my coworker has started faking a British accent

A reader writes:

So this question is … more just truly bizarre than anything. But recently, a coworker of mine has decided she is now British and has been regularly slipping into a thick British accent — very Madonna-esque.

On one hand, I guess live your life. On the other hand, OH MY GOD, WHAT? It’s truly impossible not to notice and has been gradually noticed by hordes of people within the office at this point, yet nobody really knows how to even begin processing this new information. Do we just carry on as normal? Is this what life is now? I suppose it really isn’t harming anyone — but wow is it something.

To expand on this, though we can’t fully unpack what the reasoning behind all of this is — it feels a bit like a personal branding play. Thanks for indulging!

Sit back and enjoy, because this kind of thing is what life is all about. Humans are weird! So weird, in so many different ways. Often that weirdness is hidden and comes out in ways that shock and disappoint you, after the person lulled you into thinking you knew what to expect from them. So it’s lovely when someone wears their weirdness like a peacock’s plumes, right there for all to see from the get-go.

And this is the sort of amazing and wonderful thing that makes work more interesting. You don’t need to worry about determining exactly where it’s coming from or why, although you should also feel free to indulge yourself in private speculation (emphasis on private; do not mock her with others). Does she believe she now sounds more sophisticated? (That was the Madonna theory, right?) Has she been binge watching British TV and picked it up without realizing it? Is she in disguise or possibly on the lam? Was she actually British this whole time and it was the American accent that was the fake? There are so many possibilities, and each one is fascinating.

So my advice to you: ENJOY THIS SPECTACLE. Another one so intriguing may not pass your way again for a while.

{ 711 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Poster*

    I’d pick up an awful southern accent after visiting relatives in Alabama, and could fake a Texas and Canadian one after living in/near these places.

    It’s fun! As long as everything this coworker says is still intelligible, it’s just goofy.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I’m originally from the south, but now live in the Midwest. I can slide into a southern accent SUPER easy. When I used to work with customers, I’d have to really focus to not do it so they didn’t think I was mocking them.

      1. Beatrice*

        I’m the same! I have a new hire who still has his accent, and every time I have a conversation with him, I catch myself droppin’ my g’s afterward. Makes me homesick.

        1. Anion*

          Me, too. I ridded myself of the drawl after a decade in Miami, but it’s awfully easy to slide back into it if I’m talking to someone with the same or a similar accent, or a Southern one.

      2. Becky*

        Ditto! When I am talking to my mother on the phone I start sounding really southern.

      3. Facepalm*

        I met this cute British kid once and was surprised when her mom had an American accent, but figured they’d lived abroad or the dad was English. Nope, her mom wearily replied. She’d just watched waaaay too much Peppa Pig.

        1. Rana*

          Yes. My preschooler is full of Britishisms due to Peppa Pig, Kipper, and Sarah & Duck.

        2. On Fire*

          We had a German exchange student when I was in high school, but she spoke English with practically no accent. I asked her about it once, and she said her family had lived in the States briefly when she was a tiny child, and had taken stacks upon stacks of Disney movies when they went home to Germany. She grew up watching those and subsequently spoke English like the movies/cartoons.

          My mom has mentioned that when spending time with her African-American friends, she’ll find herself slipping into the accent and word usages common among the A-A communities in our area. And if I’m watching a lot of British TV, I end up thinking in a British/Irish accent.

          1. Chinook*

            Living in Japan, I started speaking with a slight Scottish accent/grammar due to reading Diana Gabaldon and the only other interaction I had in English was with my ESL students. It got bad enough that I got my parents to send me a taped copy of the Canada Day programming so that I could play it in a loop in our reception area so I could be reminded of what I was being paid to sound like.

            1. Minocho*

              ::high fives fellow former English teacher in Japan::

              My prefecture mostly had Brits, with a lot of Canadians. I was quite unusual as an American from the midwest. I got mocked incessantly for calling soda “pop”, it’s when I first adopted the word soda. Now I’ve been living in Texas for a decade, and using the term “soda” is by far the easiest broad option. I will NOT call all soda “coke”. So confusing.

              I was sick a month ago and accidently referred to the “pop machine” at work. The looks and grimaces I got were…amusing, and slightly embarassing.

              (Yeah, I lived in the town of Minocho. Not the most imaginative name…)

              1. PhyllisB*

                Come to Mississippi, and I guarantee someone’s going to ask you what kind of coke you want.

                1. Minocho*

                  Yeah, the conversation:

                  “Would you like a coke?”
                  “No, thank you. Do you have Dr. Pepper?”
                  “What, but I thought you didn’t want a coke!”

                  was very disorienting, at first.

              2. hellion*

                Canadians mocked you for calling soda pop? I’m Canadian and I’ve never heard anything other than pop.

                1. Minocho*

                  No. I’m from Michigan, and it’s obviously “pop” there too. Went to college in Ohio, no issues with “pop” there.

                  It was mostly the Brits and other Americans that mocked me for calling it “pop”. I had been in the northern middle states my whole life, and hadn’t realized it was a localized term. Took going to Japan to understand that. :)

          2. Julia*

            That’s how this German here learned to speak English. (Well, not through Disney, but through Gilmore Girls.) A few years ago, my husband and I were doing a Harry-Potter-then-Sherlock movie marathon – result? I am forbidden from even attempting a British accent, because I apparently sound like Hermione Granger. (We do have the same hair…)

          3. SarahTheEntwife*

            I spent a year as an exchange student in Germany, and one of the German kids in the same program had done her year in Texas. When she spoke English, almost across the board her consonants were German and her vowels were Texan. It was the best thing.

        3. Bryce*

          My dad’s from England and I joke that I grew up bilingual. Between watching Britcoms on PBS, British editions of books in his fantasy/sci-fi collection, and other British culture stuff like toad-in-a-hole or the Mr Men children’s books, I picked up a lot without realizing it. The main difficulty for me was spelling tests; some words just didn’t look right without an “extra” U or an S instead of a Z.

          1. Popcorn Lover*

            My parents are from India but their childhoods were full of British books, and so consequently was mine. Grew up reading Famous Five and Mallory Towers, alongside Tom Sawyer and Little Women. Bonus, though: I recently ducked just under a word limit for a scientific article submission by changing all instances of “most common” to “commonest”!

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            I did the spelling thing too! I had a lot of teachers in grade school who asked if I was Canadian.

        4. PhyllisB*

          I’m as Southern as they come, but when I read books by Irish or British authors, (especially Marcia Willett and Maeve Binchy) I find myself reading the dialogue to myself in a brisk British accent and find myself saying things like “you lot” and “sort yourself out” to people for a few days.

          1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

            I’ve been watching a lot of Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra (with some Eurogamer sprinkled in) and they’re all just delightful British people so now while I stay clear of the accent, I’ve definitely adopted some of the patterns of speech/colloquialisms.

      4. Mel*

        My kids say that is when they can tell I am *really* mad, because my GA accent comes flying out.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I used to have a very strong Brooklyn accent. That nobody in the rest of my family had despite living/growing up in Brooklyn. After much mockery, I trained myself out of most of it, so you’ll catch some slips here and there and specific words, but it’s just a little flavor not the main punch.

          Unless you piss me off. Then I sound like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. I had a manager once who witnessed the epic explosion of accent, and she couldn’t even be mad at the situation I was upset over* because she was too busy laughing at my accent.

          My husband uses it to judge how mad I am and when it’s time for him to shut up (if he’s purposely egging me on (it’s okay, we’re chopbusters, sometimes it’s me doing it to him)).

          *We were blowing a deadline with a client coming in *that morning* to view/make revisions because the service bureau didn’t follow directions.

          1. starsaphire*

            OK, so maybe you can explain…

            …what’s a yute? ;)

            (Oh come on, SOMEBODY had to!)

            1. animaniactoo*


              Itsa one a da young peeple. Notta grownup yet. Ya know wha I’m tawkin about?

              (Talk is one of the few words we can’t eradicate the accent for. Everything else feels/sounds abnormal. The word is Tawk. As per school peers and comparing accents from different parts of the country…)

            2. A. Ham*

              Am I the only one that read that as a My Cousin Vinny reference?
              “These two yutes.. “

              1. A. Ham*

                Aaaaannndd i just went back and read this whole thing more carefully and realized it was very explicitly stated in the first comment. sorry, i’m dumb…

          2. turquoises*

            hah! That’s beautiful. I’m basically picturing you delivering your office rant while wearing that floral catsuit and stomping y0ur feet like that scene at the hunting cabin.

            Annnnd now I’m hungry for grits.

            1. animaniactoo*

              iirc it was blue jeans, a bodysuit of a color I don’t remember (must have been something fairly neutral – beige or tan maybe?), brown pinstripe vest, and black boots. And there was foot stomping. But not much. Massive amounts of arm/handwaving though!

              Looking back, I can admit it was probably pretty epic and I can laugh at it myself. Right then I was PISSED OFF. (I mean, what’s the point of having a space for a phone number on the job form if you’re not going to call the phone number even when it says “Call no matter what time” for an overnight job? Because you can’t locate a font on your system that I’ve personally given you and shown you where it is on your system several times? There was a lot of “IT SEZ IT RAIGHT THERE!”)

          3. MCsAngel2*

            OMG, I’ve been watching My Cousin Vinny clips on Youtube a lot lately. The way Marisa Tomei says “Howevah” in the 1955 Bel Air trick question bit is my favorite.

      5. Alex the Alchemist*

        YEP. From the South, now living in New Jersey. Whenever I come back from visits/phone calls with my family, my friends become very entertained with my accent for a couple days.

      6. LavaLamp*

        I recently listened to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and talked in a southern accent for three days. I was annoying myself with it, but it was like some switch in my brain was stuck that way for awhile.
        Also; excellent book, totally recommend it.

      7. Rich*

        I spent more than a decade as a traveling consultant and would have the same thing happen. I made an effort to minimize the amount of accent I picked up for the same reason as you. But I’d go whole-hog on colloquialisms on site/in area. I found it made communicating with clients easier since it was such an obvious break from typical stuffy consultant speak. People would tend to relax and tell me what they needed rather than try to frame it all overly business sounding passive voice office babble. It was pretty helpful.

      8. Emmie*

        Same here also! It’s completely subconscious. I pick up other people’s accents when I spend a lot of time with them. This habit would likely be strange to coworkers. Perhaps there she’s sliding into an old accent, a family member’s accent, or spends a lot of time with Brits.

      9. Alli525*

        I’m originally from the Midwest, but I lived in the South from middle school through college, and now that I’m living in NYC, boy do both of those accents come in handy occasionally. My southern accent is useful for calls to customer service especially.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          What is it about the southern accent that helps with calls to customer service? On either end of the phone, actually. If I’m the caller, the person answering seems to be more helpful when I turn on the southern. Likewise, when I’m answering, turning on the southern seems to soothe people.

          It’s not much of an accent, either. My natural accent is pretty close to the “accentless” broadcaster accent, but as long as I don’t try to sound like I’m a) from a specific part of the south and b) anywhere further south than Tennessee, I can generally pull it off.

