be a little bit better if I were British.
Now, this may not sound all that unusual. After all, it was the 80s, and who wouldn’t be mad about the Brits, what with Duran Duran, the Police, and Kajagoogoo (just to name a few) all over the radio waves? The first pop record album (yes, the big black vinyl things with the grooves in them) that I ever bought was Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers. I played it over and over, and, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what karma was or what it had to do with chameleons, I sang along, usually loud and off-key.
But there was one burning question on my mind: what was with the extraneous u in colour? After further investigation, I learned that the British even had a special way of spelling things! I mean, how cool is that (and by cool, I mean utterly fascinating to a curious and somewhat dorky nine-year-old)? But hold on a second, those Brits, they were the inventors of the English language, so their way of spelling must be the right way, right? It only made sense to me.
Before long, I decided to adopt British spelling. I realised and recognised, whereas my less-cultured (or so I thought) classmates realized and recognized. I had colourful neighbours about whom I told humourous rumours. My teachers scratched their heads.
Surprisingly, I never attempted to cultivate an English accent for use in my everyday life, nor did I pronounce schedule with a shhh. Also, I never adopted the British spellings for things like centre and litre. Something about the re was off-putting to me and looked like it should be pronounced differently. To this day, when I see Fruit ‘n Fibre cereal, in my head, I say “fruit and feebray.”
Eventually, I grew tired of the red marks on my school papers and reverted back to my old vulgar (I’m joking here, don’t get your knickers in a twist) American ways of spelling. The one remnant I still hold onto is grey, which is primarily used in the UK but doesn’t raise too many eyebrows here in the States.
And I still love the accents.