In my early twenties I made the decision to become English, at least in writing. I had moved away from the tiny, toxic town I’d grown up in, changed my first name and changed my accent from the Deliverance-worthy American Southern thing I’d been raised with to a generic American accent. But I needed to put more distance between myself and the first twenty years of my life.
I could not be anything like the small-minded people I was raised around or the terrible people who’d done terrible things to me. I was building a wall that consisted of extra ‘u’s and ‘s’ where there used to be ‘z’s. Some people drink or take drugs in order to separate themselves from what they don’t want to face. I learned a dialect of English. I’ve always been a word person, what can I say.
Becoming English in writing took no small amount of work—there are over 3,000 words and phrases that are used differently or that don’t exist between the two countries. Then there are certain, minor grammatical differences. I bought books and watched obscure TV shows and made notes like you wouldn’t believe. I knew more about the British news than the news in the U.S. because the World Service was what I listened to and the BBC News site was what I read.
I figured that, if it was important enough and it happened in the U.S., it would make the British news.
A British food shop opened near my house and I bought everything I ate from there except milk but that was because they didn’t carry milk. That’s how I learned about English food. It’s not bad—the names are just questionable.
Much like altering my accent, it wasn’t long before what had started with conscious effort became second nature. Items that had two names became confounding—some months into my conversion to English I found myself staring at a biscuit and I couldn’t think what an American would call it (a cookie). Then they naturally switched to whatever the ‘correct’ name was.
When I asked at a shop for something and the assistant didn’t know what I meant I realized the word needed to be translated to American. I took it as a sign of progress. My brain could be trained to think differently from how I was raised. What was considered the only way was alterable if you made the effort.
I was moving further from my roots mentally if not physically.
(This turned out to be quite useful once I married an Englishman and he moved to the States, as we didn’t have communication difficulties. If he wanted a courgette I told him to look at the zucchini and now cotton was going to be thread because in the States cotton is what he’d call cotton wool.)
I wasn’t trying to deceive anyone—I never told anyone I lived in England or was English—it was a survival tactic to deal with what I needed to deal with. It wasn’t about impressing anyone. It wasn’t about other people at all. It was entirely to do with separating myself from my background.
Which is similar to how the American language came about. Noah Webster decided the U.S. should have different spellings just to be different from Britain. He also thought words should look more like they sound (good job there, bucko!) so when he was making the first Webster’s Dictionary he changed spellings of words. And that’s why American English is spelled differently from every single other English in the world. Just because.
He also wanted to spell ‘women’ ‘wimmin’ but someone reined him in on that.
However, if he’d got his way and words looked like they sounded we wouldn’t have three words that sound like ‘thair’–but not one of which is spelled that way.
But I digress.
One of the tenets of being a good submissive or slave (or D-type) is knowing yourself and being honest about who you are. It’s being aware of the garbage from your past and confronting it. Rather than building walls made of books full of idioms and cultural references.
So, reluctantly, I shall be returning to the States after a fifteen year hiatus. Though I will jettison ‘u’s and swap out some ‘z’s, which I suppose I have to start calling ‘zees’, I refuse to re-adopt my original accent. Trust me, no one wants that. Likewise on my birth name. When characters on TV and in movies have that name they are always prostitutes and strippers. Always. Thanks, mom.
The idea of taking off this piece of armor—and it does feel like removing something that was protecting me from others—makes my heart race. Lowering a protective barrier I’d carefully built one swing and roundabout at a time is scary and makes me feel vulnerable.
But just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it’s not a healthy decision.
I’m keeping certain phrases, though. Some just sound better, more fluid. ‘At the weekend’ sounds better than ‘on the weekend’.
‘Identity parade’ sounds better than a ‘police lineup’, no? But I rarely need that phrase.
And everyone should use ‘whilst’ whilst I’m on the subject. And ‘shan’t’.
And I’m keeping all the swears.