          1. Jennifer*

            Damn. This really makes me want to do a Southern accent at work except I am nowhere near the South and I’m sure anyone around here hearing me would think like the LW.

            1. MerciMe*

              I can say from experience that it plays… oddly at work. I have a speech impediment. If I am having diction problems that day, I overpronounce things and sound (I am told by Americans) British. If I am having trouble closing sounds off, it sounds like a southern drawl. Sometimes it’s just easier to let people think I have an accent than to deal with stigma. But I end up having to disclose to people I work with consistently, because it weirds them out otherwise. It’s super frustrating.

      10. Mrs. Fenris*

        I’m from a small town in Georgia but I live in Atlanta now, where the accent is almost nonexistent (plus a ton of transplants from other areas). I had toned down my accent quite a bit until I worked closely with a colleague from Alabama. After that I just gave up. Enunciating that carefully was too much work anyway.

      11. Valerie Feria-Isacks*

        You could be bidilectical if you learned both *before* the age of 20. Lots of people have more than one native/natural accent. Gillian Anderson, that dude from Torchwood/Arrow, etc. Many TCKs (third culture kids) myself included are.
        As for the OP co-worker could be and I guess it’s a way to politely ask … but if they’re not you’ll have to drop it there.

        1. MCsAngel2*

          *Dude from Torchwood/Arrow = John Barrowman. Born in Scotland, family moved to US when he was 9. He speaks American unless he’s talking to a family member.

        2. DoctorRose*

          John Barrowman is originally from Scotland. He and his sister were bullied because of their accents so that taught themselves how to speak without it. When John talks to his mom n dad in Scotland the accent comes back.

          The other guy in Torchwood Owen is American but speaks with a British accent.

        3. WS*

          Yeah, my dad has three – Aberdeen Scottish (with family), South African (with other South Africans and also Indian people, as he knew a lot there) and Australian (with everyone else). He’s lived in Australia since he was 16, but nonetheless the other two are still right there.

    2. TechServLib*

      Same with visiting relatives! I have almost no accent usually (people are surprised to learn I’m from the South) but after visiting with family, my Southern accent always makes a surprise appearance. After a vacation earlier this year someone accused me of faking it and I had to explain that I grew up in the South, I just don’t usually have an accent.

      1. Chinook*

        My grandmother was like that. She lived in Canada 50+ years but whenever she talked to her sisters back in Ireland, her brogue showed. And, when she came back from a visit, my mom (her daughter-in-law) had a hard time understanding her.

        I, on the other hand, could never hear the difference, though I somehow ended up with the ability to understand a strong, Newfie accent over the phone, so I must have just developed an ear for the Irish accent.

    3. LadyKelvin*

      I’m originally from Pittsburgh and mentioned to my colleagues that when I go home I slip back into my Pittsburgh accent although I took diction classes in college so that I could lose it (i.e. I learned the midwestern “neutral” accent instead). They didn’t believe me until I said something in my accent. My husband, meanwhile, was standing next to me nodding furiously, because he thinks its weird/hilarious how different I sound when I’m talking to family.

      1. NicoleT*

        ACK, this happens to me too. I lived in Australia for a semester in college… you can imagine how that went. I would slip into Aussie pronunciations, and could actually put on a really THICK Australian accent that my Aussie friends found hilarious – I recall recording an outgoing voicemail message for at least one friend.

        People in central OH (where I live now) and northeastern OH (where I grew up) tell me I have a “Cleveland” accent. I guess because I lived in Akron for undergrad?

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          A gal I knew did her Master’s thesis on the Cleveland Vowel Shift. There is definitely a Cleveland accent.

          1. DCGirl*

            I have the Mid-Atlantic Partially Patterned Intrusive R. I really had to work on losing it when I moved to NYC after college because so many people made fun of me for “mispronouncing” words. (As an example, I would say warsh instead of wash.)

            1. Jennifer*

              Hah, my mom and aunt do this based off the West Virginia relatives even though they grew up in California. My cousins and I make fun of this.

              I love the “intrusive R” phrasing of that.

          2. Justme, The OG*

            I grew up in Cleveland. There is definitely a Cleveland Accent, which I have kept even after moving away 10 years ago. I just add in the “y’alls” and other Southernisms.

        2. KX*

          I lived in Italy with two American roommates and came back with a New Jersey accent that took a good month to shake.

        3. BenAdminGeek*

          Ugh, Croc Hunter ruined me for accents. I used to be able to do a variety of British ones, but after that show everything I do turns into a ridiculously broad Aussie accent. It’s awful.

      2. evilsciencechick*

        OH my god yes. I grew up in Pittsburgh, but have lived in the south now for almost 20 years. I try really hard to not make my accent some horrific combination of the two region. My midwestern transplant boyfriend still makes fun of me for occasionally popping out with “I’m going to go take my shahr now.” But then again, he says “crayne” instead of crayon, so he gets NO FREE PASS!

        1. reluctantofficemanager*

          Aaargh my central-Missouri-small town husband pronounces “crayon” like “crown” and it drives me BATTY… the first time he said it I had no clue what he meant.

        2. Your Weird Uncle*

          My stepson (we’re in the midwest) says ‘malk’ instead of ‘milk’. I have no idea where he picks this up from, but it causes no end of delight for the rest of us.

            1. Your Weird Uncle*

              I will give him some prompts to use those words next time we have the kids at our house and see if he’s actually from Ohio! :D

      3. A. Ham*

        Yinz goin dahntahn to watch the stillers game?

        (did i do that right? I’m a transplant but i’m learning. :-p )

        1. Opalescent Tree Shark*

          Pretty close, but we say them stillers or em stillers, not the stillers game :)

          Although my yinzer grandma insists its younz, not yinz and all the young’ns are saying it wrong

          1. Hometahn girl*

            Ha–Lived in Pittsburgh birth – 23 and I never noticed that it’s never the Stillers game, it’s always just the Stillers.

            And it would be t’watch, really. Pittsburgh accent is all about being lazy n’at.

      4. Epiphyta*

        Hail, fellow speaker of Western Pennsylvania English! My husband laughs his backside off after I’ve been on the phone with my mother for more than 10 minutes . . . .

    4. MLiz*

      I need to ask this, because I’m ESL and my English (and my accent) is a terrible mix between at least three different locales, but what actually designates a Canadian accent?

      It took me a long time to actually figure out that an “American accent” is actually a thing (as…opposed to different places in the US?) so I really would like to know! And have actually been wondering ever since I first read about it, to me Canadians sound pretty much US-American (except the French Canadians of course) (sorry Canada!).

      1. justsomeone*

        I notice it in the “o”s. Like “about” sounds more like “a-boot” though a little softer than that.

        1. NW Mossy*

          It also trickles down to native Michiganders like myself, and I slip into that from time to time. My husband thinks it’s hilarious, so much so that we have a long-running “Mossy is from Canada” joke that is deeply confusing to everyone else.

          1. LostInTheStacks*

            Minnesotans sometimes get it too–there’s an additional thing in the “oh”s I’ve noticed from Canadians and Minnesotans, where they sound… rounder, almost? The vowel itself is shorter “o” more than “ohhh”, and the shape of the mouth is different. I went to college with a surprisingly large number of Minnesotans (given that it was a ~2,000 person private school in MA), and there was one girl who we used to lovingly tease for her o’s. I remember one time she said “I DON’T have an accent!” and of course, that was the strongest I ever heard it get, lol.

            Meanwhile, my friend from Afghanistan could only sort of vaguely tell the difference between strong Southern accents and everyone else, and thought it was really funny whenever the rest of us started comparing minor vowel/consonant differences.

            1. OhNo*

              Minnesotan here – you can also spot the Canadian influence in our tendency to turn words with a long O in the middle into two-syllable words. For example, “don’t” becomes “doh-wunt”, “north” becomes “noh-wurth”, but slurred together so it becomes a dipthong where you wouldn’t expect one.

              Basically, a lot of our vowels sound weird to people in the rest of the US. Don’t even get me started on the word “milk”, which everyone at college assured me I pronounced weird even though I still can’t tell the difference between my pronunciation and theirs.

              1. Kali*

                I suggest watching the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous to hear LOTS of exaggerated Minnesotan vowels.

            2. teclatrans*

              I am second-generation Minnesota (my dad moved away when he was 11), and growing up in CA people often asked if I was from Minnesota (especially if I say the state name, since it’s more like Minne-soeta, with some extra stretch in there). Accents are a funny thing.

            3. MrsCHX*

              Another Minnesotan. My stepkids were born and raised in Kentucky. They have some SERIOUS drawl.

              They were here for the summer and my little cousin looked at my stepdaughter and said, “you talk funny…”. She replied, “YOU talk funny!” And they were both right! Lol!!!!

        2. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Ha! I’m from Toronto, and literally nobody I know does that. I think it’s more of an eastern Canada thing?

          1. Chinook*

            We do it we just don’t hear it because the double vowel sound is more subtle than Americans pretend it is. It is only noticeable when sitting next to someone with the distinctive American accent.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Or if you’re in a long enough conversation to repeatedly hear the “I don’t kno-ow if that’s the case here” with a slight roll on the r in here.

          2. This is She*

            Yes, and thank you! I’m from Vancouver and get tired of the “Canadian accent” trope. Never said ‘aboot’ in my life.

            Canada is a vast and varied place, and people from Newfoundland don’t sound anything like people from, say, Alberta — in the same way that people from Texas sound very different from people from Boston. There are many regional accents in both countries.

            1. Snork Maiden*

              I’m from Saskatchewan and I remember the first time I talked to someone from Newfoundland. I remember thinking, who is this half Australian-half Scottish person asking for something almost entirely unintelligible? (He wanted to talk to my dad.)

              1. Snork Maiden*

                Also, if you’re sufficiently familiar, you can tell the difference between different groups of southern Sask people – the Fransaskois, the Texas North ranchers, the city people, and the parkland/bush types.

                1. Chinook*

                  There are Alberta versions of all 4 of those! Thank you Snork Maiden for finally giving me the names for those dialects!!

                  Though, out of curiosity, which are the ones that have “bunny huggers” (or “kangaroo jackets”? Are those just provincially specific parkland/bush phrases for the sweatshirt with a front pocket?

                2. Snork Maiden*

                  @ Chinook – Bunny hug/bunnyhug is pretty much most of the cosy old school Sask terminology – it’s dying out a bit amongst the younger/trendier/aspirational types (“hoodie” sounds much cooler at the merch table) but still very much in use. See also: “gotch” (for underwear).

                  I use bunny hug for a pull on sweater with the front pocket, and zip up for the zippered version. (I currently do not own any bunny hugs, so it’s fallen out of my lexicon somewhat.)

          3. LavaLamp*

            Possibly. My best friend is from Saskatchewan and he totally has the accent and also generally speaks like he’s been set at a 0.5 speed slower than everyone else.

          4. animaniactoo*

            You totally do it. My cousins are born, raised, and still live in Toronto and every last one of them does it to varying degrees.

            You just can’t hear it because it sounds normal to you.

