I love accents, and I kinda always have. I also love to learn how to mimic them, and I kinda always have. When I was a kid, I used to think that someday I would grow out of this tendency, but so far it’s still with me, and thank gawd for that. My favorite accents to do are two of the most difficult ones. Liverpudlian (from Liverpool, England), otherwise known as the Beatles’ accent, with its sing-songy inflections and cadences and hard G’s on the ends of words (like ‘everythinG’) took quite a while and many repeated viewings of A Hard Day’s Night in order to master it.
My newest favorite is Australian, which I could never figure out until I listened to a book on tape, and found to my eternal delight that since it was an Australian story, they used an Australian actor to read it. Brilliant! Finally I had the chance to really hone in on the details of the accent, and realized that it’s all in the vowels. They change, halfway through, as you flatten out the back of your tongue. In fact, the phrase ‘change halfway through’ is the phrase that I used to lapse into the accent, and it’s now the phrase I use to explain to people how to hear it.
I told you that story to tell you this one. The other night, I had just gotten home from seeing Ponyo with LJ (we both were lukewarm about it; it’s meant more for kids than many of his others are) and my building mates were standing in the street talking as I parked my car. They were going to the Sandy Hut, and they invited me to join them. We jumped in Flutist’s car and off we went. While there, Cellist and his girlfriend have a favorite video game they like to play, so when it was free, they got up to play, and that left Flutist and me by ourselves.
We were sitting and talking, when a girl walked up next to our table to look at the mural that’s on the wall. (I find it hard to believe that multiple Internet searches were unable to find me a picture of said mural.) It’s a collage of a bunch of caricatures of famous people from the past, like W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, people like that, and it’s fair to say that it does attract attention and start conversations. So anyway, the girl. She stood there looking at the mural, and asked us who this one particular person was supposed to be. So we all started talking about that, and that’s when Flutist and I noticed that she had an Australian accent. Turned out that she was traveling with two or three of her guy friends, and they found themselves in Portland for a day or so. We talked about that, and Flutist has been to Australia a couple of times (has family there, in fact) and she told the girl that I do a great accent. The girl actually wanted to introduce me to her friends, because it was the best accent she’d heard so far, and she thought it would be funny to make a new Aussie friend in a random bar in a random part of this crazy little city. She asked how I did it, and I told her about the ‘halfway through’ thing, which Flutist is aware of too, because I’ve told her about it before.
After the discussion of accents (she also wanted to know how to improve her American), she started to tell me and Flutist about an idea for a comedy skit she’d been working on. She explained it to us, and it was something about two guys who go outside to smoke, and something about getting ‘halfway through’ their cigarettes when hijinks suddenly ensue. Flutist and I cracked up laughing every time she said ‘halfway through’ so we missed a little bit of what she was trying to tell us. We did get the gist, however, and it was kind of funny, but she interpreted our outbursts as if we were laughing at the actual joke, so she asked, “So you guys thought it was that funny? You think it could really go somewhere?” With a healthy dose of diplomacy, we told her that it was pretty funny, but what actually sent us into hysterics was the fact that she said ‘halfway through’ about four times, and Flutist knows that’s my Australian catch phrase, so to be sitting next to a cute Australian girl who was using that exact phrase was just too perfect.
After about fifteen more minutes, her friends whisked her away and they all left to go elsewhere. Flutist and I filled in Cellist and his girlfriend, who had returned to our table during the telling of the joke, on the back story and the significance of of the coincidental phrase, and Flutist added, to me, “You charmed the pants off her.” “I’ve got my moments,” I replied through a wry smile.
The young kid in me, who loved accents but always thought that he would eventually grow out of all this nonsense, was overjoyed and felt completely vindicated by the whole experience. Funny how life works sometimes.