            1. teclatrans*

              I once met a bunch of Canadians and an American at a hotel in Europe. The other American and I kept cracking up because they would *insist* that they didn’t have an accent, while *using* the accent. I think it varies by region, whether it sounds to us like abeut or aboat. I also think many Americans struggle to reproduce it and therefore we can’t demonstrate it for you. And you might not even hear the difference if we did, as I think that language perception can obscure sound differences.

          5. spock*

            I’ve picked out a lot of Canadians because their “about” sounded more like “aboat”. I don’t remember where they were all from, but probably Ontario westwards. I’ve never heard an “aboot” even though that’s the stereotype, I assume it’s just geographically limited.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yeah, I’ll be talking to an American, then hear that subtle ‘oat’ (out)/’aboat’ (about) and get delighted that actually you’re Canadian! I’m overly enthusiastic about Canadians though, admittedly.

          6. Blunoser*

            I was going to say that no one around here says a-boot, but I have heard a touch of it in the old Degrassis so I always assumed it was an Ontario and Manitoba thing, lol!

        3. So Very Anon For This*

          I grew up in the States with family from rural southwestern Ontario — rural enough that they say “ash-phalt” for “asphalt” and “serviette” for “dinner napkin,” and I mean they sound just like the “Letterkenny” guys and like Bob and Doug MacKenzie — and I have never understood how Americans hear “aboot” when Canadians say “about.”

          1. animaniactoo*

            It’s more like “abowht” than “aboot” imo (N.B. as mentioned in other comments, I’m talking about my cousins who were born, raised, and live in Toronto, so that’s my familiarity with it as someone who hears it but isn’t from that part of the world.)

          2. Kate 2*

            It depends. Where I’m from, the Canadians who live right across the border from us used to come over to shop on the weekends (we’re that close to the border) and they said “aboot” and “eh”.

        4. Julia*

          If you watch(ed) Pretty Little Liars, there is one Canadian actress on the show and people on the internet said she mispronounced the word “eggs”. (Personally, I don’t hear it.) YouTube has a spoof where they really overdo the Canadian accent – maybe that’s helpful for someone in the beginning stages of distinguishing?

      2. NicoleT*

        Strangely, Cleveland is supposed to be the most “neutral” American accent. I don’t know why. Anyone outside OH thinks everyone in OH has the same accent, but we don’t.

      3. Valancy Snaith*

        Canadian accents vary by place, much like American accents, but a very generalized rule is that many Canadians have a similar-sounding accent to many upper Midwesterners–think a Minnesota-style accent, neutral, plus Canadian raising. (If you google Canadian raising, the first result on a York U webpage has a bunch of examples. It’s the specific vowel sound that makes people think Canadians say “aboot” when it’s closer to “aboat.”) There’s a bunch of other quirks of speech due to British and French influence that are easy to pick out when you’re familiar with them. East Coast residents usually have much stronger accents, and Newfoundlanders have an entire dialect all their own.

        1. Camellia*

          Republic of Doyle – “Stay where you are till I comes where you’re to.”

          This made perfect sense to me, but then again I grew up where we said, “Whar’s he auf to?”

          1. Margot the Destroyer*

            There seems to be a lot of Irish influence in the Newfoundland area based on Republic of Doyle anyway. I miss that show.

          2. PhyllisB*

            In the South, it’s “over yonder” and “down the road a piece.” I understand that perfectly, but my New Jersey family is like, whaaa?

        2. So Very Anon For This*

          Truth. I’m a come-from-away currently living in St. John’s (capital and largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador). I found a wallet on Water Street the other day and turned it in to the police. The officer at the window asked me, “So, where did you find it to?”

          I was -thisclose- to answering, “I’m after finding it down at the War Memorial,” but I didn’t want to be perceived as making fun of the Irish-derived past tense that you often get here.

      4. Ophelia*

        I think it’s more a spectrum than a hard line? There are vowel shifts as you move north through the US and into Canada – I’m from New England, and there are some words I say that veer toward a “Canadian” pronunciation. But honestly, apart from a few tells with specific vowel sounds in words like “tomorrow,” I have definitely had conversations with Canadians before and not been able to put my finger on whether they were from the US or Canada.

        1. yasmara*

          I confuse people as well – born & raised in Alaska, spent 20+ years in MN, and now live in the South. I’ve had many people think I might be Canadian when I’m traveling abroad. Meanwhile my born-and-raised (and undergrad) Southern husband has no accent at all – total newscaster…until he gets a few beers in him & starts talking with his local friends. And then the accent comes out. What’s weirder is that his sister was born & raised in the same place, but went even deeper South for her undergrad & then married a Southern guy – and she TOTALLY has the accent all the time. Husband went North for grad school & married a Northerner (uh, me).

          1. PhyllisB*

            I used to work with a man who was Chinese-American who was born and raised in the Delta who had a slight Chinese accent. His brother on the other hand, sounded like Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I was just amazed that two brothers raised by the same parents could sound so different.

      5. Baby Fishmouth*

        Well it’s pretty regional in Canada as well. Some people have an almost Minnesota-sounding accent, which I think is the ‘Canadian’ accent that most people think of. This is more typical (I think) of people from the prairie provinces, northern areas, and rural areas. A lot of Canadians just have the typical generic midwest-American accent, and I get mistaken as American a lot when I’m out of the country, although I am told I sound ‘softer’ than most Americans, but I’m not sure what the means exactly. People from Atlantic Canada have their own accents, and in some places (like Newfoundland) it can be incredibly distinct and sound almost Irish. I’ll be honest, I can’t think of a Western Canada accent right now so it’s probably mostly a neutral American-ish accent also, but somebody correct me if I’m wrong!

        If you want to know what people mean by Canadian accent though (even though in my experience most people don’t have that accent), just look up Bob and Doug McKenzie videos on youtube!

        1. Properlike*

          Canadian accent is the “oo” in place of “ow” like “aboot”, but also the ah sound that you find in “pasta” in midwestern accents becomes a hard “a” as in “past—ah” instead of “Pahstah.” At least it was that way in Vancouver.

          1. Lissa*

            Yeah, I’m from BC and I don’t say aboot, but I do find my “about” is a..shorter? vowel sound than Americans? I would say they have the accent, not me though lol. Americans drawl out the “oowww” sound more.

            And yeah I say past-a not pah-sta.

            1. teclatrans*

              I can never recreate it, but yeah, it’s like the “out” is really soft. To me it sounds more like abeut or aboht, whereas we hit the w sound (which involves a rounder, more open sound?). I think we don’t have a good handle on the way the Canadian ou sounds.

              Maybe the reason American “aboot” description is wring is because that contains a strong w component?

              Sorry I love geeking out over language.

        2. smoke tree*

          I’m from western Canada, and I think our accent is pretty much indistinguishable from any other Pacific Northwest accent. We also don’t tend to do the stereotypical Canadianisms (like saying “eh” or “aboot”–I think those are more typical in the Prairies) but we still apologize a lot.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s. FASCINATING.

              And yes, I totally associate sore-y (sorry) with Canada, fascinating that it’s changing. (Granted my Canadian family members have been expats for decades, so they likely aren’t up on this trend.)

          1. Bobkat*

            Middle of the prairies here for almost 50 years. I’ve never heard anyone ever say “aboot” unless they are from the east coast. My Grandma used to say “Eh?” when she couldn’t hear what someone said. It isn’t common in conversation.
            I’ve worked with someone who before her trip to Ireland suddenly spoke with an Irish accent. It was very strange. I enjoyed it as a social experiment. After her 2 week vacation she kept it going for quite awhile. She then went to Ecuador for a month. That erased her irishness…

            1. smoke tree*

              Interesting, I’ve always thought those ehs and aboots originated somewhere around Manitoba because the only people I’ve ever heard use them are from there. Maybe it’s very regionally specific (or maybe they just watched a lot of SCTV).

              1. Bobkat*

                The Winterpeggers I work closely with don’t use that pronunciation. I will ask if they worked to rid themselves of their “oots” and “eh’s”. Perhaps you were talking with a bunch of hosers!
                Working with many international students I am asked if I am from England (only by students from China). I am German/Scottish decent and married to a Ukrainian. Never been to England. I wonder if in my occaisional communication hurdle when I speak slowly and think I am enunciating clearly I don’t sound as Western Canadian as I am?

              2. EvilQueenRegina*

                My relatives use “eh?” in that context rather a lot but I was never allowed to use it growing up. I’m from England.

          2. Chameleon*

            Hard disagree, as a Coloradan transplanted to Washington. The Canadian accent is subtle but definitely there, and different from the standard PNW (although PNW people have a tendency to pick up a bit of Canada if they live near the border).

            It’s a slightly shortened vowel sound in several words (but especially the “ou” sound). As someone put it above, where an American would say “abowt” a Canadian would say something closer to “aboüt” (with the short German ü sound).

            I spent two years listening to Vancouver radio when I worked near the border, and it has had two effects: I can totally pick out all the Canadian voice actors on kid’s cartoons, and I occasionally will shorten my vowels to the extent that my dad thinks I’ve developed a Canadian accent.

            1. smoke tree*

              That’s interesting–I think I may be incapable of hearing the difference. To my ear, I pronounce “about” with a pretty clear “ow” sound. I suppose I don’t spend a lot of time listening to Washingtonian accents, but whenever I’m across the border, I’ve never noticed any difference.

        3. Jill_P*

          According to the linguistics class I took in University, Southern Ontarians have the most mutually understandable English in the world- i.e. the most people understand us and we understand the most people. While you still get Canadian raising in there, I can see why the term “softer” comes into it. I can certainly hear the difference between an Ontario radio station and a New York State radio station, despite our closeness.

      6. esra*

        I am always charmed when people say “Canadian” accent, as though people from the east coast, Alberta, northern Ontario, and Quebec sound at all alike.

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          Like when people say a Texas accent. There are types are Texas accents — regional Texas accents. Same for southern accent.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            Also, a Texas accent (any Texas accent) is not a southern accent (any southern accent). Related, sure, but not the same accent group.

        2. Kate 2*

          Meh, people also talk about the “American accent”, the “British accent”, etc. Like we are doing here. But one part of Britain sounds hugely different than another.

          1. London Calling*

            In the west country (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire if you’re pushing it) which is geographically not a huge area, there are distinct accents that the trained ear can pick up. I grew up in Devon and even now 50 years later I pronounce certain words with a Devon accent. Or aaaaaccent.

      7. Elemeno P.*

        They’re very hard to notice when it’s not your native language, and it’s really hard to pin down when someone has moved a lot. I have a slight Southern California accent (I end? My sentences? Like questions?) but I only lived there for 5 years. I think a lot of people sound very similar and only have one or two words that sound super different.

      8. SignalLost*

        It’s not just you. I live in Seattle (though I have some holdover British pronunciations from my time there in college) and people very commonly identify me as Canadian. I don’t *think* anyone who’s done that actually is Canadian but it was a fun night when I was working at my college bar in England for a friend’s wedding – the bride was Canadian and the groom South African so they married in England because it was basically a destination wedding of equal distance for their families. A lot of the guests guessed I was Canadian. And I don’t even actually know why I sound Canadian. Or French … that was another Seattleite …

      9. Chinook*

        Depends on where in Canada you come from. There definite regional differences (even if you can’t describe them) that go beyond a Newfie dialect. I really noticed it when I watched the CBC Canada Day programming on a loop in Japan (see earlier comment) and almost teared up when I heard a woman from northern Alberta talk because she was the only one in the batch to sound like home (I think it includes a weird mix of Ukranian, Cree and French pronounciations).

        But, our standard English sounds pretty American because, at one point, most top news broadcasters and game show hosts in the US were Canadian born.

        As for French Canadian, same regional differences – you have Acadienne, Quebecoise, Franco-Albertan/Sask./Manitoban depending on where you grew up and who taught in schools (with prairie provinces being more Parisienne as most of the teachers were originally French nuns).

        1. Specialk9*

          I could listen to you talk about Canadian accents all night.

          “with prairie provinces being more Parisienne as most of the teachers were originally French nuns”
          That’s such a fascinating glimpse into dialects!

          1. Chinook*

            I twigged into this originally because of my mom and grandmother’s experiences when they lived, as born and bred francophones, in Quebec for 5 years. My grandmother, who had never left rural Alberta before that, was asked about where in France she was from while my mother was taunted about being a foreigner (she was 5 at the time and didn’t realize that the odds were good that we arrived on the exact same boat as the taunter’s family a few hundred years earlier). That led me down a linguistic/anthropological rabbit hole that I still find fascinating.

      10. MLiz*

        Thank all of you for your kind replies!

        I will have to travel more.

        (In some free for all I will have to ask what you make of people who have bastard language skills like mine. Fascinating stuff.)

        You all rock!

      11. GS*

        There is definitely a slowed-down, staccato feel to mid-to-northern Canadian accents which I think is influenced by First Nations languages and is distinctly different from the southern urban centres.

      12. M*

        What’s commonly thought of as “the Canadian accent” by Americans is typically an exaggerated version of a very specific Alberta cattle rancher accent.

        TBH, as a Brit who has lived in Canada for a decade and worked with people from all across Canada and the US, the vast majority of Canadians and Americans sound indistinguishable in pronunciation to me unless there’s a Canadian Newfoundland accent or an American Southern accent involved. There’s some difference in terminology and word usage; Canadians are more likely to use “pop” than “soda”, for example.

    5. TrainerGirl*

      Every time I come back from visiting my family in South Carolina, I have a bit of a southern accent. And I picked up some of the Australian accent when I was in Melbourne for a month. It’s mostly just a fun, goofy thing unless it drags on too long.

      1. Canarian*

        My roommate in college had family roots in deep East Texas. She always spoke with a perfectly neutral American accent, except when she got on the phone with her Meemaw or Big Daddy (grandparents), at which point I could hardly understand anything she was saying.

        1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

          I can always tell who my partner is talking to on the phone, because he somehow winds up echoing their accents and other verbal inflections. He doesn’t even realize he’s doing it! My theory is that it’s because he grew up multilingual and the codeswitching is just part of how he communicates.

          1. CDM*

            Decades ago, I worked in insurance claims, sitting next to a woman who grew up in the South with a Spanish mother. She spoke to our clients with a standard American accent, to co-workers on internal calls in a Spanish accent, and to lawyers and claimants with a Southern drawl. I asked her about it one day, and she claimed to have no idea what I was talking about.

          2. Alli525*

            I do it too, although I’m sadly monolingual – I think I’m accidentally just a bit of a mimic! We would visit my aunt and uncle in New Jersey when I was growing up and would always come back with a bit of a honk in my tone… it confused the hell out of my parents. And when I was in New Zealand for two weeks, I adopted a lilt that sounded a little like the accents I heard there. It’s great… until someone thinks you’re doing it to mock them.

    6. Bea*

      A couple drinks and my accent rolls out. It’s a weird mix of speech impediment and parents who have hill folk dialect.

      1. Bryce*

        I don’t recall having one when I actually grew up in the southwest, but I’ve developed a drawl since moving north either out of reflex or just not noticing it in its home environment. It becomes more pronounced when I’m tired, and when I notice it part of my brain leans into it. So once I start I can get “stuck” in the accent such that other people think I’m putting it on as a gag.

    7. DoctorateStrange*

      I live in Texas. I’ve noticed that an accent slips out when I’m visiting other states and talk to the locals, especially the North! When I’m actually in my own area, my accent has much less of that twang in it.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        When I lived in Texas, they all told me I had a northern accent and when I lived in Massachusetts, they all told me I had a Texas accent! I did move around A LOT as a child, so I think my accent is just a mish-mash of everywhere. And actually, of my 8 siblings, most of us all speak differently from the others!

    8. Ama*

      My brother went to college in North Dakota and turned out to be one of those people who just kind of absorbs accents — so he’d come back sounding just like all his college buddies (it was rare for students to come from a southern state like he did, so basically everyone else was from the mid-northern U.S.).

      I had high hopes when he joined the military and was stationed in England for a time, but he was around too many Americans in his daily life so it didn’t have the same effect.

    9. Pebbles*

      Two stories:
      1) I’m born and raised Minnesotan. But then I went to live in England for a year. I picked up a few “British” words that I still use (like going on holiday instead of vacationing, flat instead of apartment), and a bit of a British accent that only comes out now when I have a few drinks or when we have visitors from our London office.

      2) My husband was born and raised in North Dakota. But he’s been living here in Minnesota about 15 years now. We went on a trip to the west coast where we got to talking with someone there:
      Person: Where are you from?
      Me: Minnesota
      Person (sadly): Oh, why don’t you have an accent? Where in Minnesota do you live?
      Husband: [name of town]
      Person (happily): OH! There it is!

      1. Camellia*

        Yes! I love regional word variations. Everyone seems to talk about ‘pop’ and ‘soda’, but what about ‘jeans’? Or is that ‘blue jeans’, ‘levi’s’, or ‘dungarees’?

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        As a native Wisconsinite no longer living in Wisconsin, I really enjoy hearing people failing to pronounce and/or spell Wisconsin cities. Like Oconomowoc, Manitowoc, Menominee, Kewaunee, Waukesha, Trempealeau…

        1. hermit crab*

          Pennsylvania has some fun ones too, especially for rivers – Schuylkill (skoo-kull) and Youghiogheny (yock-a-gainy) are classics. I periodically organize water resources workshops in different states, and whenever I send someone new to take minutes on a Mid-Atlantic workshop I have to give them a crash course in spelling those names.

          1. PhyllisB*

            We have some unusual Indian names in our area. One of the weirdest ones is Shuqulak; pronounced sugar lock. When train travel was popular, there was a conductor (not from the area) who announced “All out for Sqakalak!!”

        2. Solidus Pilcrow*

          Lac Courte Oreilles, Eau Claire, Chippewa, Kinnikinnick, …

          Ah, that wonderful Wisconsin mix of French and Native American(ish) names combined with a large German, Norwegian, and Polish descended population.

          Signed, UW Eau Claire grad who grew up in Chippewa county

        3. cookie monster*

          My husbands family is from WI. On my first trip there, we drove from the Airport in Chicago. He and his parents spent the entire drive making me read signs out loud.

            1. cookie monster*

              I don’t remember that specific one…but I remember over and over them pointing at signs telling me to read them and laughing…

            2. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

              Bong Recreational Area! I’m a native Chicagoan currently living in Milwaukee and I giggle every time I pass that sign when I visit my parents :D

            3. Gov’t Mule*

              Richard Ira Bong (September 24, 1920 – August 6, 1945) was a United States Army Air Forces major and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II.

            4. Environmental Compliance*

              That was a fun sign to explain when my grandparents came to visit me at college for the first time and I took them on a general tour of the area.

        4. Umvue*

          Every time my SO and I pass a sign for Oconomowoc, we take turns exploring fun mispronunciations :)

      3. TootsNYC*

        My sister grew up in southern Iowa and, unlike her older siblings (me & bro), was allowed to pick up the local accent. (WE were made to repeat “warsh” until it came out “wash,” and “poosh” until we said “push.”)

        She moved to Colorado and it faded. Then she moved to Minnesota and WHAMMO–she sounded like a native.

        I will pick up the speech mannerisms of anyone that I admire. Without even realizing it.

    10. Adlib*

      I spent two weeks in Australia, and while I don’t think I picked up the accent, I had to retrain myself to use the American words for things (footpath = sidewalk, etc.). Maybe I picked up the accent though for a minute, who knows!

      1. TrainerGirl*

        I definitely picked up the Melbourne lingo while I was there, and I know that there are words I now pronounce the Australian way. While I was there, the big trend was taking a selfie with a quokka, and I wouldn’t have any idea how to say that word the US way. I really enjoy meeting Australians and saying “How are you going?” It always tickles them.

    11. many bells down*

      I’m just a natural mimic, which has the unintended side effect that I often pick up whatever accent or speech pattern the person(s) I’m talking to have. And I watch a lot of British television. So it does occasionally happen that I slip into it.

      It’s not a very useful talent, but it did get me some voice work once when they needed an actor to imitate a character from a TV show. I binge-watched the whole first season and could do a dead-on impression of the character after that.

      1. Polaris*

        I’ve been practicing my accents as part of my role of running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I don’t pick them up easily, but every so often I end up watching a show and find myself thinking in an accent – for some reason Mancunian is especially easy.

        1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

          Siiiiighh, I want to be a great DM but voices and accents are tough for me. But the best DM’s I’ve ever played with have been really good at voices and improv; I wish I could be a natural at that! I wish you luck :)

      2. smoke tree*

        I think I have the inverse talent–my accent will not move no matter how much pressure is put on it. I picked up some weird semi-British pronunciations from my grandparents as a kid that have still not left me, and once in a while people in my hometown will ask me where I’m visiting from.

      3. Middle School Teacher*

        I am too. I can do some pretty interesting accents, and I’ve lived overseas so I picked up some cool accents that way. It just happens. My students find it enormously entertaining.

    12. Michaela T*

      I’ve started working remotely for a company based in Fargo, and have put my fiance in charge of telling me if I start slipping into the accent. I *like* the accent, but I am…not from Fargo.

    13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I relentlessly ironed out my New England nasal whine after I left Rhode Island, but anytime I head back to NE, it comes roaring back with a vengeance. Usually it fades again after a few days, but I suppose if I didn’t make an effort, it could linger.

      1. many bells down*

        I can’t say any New England place names without slipping back into my Boston accent. They just feel wrong in my mouth. It’s Cahvah, not Carrr-verrrrrr!

        1. Specialk9*

          An Indian friend who otherwise has a very light accent calls Harvard “Howard”. As in Howard Square, and Howard University. Which… gets confusing fast!

    14. Mbarr*

      Gah! It drives me bonkers when you Yankees claim Canadians have accents! The only times I recognize language differences is when we pronounce words with a French pronunciation. E.g. “Bus route” can also be pronounce “bus root”. Otherwise we just say “sorry” and “eh” a lot.

      1. Sarianna*

        Native New Englander here, and I find that pronunciation of ‘route’ (like ‘root’) to be perfectly normal. Though ‘router’ is not pronounced like ‘rooter.’ That just makes me think of Roto-Rooter.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Same. I’ve been exposed to people who pronounce ‘route’ like ‘rout’ and neither way sounds specifically weird to me anymore, but I most definitely grew up pronouncing ‘route’ like ‘root.’

          1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

            Grew up in NH/MA, and I do them both ways based on how it’s used!

            For the name of a road (“Route 3”), it’s route-like-root, but for an abstract (“Oh, what route are you taking?”) it’s route-like-rout.

            My parents are from PA and MD, so I don’t know if that might have an influence? But the distinction is so crystal clear in my head that I do a double-take whenever someone pronounces either of them backwards.

      2. Janie*

        I can hear that someone is Canadian in words like “about.” I don’t think it sounds like “aboot” like the stereotype is here, but there is a certain bit of a twang to the second syllable. The two most notable times I can think of was 1) figuring out Taylor Kitsch was Canadian because of the way he said “out” on Friday Night Lights, and 2) figuring out that How It’s Made is based in Canada due to the narrator’s accent.

      3. Specialk9*

        I mean, people don’t tend to be good at recognizing our own accents, bc that’s ‘normal’.

      4. Annie Moose*

        The Ontario accent is definitely distinct from the Michigan/Great Lakes one! The vowels are completely different. (Michigan has the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, Ontario does not) It’s a subtle thing if you don’t know what you’re listening for, but it’s definitely there. I grew up in a Michigan town where a lot of Ontarians came to shop, and I assure you we could all tell the difference (even without the telltale Roots gear)!

      5. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        I’ve noticed more enunciation of vowels in some words from Canadian speakers (long vowel instead of a schwa sound) when watching the NHL draft; the American announcers are more likely to speak about the value to the org-gan-i-zay-shun, whilst the Canadians speak of the org-gan-eye-zay-shun. I also remember working a registration desk for a work conference in Toronto and having to translate for a colleague- she couldn’t quite get the right name for a registrant who was spelling it out “zed-aitch-ay-en-gee”

      6. Kate 2*

        I don’t know of any country in the world that doesn’t have an accent, and even within countries, Canada, US, Britain, the accent varies. To us the way we speak is normal, we can’t hear it. Like growing up next to a lavender field or a bakery, eventually you just stop smelling it. Until you’ve been away for a few weeks and come back.

    15. Kimberly*

      First off thanks for recognizing that Texas accent is something very different from a Southern accent.

      I grew up in Houston. The core group of my parents married friends were unique. The wives/mothers were scientists and nurses from England, Canadian Maritimes, or German towns in Texas. (The English and Canadians were brought to Houston by Baylor because of their research into transplants) The husbands/fathers all grew up in the same neighborhood in Houston. We kids had/have the weird accents. Mostly it is Texas drawl with British/Canadian grammar (go to hospital instead of go to the hospital). We also used idioms that people in Texas didn’t commonly use. In third grade, I got sent to the office for telling a classmate to take Shank’s mare to the library (It means walk). As adults, all of us have been accused at times of “putting on” an accent. For me, it happens when I’m reading books or watching shows from Canada/England, or I’ve been around my Canadian cousins.

      1. Specialk9*

        Accents are fractal. The closer you get, the more regional variations you recognize. From far away, they’re blobbed out. So everyone gets to make generalizations about others, and get outraged at being so mis-typed themselves. :D

      2. pandop*

        As a Brit, I would expect British grammar to be ‘go to the hospital’, and also I have heard ‘Shank’s pony’ not ‘Shank’s mare’, so they must be Canadian variations

    16. krysb*

      I was raised and live in Tennessee, but my parents were born and raised in Michigan. I can pull out the southern accent when it benefits me (or if I’m sleepy or drunk), or talk sans-accent when necessary.

    17. Wait-til-Next-Year-Penguins*

      I grew up in Pittsburgh but haven’t lived there in 20 years. Still, when I go home, I slide right back into Pittsburgeese including ordering “pop” to drink!

    18. Girl friday*

      Y’all are so kind! I would be wary of it. I wonder what people would consider a minor but still bizarre change these days. I work in restaurants: so, although my tolerance is extremely high, I still recognize bizarre behavior when I see it.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      My first thought was, ‘Oh, this is just too good!’ Please do ask –or get someone else to ask–why she’s doing it and reeport back. And enjoy!

    2. sheepla*

      Agree with Mryin. I came to post the exact same thing. The letter is fun but Alison’s answer is priceless.

    3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      +1 This is beautiful: “Sit back and enjoy, because this kind of thing is what life is all about. Humans are weird! So weird, in so many different ways. Often that weirdness is hidden and comes out in ways that shock and disappoint you, after the person lulled you into thinking you knew what to expect from them. So it’s lovely when someone wears their weirdness like a peacock’s plumes, right there for all to see from the get-go.”

      1. Jennifer*

        If I bothered with a distinctive name here (which I’m not going to do given various reasons, it’s just safer if I use something generic), I’d go with “peacock’s plumes,” because I am that weird in real life.

        I just read a book about being a unicorn in a world of donkeys, too.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I don’t know if it’s the red wine I’ve been drinking tonight or something else, but I love this website. ENJOY THE SPECTACLE. This is why this website is the first one I check every morning before I do anything else.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Absolutely, this is the best thing about Alison Green.

      That willingness to accept that people are people, and the basic kindness.

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        SO! 1,000,000,000 x infinity this!
        In my younger days I would have been certain this needed to be corrected .

        It is HUGELY valuable to have a professional opinion like Alison’s on this kind of thing.

        And I LOVE that you advise sitting back and enjoying it!

      2. Wait-til-Next-Year-Penguins*

        It’s funny because I actually used to frequent an alleged etiquette website but the administrator and the mods were just these terrible, horrible people. Like they were drunk on power from their teeny little speck of the Internet. Alison is so unfailingly kind and helpful, though, it almost makes you forget that there are nasty nellies on other sites!

    6. Minnie*

      I agree! I had a best friend in high school who would use her phony British accent when we went to new places. It was very deceptively and outright comical. Then again, we were only 16. This woman is an adult, which makes this bizarre!

      1. Clorinda*

        I think Gillian Anderson grew up in England, so the American accent is the one she learned later. I saw her on that car show that isn’t on anymore because what’s-his-name was a fool, and she was speaking completely Britishly.

        1. jillianajones*

          Basically this. She has talked about the fact that she grew up in America but her British parents would take her to England for the summers.

        2. Stacy*

          Top Gear?

          And you’re right, both of Gillian Anderson’s accents are real, with the British one being first. Ditto John Barrowman’s Scottish and American accents.

            1. Jemima Bond*

              I just saw him in a drama called Red Riding and his Yorkshire accent (as opposed to his real posh English RP one) is pretty impressive too.
              The sight of him in nothing but seventies-style Y-fronts, less so…

          1. Specialk9*

            John Barrowman’s American accent weirds me out in the same way too-good animation does. It’s so close to perfect but off somehow, by that tiny bit. It took me so long to warm up to Captain Jack Harkness as a result.

            1. Sarianna*

              Yes! Especially in Torchwood episode one, where the first word he says is “estrogen”–but with the British pronunciation (ee) not the American one (eh)! Still bugs the crap outta me.

            2. Epiphyta*

              Barrowman’s accent is “happily residing in a cottage in the Uncanny Valley”.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Yup, I grew up back and forth between the UK – mum Brit, father Hungarian. Boarding school in the UK, then Undergrad here, Master’s in the UK and now back in US for 20 years but visit the UK a lot. I generally have a slight British accent here – I use Brit word pronunciation,. When I go back to the UK, for a couple of days people ask me if I’ve been living in America. Then I just unconsciously switch. It’s not just the accent, it’s phrases – I hear these things coming out of my mouth that I’d never say in the US because they’d make no sense.

        I make sure that I always say ‘sorry’ here when there’s an accidental boompsidaisy with someone rather than ‘excuse me’. I do this because in the UK ‘excuse me’ is blamey – as in ‘well excuse me – what were you doing barging along like that’. If you don’t sound Brit, no-one is going to bat an eyelid, but my mum still has her British accent and I’ve seen people’s faces wondering what they did wrong when she’s said ‘excuse me’.

          1. Snubble*

            I don’t think that’s usually true. I mean, you can make “excuse me” accusatory, but you can do the same with “sorry” if you want to. I say “excuse me” perfectly naturally when I bump into someone or need to interrupt them and it’s never come across as other than apologetic.

            We do use “excuse me” to mean “please get out of the way”, which might explain the looks? “Excuse me” in a slightly demanding tone, especially from behind someone, means “this is at least the second time I’ve asked you to move and you are not attending to your surroundings enough to have noticed the first time and now you are making me interact with a stranger, gosh, how rude you’re making me be.” So if the tone is coming across as that meaning – get out of my way – instead of the apologetic – so terribly sorry but you seem to be the receptionist here and I need something – that might be why.

            So I think maybe this is a particular person’s tone issue, and not a universal British thing.

            1. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Yes – tone is always important indeed. I had this chat with quite a few people as I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone accidentally bump into me in the UK say excuse me unless they were telling me it was my fault and when I moved back to the US is was quite a change that I had to get used to. Interesting to see your difference – it’s been my experience to hear only ‘sorry’ and when I’ve chatted about this difference with a number of Brits they’ve always agreed they use ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ in this way of the accidentally bumping into context. As you point out, you can use it elsewhere and also give tone to anything.

    1. WellRed*

      yes, do what Rachel and Monica do and talk back in a different accident (don’t really do this).

  2. Kyubey*

    I suppose you could just ask her why she seems to be developing an accent… unless you think she might be offended or upset for some reason by that? Maybe she’s aware or maybe not but why not just say something?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’d totally do that (by way of saying something like “Okay, I’ve got to ask: You’ve suddenly started speaking with an accent – have you actually been British all along?”), but then I get a weird delight out of being the messenger of All Things Awkward, so that might just be me.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, I don’t think I could keep myself from asking, “what’s with the sudden British accent?”

        1. Rusty*

          No one around my office would let someone get away with this without bringing it up.

          Everyone loves (probably a little too much) when this kind of thing presents itself, like Allison said, except everyone wants to participate in calling it out!

      2. karou*

        It would be very convenient if a new coworker or client met her and could say something like, “I love your accent! What part of England are you from?” Totally innocent question and the response might shed some light on what’s going on.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      I think most people wouldn’t because of how awkward the conversation would be. I personally consider my ability to doggedly power through awkward conversations to be practically a superpower, but I still wouldn’t say anything to her because I wouldn’t think knowing was worth the time and effort of the conversation. I can just imagine asking her “What’s up with the accent lately?” and having her respond, “What accent?”

      1. Kathleen_A*

        I honestly don’t think I could *survive* if I didn’t at least ask the question. Curiosity might very well literally kill me. But if I did somehow manage to stop myself from asking (and survive that ordeal), I would be kicking myself the rest of my life for not attempting to find the answer to this mystery.

    3. Lawyer Anon*

      To me that’s more of a manager thing to do – especially if it’s been weirding out clients or anything like that. I don’t know if a coworker has standing to get involved in that unless they want to be involved in weird drama.

      1. bonkerballs*

        It doesn’t seem like a manager thing at all to me, just a conversation between people. This seems like an odd thing to think someone else needs a specific standing to talk about.

    4. On Fire*

      My first thought was that she might have experienced some kind of brain trauma. I’ve read of patients who have suffered brain trauma who suddenly begin speaking with the accent of a place they’ve never lived. But I assume OP would have known if there had been some kind of accident/incident.

      1. Admin of Sys*

        Foreign Accent Syndrome! That said, though the popularization of that is the people gain a specific foreign accent the reality is more that the language centers get damaged causing a shift in pronunciation and pitch, which listeners (and sometimes speakers) then associate with recognized patterns. So someone will start dropping ‘h’ sounds and be thought to now have a cockney access, but that’s correlation not actual accent acquisition. Usually it requires a pretty serious stroke or brain trauma though, and wouldn’t get worse as time passed, I don’t think

        Maybe she’s planning a trip to England and wants to pass as a native?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OP might not know. I know of instances where the person had a physical problem going on in their brain and one of the ways it manifested was with a strange accent. One story got worse and worse as it went on. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the story here. Let’s just say it ended up with my concern for my safety and the safety of those around me.
        My experience has left me biased. So I have to say this.
        OP, you are the one there watching this. Keep an eye, does everything else make sense or are other things getting weird. If you notice other things and those other things are substantial please talk to your boss. Yes, I am biased. And you will need to use your own judgement, of course. If everything else is normal, usual work day stuff then maybe this person is practicing for a play or something. But if there is more to the story than what you are saying here, you might need to loop the boss in at some point.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Maybe she’s an actor and practicing her British dialect for a role?

    1. Kathleen_A*

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say: “No.” :-)

      OK, that’s not fair. A few – a very, very few – people can imitate an accent well even if they didn’t grow up with it. But most of those who can do so thanks to years of training, training that I suspect Our English Rose has not had. Or maybe they can do it a few sentences at a time, though definitely not all day every day.

      So this is going to be a hoot. I only hope she is self-deluding enough that she doesn’t realize how silly she sounds, because I really don’t want her to feel bad. That would destroy everybody’s fun, both hers and her coworkers’.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        British people tend to do a Southern accent well. I can tolerate those better than I can, say, the godawful Southern accent Anna Pacquin did for True Blood. Her accent made me want to poke my eardrums out with a dull ice pick.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Some do, sure. But I’m betting that all but the most skilled practitioners have to work on it line by line, a thing that is possible with a movie, but no so much with real life.

          1. aes_sidhe*

            The people I’ve known from England seem to do just fine imitating a Southern accents, and they’re not actors. Bizarrely, the people I’ve known from Australia do a good west coast accent. My mom worked for a guy from Ireland, and she picked up his accent. She had no idea she’d even picked it up until the day she said, “Oh, it’s coming up a wee bit of a mist” in an Irish accent.

            1. Ophelia*

              When living in London, I was never able to really mimic a British accent, and neither was a co-worker of mine from New Zealand, but if she and I went out to lunch, everyone would laugh at us when we came back because we’d have merged into some sort of blended US/NZ accent after just half an hour. I suspect some accents just lend themselves to each other more easily?

              1. Future Homesteader*

                I find Irish accents particularly hard to resist picking up. And if not the accent, the *cadence* is super catchy. I have an Irish friend and it only takes an hour or two around her (and no other Irish people, we’re in the Midwest) before I have to start watching myself to make sure I don’t sound like I’m mocking her!

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  I sympathize! I was once on a business trip, and went out to dinner with a group of colleagues from Northern Ireland (I am an American). Drinking ensued, and apparently, by the end of the night, I was sounding like Liam Neeson. There is a video of it somewhere on my phone.

                2. Bryce*

                  Scottish as well. I was chatting once (in the US) with a guy with a heavy Scottish accent and couldn’t help but pick it up as well. When he found out my last name and that my family was from GB, he asked if it was the English or Scottish branch of that name. When I said English he just gave me a deadpan look and said “coulda fooled me.”

              2. aes_sidhe*

                Some people just seem to have a knack for it. Some people, unfortunately, think they have it but definitely do NOT. It’s the ones that are terrible at it that do it the most. I feel like quoting my niece when she says: Can we just not?

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I’m much better at it when I don’t try to do it and just let it happen.

                  I think if you’re around it long enough, it does start to creep in. My auntie has lived in the UK for over 40 years, and while she doesn’t sound English, she doesn’t exactly sound American anymore either. It’s more than an accent; it’s syntax, vocabulary, etc. And my YouTuber friend who married a Brit and lives in England now is starting to do the same thing. When I watch her videos, I’m noticing a definite shift in the way she talks.

              3. Alex the Alchemist*

                One of my high school best friends was in a play where she had to learn a Scottish accent for her character (and she’s INCREDIBLE at accents). Ever since then, if you ever get her ranting about anything, all of it will be in a Scottish accent.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Having just returned from Scotland, I feel like any and all ranting should be done in a Scottish accent. It just fits.

          1. aes_sidhe*

            I couldn’t make it through a full episode. I’m from the south and nobody talks like that.

          2. annejumps*

            The actress who played Tara had an awful one as well.
            The actor who played Jason, however, had a great Southern accent. He’s Australian!

          1. aes_sidhe*

            Anna Paqin did an even worse one, I think, in the first X-Men movie. She played someone from Mississippi, and it was terrible. Alicia Silverstone has a terrible southern accent.

          2. The Ginger Ginger*

            I just snorted out loud in my open plan office. Thank you for this comment.

        2. A. Ham*

          Last year I saw a production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in the West End. The entire cast was British and I would say may be 4 of them did a convincing southern dialect. It was painful. Luckily, Maggie was excellent (and made the production worth the price of admission) as was big daddy. Unluckily, Brick was probably THE WORST of them all. He has like 10 lines in the first act, and most of them are “Maggie” (or in his case “Maggeh”) and he couldn’t even make that work.
          At least he was somewhat easy on the eyes. :-p

          1. Cousin Itt*

            Ooh yes, there have been some truly appalling American accents to come out of the UK theatre scene

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          That’s interesting. I’ve seen plenty of British people do a Southern accent that sounded good . . . to people who were not from the south. But I’ve rarely seen one that was convincing to me. Brits doing good
          generic American accents, yes (though there are a few words that usually give them away), but southern accents, not so much.

          1. Specialk9*

            I’ve met many non-Americans who thought they were awesome at southern accents, but few who actually were good at southern accents.

          2. UK Nerd*

            My theory is that it’s because of rhoticism. Almost all American accents are rhotic, but Southern accents aren’t, and as most British accents are non-rhotic we can nail that part of the accent immediately. An actual Southerner would be more aware of the subtleties of the accent, but to a non-Southerner just combining the vowel change with those non-rhotic r sounds is probably quite convincing.

            (That’s a British quite, not an American one.)

        4. LQ*

          I was doing audio work recently and a character was supposed to pick up a British accent at some point and the author had written it out phonetically in the text, but it was really hard to have it lean British rather than Southern because every phonetic thing she’d written out was how you’d write it out for a southern accent. (I didn’t do the accent, I did a different kind of mic technique for it instead, it was too deep for an accent to make sense in the audio.) Just reading it aloud with no accent came out southern every time.

          1. Specialk9*

            What does it mean that you did a mic technique instead of accent? (I assume you mean you do audiobooks or the like?)

      2. Beth Jacobs*

        I mean, if imitating was that easy, all of us non-native speakers would do it and cash in on that native speaker privilege :D

        How well you can fake an accent depends on a lot of factors: it strongly correlates with your musical ability but is also influenced by how close that accent is to your native one. As someone who’s practically tone deaf, I’ve learned to accept that I will always be distinguishable as non-native speaker, despite the fact that in my head, I speak English just as well as my native language.

        1. Urdnot Bakara*

          The correlation with musical ability is really interesting. I’m a classical singer and I’ve always been really good at hiding my accent when I speak foreign languages, but I can’t pull off regional accents in English to save my life.

          1. smoke tree*

            I’m the same way, although I’m not too bad with accents if I deconstruct them mentally. I’m not great at just winging it. (For example I can do a pretty passable French accent if I just pronounce English words using French pronunciation rules. I also found this trick was very useful when I was in France. Sometimes my French-accented English is easier to understand than my French, apparently.)

        2. Flower*

          That’s interesting! I’m also tone deaf (and can’t hold a beat) and I can’t do accents for my life. That said, I speak a second language (German) more or less fluently (and was exposed to it starting in childhood) and my accent in that language sometimes causes Germans to assume I’m also a native speaker. I can’t put an American accent on in my second language, but nor can I intentionally use a German accent in English (but if I switch languages in the middle of a sentence it might come out accented). I can sometimes do a Minnesotan accent, but not convincingly and not longer than a few words.

          1. Julia*

            If you started learning German before the age of 8 or maybe 10 (some say even up to puberty), your pronunciation would be good because you picked it up before the critical period ends. I’d say that’s very different from learning a language and accent later in life.

        3. Julia*

          Ha, during my exchange in Japan, those fellow exchange students who never got over speaking Japanese with thick accents were generally also awful at karaoke. :D I’m a good singer for an amateur and people on the phone usually can’t tell I’m not Japanese (obviously my face gives me away), and my English apparently isn’t too shabby for a German either. (I used to get asked if I’m French, though. O_o)

          That said, Kristin Chenoweth supposedly has perfect pitch (and is a fantastic singer), but her German pronunciation is atrocious. When she did Popular in Japanese I couldn’t understand much either…

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, I’m not going to call myself a fantastic musician but I’d at least like to think I’m decent, and I do have perfect pitch… and I’m not good at accents, at all. So I side-eye this theory.

            Although for me it’s less them coming out wrong and more my brain protesting very strongly at being asked to give up its favourite pronunciation. I like to think I can do a great Glaswegian accent in my head, I just can’t shift it to my actual tongue.

          2. Beth Jacobs*

            Opera singers often perform in languages they don’t even understand. And you can’t tell until you Google them. That blows my mind.

            1. Julia*

              In Kristin’s case, I can definitely tell. I also think that unless your German or Italian is excellent, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that an opera singer has a horrible accent.

        1. MsSolo*

          Yes, this is what’s tickling me. If you asked me which English accents I’d describe as “thick” I’d say Geordie, Brummie, Scouse, Cornish and so on. RP (which is presumably what’s meant here) is not really a thick accent, but very crisp, because it’s adoption as the default mass media accent means it has to be easily understood. To me, thick means basically incomprehensible to anyone five miles in the wrong direction.

          But dear god, if coworker is actually “oo ah oo ah my luvver”ing it up, pass me the popcorn,

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            :) yeah…

            Can see how would piss off any actual cockneys though – like if someone starts with the “ock aye the noo” shite I’m *not* happy!

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            It could be that by “thick” the OP meant that it was not just an odd word or phrase here or there but a full-blown, not disguising it, “wow, she’s really going doing this” level.

        2. Media Monkey*

          yes, please don’t ask anyone you perceive to be British what part of England they are from, as a decent percentage of British people are not from any part of England. (signed a Scottish person who clearly has a chip on her shoulder!)

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I can’t decide if it will be better if she’s really good at it or really bad at it.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        I just want it to be *thick*. Not subtle. T.H.I.C.K. – Alfred P. Doolittle thick, Coronation Street thick, silly-upper-class-Englishman-with-a-toothbrush-mustache-in-an-old-movie thick.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            LOL. I actually meant one of those three, but now that you mention it, some sort of combination would be *extremely* entertaining.

            1. Nonnon*

              I’m personally hoping for incomprehensible Devonshire*, or Brummie accent.

              It’s probably Received Pronunciation though, which is less fun.

              * I once went on holiday to Devon as a kid, and was in charge of reading the map. Unfortunately the map didn’t have many of the tiny roads on it, so we got very, very lost. We pulled up to a building with people, and tried to get directions, and their accent and dialect was so thick they may as well have been speaking something other than English. That incident also earned me the nickname ‘SatNav’ (it was when SatNavs were new, and frequently thought rivers were motorways.)

    3. ElspethGC*

      Even if her coworkers think it is, spoilers, it probably isn’t. At least to an actual British person. Every time I’ve seen an accent in TV or movies touted as being a good British accent, I tend to just cringe. And that doubles if someone calls the accent they’re imitating ‘British’!

      (If I worked there, honestly, I’d probably end up telling her to knock it off. Even if someone is well-meaning, it just sounds mocking and irritating. Most people, if they aren’t doing impersonations of specific people, do accents to mock people, so there’s a very visceral “Ugh, here we go again, this is unbearable” feel.)

      1. many bells down*

        I watch a lot of British TV, and I feel the same about a lot of “American” accents done by British actors. I mean, we probably DO sound super nasal and annoying, but we don’t want to know that’s what we sound like to you.

        1. Camellia*

          Did anyone see the Leverage episode where each one was recounting a scene from a museum caper in which they had each (unknown to the others) participated. When it came time to repeat Sophie’s lines, they all sounded so funny, and she would pound her head on the table! “Really!?! That’s what I sound like to you?”

          Just me? Huh. Okay.

          1. Chameleon*

            And then she retconned Elliot’s accent to “utter hick” in revenge. Love that one.

          2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

            God I love that episode.

            On a Leverage-related note, Gina Bellman has the distinction of being the only faked New Zealand accent I’ve ever heard on a TV show that is actually pretty close to right — and it’s because she lived here as a child. Anyone attempting an NZ accent either hits Australia or South Africa.

        2. Nonnon*

          I’m British, and my ‘American Accent’ sounds horribly nasal and annoying, and most Americans do not sound like that to me, I’m just terrible at imitating accents. You’re slightly twangy. It’s not that bad.

          (My ‘Irish’ accent sounds like my Liverpudlian one, but slightly giddy. There’s a reason why I don’t do fake accents. Although there were a lot of Irish immigrants to Liverpool, so I guess it makes sense they sound similar.)

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          There are a lot of Brits who do amazing American accents. But yes, there are awful ones too. (I’m looking at you, Benedict Cumberbatch. I love you but you need to stick to playing Brits.)

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I thought the actual voice was fine but it was so disorienting to hear him speak that it actually distracted me from the movie. A for effort I guess.

          2. Kelsi*

            Few things have ever been funnier to me than Orlando Bloom’s “American” accent in Elizabethtown. Like…the pronunciation was fine! But his cadence was SO BRITISH. Which made it so much weirder and more hilarious than just your standard “bad American accent.”

        4. Chameleon*

          What bugs me is when the actor pulls off the American accent but leaves in all the British turns of phrase. Sorry, BBC, no American has ever said “Sorry, we haven’t any of those” or “Mine is different to yours”.

      2. Ermintrude Mulholland*

        This. I imagine if there’s a British person in the office, the odds of a confrontation will increase dramatically, just due to the irritation factor.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      British accent is so hard. The school I went to as a kid (in Eastern Europe) specialized in British English. In our second year of school, when we were 8, at our first English lesson our teachers gave us each a mirror and we spent a whole year just learning how to position our tongue and the rest of our mouth to make the proper British sounds. And it was for another couple of years that they reminded us of how the speech should flow: up, down, up, down. Our teachers had each spent a couple of years in London on an internship after they graduated college. So they were pretty good! and even with all the hard work they put in trying to teach it to us, I guarantee you that, 40+ years later, none of my classmates has the proper British accent and neither do I. I guess the few people who have the perfect pitch, are very talented musically or artistically, could imitate it perfectly. But not anyone I know.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        At least you’ve been taught consistently. My high school English teacher said we can write in British or American English, both are OK, but we need to be consistent. Problem is, as I mainly learn new English words from either internet or TV, many times I don’t remember what country my source material was from… My pronunciation is also probably a weird mix of everything. Still I seem to be understood quite well in English.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I deliberately use “grey” instead of “gray,” even though I’m a USican, just because I like it. No one has yet told me that I’m spelling it wrong.

            1. bkanon*

              Oooh, me too. Grey and gray are two slightly different things. But I’m reversed of you! Grey is dirtier, earthier; gray is mist and sea.

      2. Julia*

        I wonder if just bombarding kids with British English resources would not have been more effective. At the age of 8, most kids still absorb languages pretty easily.

  3. Christmas Carol*

    I’ve noticed that when I spend a lot of time with my friend from across the pond, I start to pick up his charming accent without even trying. Don’t even get me started about the year this midwesterner had a college roommate from the deep south.

    1. Bumblebee*

      This Deep South girl roomed with a Midwesterner in college. I live in the FL Panhandle and people routinely ask if I’m from Canada. I can totally relate.

    2. Lynca*

      My husband’s Aussie accent and my Southern one tend to cancel each other out. We have become very neutral sounding and just picked up each other’s phrases.

    3. Not Who I Think I Am*

      I have this same issue when I’ve spent the weekend streaming Midsomer Murders or Detective Lewis reruns.

    1. Ciara Amberlie*

      Yes! I need to know what British accent this is, so I can properly enjoy visualising how hilarious this would be!!

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I doubt it’s Wales – the Welsh accent is considerably more difficult to imitate than the others. (I still haven’t figured out why – I can identify it easily enough when I hear it, even absent context clues, like in a video game.)

        On the other hand, an East London accent without the accompanying East London slang would be delightfully absurd.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Oh, I had to teach a Welsh accent in college! I was stage manager for my friend’s senior thesis (theatre majors directed a one act play) which was set in rural Wales. She and I teamed up to teach the cast basic Welsh words and a northern Welsh accent. It was some of the most fun I ever had in college, and it’s been a delight to use at parties.

        2. only acting normal*

          Most people aiming for a Welsh accent inexplicably end up somewhere in India. It is truly painful for a native (of either country probably!) to hear.

            1. London Calling*

              I went to a Welsh university and in my first job back in London was asked by a customer if I was Welsh, so I clearly picked the accent up. South Wales from the vaaaalleys, I am.

          1. LPUK*

            I can only do it as long as I keep my Auntie Carol ( who is VERY Welsh) in mind. As soon as I stop thinking of her, I go veering off to India as well!

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’m imagining the scene in Mrs Doubtfire where Pierce Brosnan tells Mrs Doubtfire that her English accent is a bit “muddled” and she says “So’s your tan.”

      God I hope it’s a Liverpool accent, you don’t hear a lot of that one in the media so it would be especially hilarious for this to be the one to adopt.

        1. Mary*

          Ahh, smilies don’t work here, so that came off ruder than I meant! Sorry, it was supposed to be a reduction as absurdium of “there’s no such thing as a British accent”. :-)

      1. MsSolo*

        I am so proud, after ten years living in Yorkshire, I can now hear the difference between North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Now all I have to do is move to Sheffield and start listening harder to South.

    3. Agent Diane*

      I’m hoping she’s watched Hot Fuzz one to many times and now has a full Somerset accent. Yarp.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Oh god me too!
        Then if it gets too annoying, LW can tell her, “if you want to be a big [insert job title] in a small town, f*** off up the model village” :-D

        Other bad suggestions:
        -Join in but make your accent a contrasting British one. If she’s RP, try Geordie. If she’s doing cockney, go Scouse.
        -Invite me over for a business trip – I can either out-British her (my accent is fairly generic but I tend to end up sounding like a duchess when talking to foreigners especially American tourists) or I can wilfully pretend to assume she’s British too and ask whereabouts she is from etc.
        (Seriously, is there any prospect of the chance to observe how she speaks in front of a real British person?
        -Observe British office-cultural norms in her honour: drink a lot of tea, comment on the weather, complain about the commuter trains being delayed, and go to the pub for four pints and a bag of pork scratchings at 4pm on a Friday.
        -Start wearing a Meghan Markle mask and if asked, say “oh I thought we were doing a Royal Wedding thing?”

        1. London Calling*

          And ask her how she is. If she doesn’t say ‘musn’t grumble,’ she’s not got it right.

        2. Epiphyta*

          Find out if she knows Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, aka Tommy Muscatello – there’s an article about him in the Guardian today that made me fall over laughing.

  4. MrsCHX*

    bwahahaha! I love it!

    I agree to NOT tease/mock her with other people – there’s no reason for that. Just smile/chuckle to yourself. Let her be.

    I have been rewatching Scandal since the beginning and found myself talking in the “Scandal monologue” to someone. LMAO! It happens!

    1. Red Reader*

      Three months ago, I mainlined every episode of Forensic Files Netflix had and, around the middle of the 6th collection (of nine), realized that my inner monologue was suddenly happening in the cadence and voice of the show’s narrator. I haven’t managed to fully shake it yet.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      The most hilarious aspect of “Scandal” for me is that, at least once per episode, someone reminds the viewers about someone else’s title.

      “I am the ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, and this is a crime of the highest order!”

      “I am the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and I’ll do what I want!”

      “I am the CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE etc., etc., etc.”

  5. OrganizedHRChaos*

    I love it! I once had a coworker that was from the Boston area then living in Texas. She was in a car accident and had some brain trauma and all of a sudden began speaking with a thick southern drawl. Never lost the southern drawl and it’s been almost 10 years since her accident. Strange but you get used to it.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      There was a story similar to this, years ago, on GMA. A woman had some sort of brain injury….and suddenly woke up talking with a French accent. Not that I think this happened here, but I found it fascinating.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        This happened to the mother of the teller at my local bank. She said her mother had a stroke and woke up with a strong German accent. She said her mother had never been out of the south and was never around anyone from Germany to pick up the accent. So far as I know, her mother never stopped having a German accent.

        1. The Original K.*

          This was a case on that (fictional) show 9-1-1 on Fox a few months ago. The woman called 911 because she accused her husband of getting violent with her and she was doing a terrible British accent and using very exaggerated slang. Her husband was like, well, first of all, I didn’t get violent, and second, she’s not British, so please advise. Turned out she was having a stroke. A lot of those cases on that show were based on real ones so I wondered if there were others like her out there!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Having seen stuff like this first hand, when I read the letter I assumed there was some sort of injury going on there. It really surprised me that the comments are running pretty light-hearted. But I sincerely hope I am wrong and she is practicing for a play or a speech or some other perfectly logical explanation.

    2. Canarian*

      Yes! Foreign Accent Syndrome is one of those weird, fascinating side effects of traumatic brain injury. I’m so intrigued by these stories.

      1. OrganizedHRChaos*

        I have since learned more about the syndrome but at the time (10+ years ago) it was even baffling to her doctors. Its now just a part of her but she will sometimes mention her old accent to those of us who knew her back then.

      2. Stacy*

        Darn, my tbi only came with boring old regular Post Concussion Syndrome (which, admittedly I didn’t know was a thing until I got it). A new accent might at least be fun!

    3. Competent Commenter*

      Yep came here to say that foreign accent syndrome is a thing that can happen after surgery and brain trauma. There’s a CNN story about this happening to a woman in Texas. The clip of her speaking is really interesting.

    4. Mary*

      I think it’s the case that they don’t *really* have that accent though, they just pick up one feature which is heavily associated with it? So someone who gets an “English” accent doesn’t really sound English, they just pick up the feature which Americans associate with English accents.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Interesting question. I’d like to hear someone from England tell us if the “English” accent in the CNN story about the Texas woman is just one aspect of the way people from England speak or if it really sounds full-on like British English.

        1. SarahKay*

          English here, and I don’t think she quite sounds English. If I’d been talking to her and then had to guess where she was from I’d have said Australian, or South African. Something about the vowels, and the way most of her phrases tend to rise in pitch at the end, I think.

  6. MicroManagered*

    I love this answer so much. How boring would our work-lives be if we only worked with people who looked and behaved exactly as we do?

    Pass me some popcorn… I wonder if she is dating someone British? Some people unconsciously imitate different accents they hear. I’ve read that some psychologists think it’s a sign of empathy. (Sidenote: This is a thing to keep an eye on if you do it–it could be insulting to mimic someone’s heavy accent back to them, for example.)

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Or binging a bunch of BBC programmes? (They’re from the Beeb, therefore, programmes. On PBS, programs.)

      I will admit to doing the mimicking thing if I’m not being careful. I’m just good enough at mimicking accents that it can easily sound like I’m mocking someone so I have to be very mindful of my accent when traveling outside the US.

      1. You don't know me*

        I read a lot of British books and I often find myself using words, phrases, or speech patterns that I wouldn’t normally use having been born in raised here in the States.

        1. Camellia*

          This! It took Word (yes, we are talking decades ago) to make me realize that I spelled ‘behaviour’, well, like that. Now whenever I get a new version of it I just add those words to the Word dictionary and chuckle to myself as I type.

        2. Snargulfuss*

          I frequently use “a bit” and “quite” in my speech and I attribute it to all of the British novels, podcasts, and shows.

          However, I’m not sure I’m using “quite” correctly. I use it to mean “very,” but I recall hearing recently that Brits use it to mean “sort of.” If the cake is quite good it’s not horrible but not fantastic. Is this correct?

          1. SarahKay*

            For a Brit, yes, you are correct that a quite good cake would be okay-ish, but not amazing.

            1. smoke tree*

              I wonder if this is a Canadian/American regional difference as well. I would also interpret a quite good cake as just a decent cake.

              1. Commander Shepard*

                Ah, but if was really decent you’d just say good without having to qualify it with “quite”. Quite good is a step above ok, so it probably is decent but you’ve definitely indicated that it wasn’t straight up good

              1. SarahKay*

                If you are a Cabin Pressure fan, then definitely!
                If you are a Brit generally then yes, could be brilliant, or could be amazing, or wonderful, or fabulous.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            “I use it to mean “very,” but I recall hearing recently that Brits use it to mean “sort of.””

            Both :) depends on context!

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That happened to one of my sons! He binged one British show, then another, and next we knew, he was telling us that “this is mental” and “mom, I nicked your car keys”.

        I loved it. He later snapped out of it and I wish he’d snap back in.

    2. Lora*

      Ex-husband was British. I didn’t acquire his accent, but he acquired my PA Dutch accent somewhat. Mainly the long drawn-out nasal vowels in “aaaaaaasshole” and “caaaay-in’t”.

      I normally keep the PA Dutch accent under control because when I’m very tired it can be close to unintelligible (“outen the light,” “my hair’s strubbly,” “the report is all” “go red up the break room” “that machine is verhoodled” etc), but at home it was on full blast, complete with odd Germanic sentence construction.

      1. puzzld (I see there's a Puzzled here, I am not that Puzzled)*

        Trow the cow over the fence some hay…

        Germans from Russia here.

        1. Sarianna*

          My friend’s great-grandmother from Quebec had a similar English translation… “Throw me down the stairs my slippers!”
          The mental image of throwing little old ladies OR cows is hilarious for exactly opposite reasons.

        2. Lora*

          The cow is loose, you be on this side the fence and I’ll be on the other side, maybe he go up both ways.

          (One cow. It’s not capable of division or cloning.)

      2. CBE*

        Wow, this post just helped me figure out which accent one of my kid’s middle school teachers had! I could never figure it out and never had the chance to ask! But this is definitely it.

      3. Camellia*

        From Tennessee, and we said ‘rhet off the table’. I saw it written for the first time in a play we read in college but can’t remember which one. That’s how they spelled the word and it means to ‘clean’, I guess.

      4. hermit crab*

        I grew up in the Harrisburg/Lancaster area and annoy my parents (who are not from there; I’m a first-generation Pennsylvanian) to no end by saying things like “outen” and “red up” and “it’s all.” (Do you also say “___, just” to mean “by itself” as in, “I don’t like that apple salad and I’d rather have apples, just”?) At least my husband thinks it’s adorable. :)

        1. Lora*

          Chust! Yes. And everything is For something. There are no useless things, it’s for fashion or for nice or for luck.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      It isn’t insulting but they could be insulted. Just like mimicking a conversational partner’s body language is a sign of listening and agreement copying the other person’s vocal mannerisms is also a way to try and align yourself with them and shows you are engaged in the conversation/relationship and that you value them (as you are changing yourself to be more like them instead of requiring them to become more like you.)

      1. X. Trapnel*

        I’m Scottish, but have lived in New Zealand for the last 30 years. According to NZers, I have a strong Scottish accent.
        I have to say that conversing with someone who starts imitating my accent brings out the worst in me. I do very much take it as them mocking me, probably because EVERY New Zealander I’ve met seems to think that hooting “och aye the noo Jimmy” at me is funny.
        It’s not.
        It stopped being funny after I’d spent 5 minutes in your country. You are not funny. You are not original. You are a deeply boring pea brained idiot.
        I now have a reputation as a sour faced Scottish misery.
        I don’t care. :-)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Scot living in Berkshire… yeah, can relate! Luckily none of acquaintences at moment are that much of a numpty. But sometimes strangers do… or start talking about how bad the weather is in Scotland (that they state they’ve never visited) … *sigh*

          1. Media Monkey*

            also Scot also living in Berkshire (represent!) and i agree. When i started my first “real” job in London it was a few years after Trainspotting came out and i have heard all the Scottish people are all on heroin jokes and people laughing at me for saying chube (for tube instead of tyoooobe, i guess?) and supe (for soup instead of soowpe). i don’t even have a very strong accent (west coast but not especially Glaswegian although I can do Glaswegian if people prefer!). i do speak very fast though.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Best was when I was working in Earls’ court a few years back as a summer job and was taking bookings. So we’re sold out for Royal enclosure for the Royal Tournament the day the Queen’s there three days before the event (funny that…). After trying to explain why we’d sold out the most popular tickets for virtually any event, very RP accent demanded “let me speak to someone who isn’t Scottish!”

    4. Triple Anon*

      I ran with sort of an ex-pat crowd for a while when living in a major city. Most of my friends were from other countries. That led to me living abroad for a while. I picked up a bit of the Irish, Australian, and New Zealand accents. I accidentally slip into those accents sometimes. Usually it’s more of a hybrid, not too obvious except for certain sounds. Mix that with New England and Southern US accents, plus random other east coast ones and you have . . . Well, someone who talks funny!

    5. VictorianCowgirl*

      Maybe she’s been binge watching Harry Potter. I’d be tempted to copy her accent when I talked to her, just to see what she’d do.

  7. blink14*

    Outside shot here, as it’s pretty rare, but there is actually a speech disorder called Foreign accent syndrome that can be caused by a stroke or brain injury. From what I understand, people who have this disorder usually do not realize they are speaking differently.

    1. Catalin*

      Also, is there any chance that the English accent is her natural cadence/accent and she’s put on an American accent? I forcibly Americanize my speech at work, but if I’m nervous or stressed, the natural patterns slip out.

      (I realize this doesn’t seem to be the case for the suddenly-Sussex situation, but just in case…)

      1. Nita*

        I was thinking that! I had a lovely British accent years ago, but then I moved to the US and kids in middle school are not nice about being different. I’ve lost the accent completely, and wish I could have it back but it’s mostly gone. Except, yes, if I’m stressed or I spend a lot of time around a British expat coworker. Could be the coworker has a long-repressed accent that’s slipping out for some reason!

        1. Tau*

          I lost my old American accent for a very geographically mixed but I think mainly some form of British one in high school. The full-on accent seems to be genuinely gone, but I do suspect I sound more American when I talk with Americans (while talking with my Scottish coworker pulls out the Scottish in my accent, etc.) I worry sometimes that people will think I’m mocking them…

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    What a coincidence! Yesterday, I found out that Elizabeth Holmes, failed Theranos CEO, faked her voice the entire time. She lowered it several octaves, and an employee found out when Holmes screwed up after a meeting and used her real voice by accident.

    Can you imagine the stamina and dedication it takes to keep up that act for so long? Plus it must have hurt her vocal cords!

    Anyway, stuff like this makes work interesting. Enjoy it while you can!

    1. Natalie*

      That seems less weird (not completely unweird, just less) because I’ve heard that advice before. I think there are voice coaches that sell this kind of training to female executives.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Yeah it’s not as weird because it plays into the overall rampant deception and manipulation.

        But c’mon! It was way too overdone so much so someone who didn’t know her well caught her in the act.

        1. Natalie*

          Oh, I’m sure it was weird to hear her real voice, and probably means she was dropping her normal register too far.

    2. Higher Ed Database DOrk*

      I started lowering my voice at work as a way to combat my instinct to do a high-pitched mousey voice when I get nervous. I’m sure people can tell a difference, because now when I get nervous I get lower pitched and more formal…but I’m hoping that’s better than super-squeaky, teen-girl voice (and I don’t need anything else that makes me look like a teen girl, my stature and baby face take care of that just fine). It’s almost into vocal fry zone which is a whole ‘nother bag of cats for some people.

      1. Jennifer*

        I had a vocal coach for a while (I have had a billion people complain about my voice) and she said that trying to talk lower to sound more like a man/get more respect at work works….but also can do a number on your vocal cords.


      1. aes_sidhe*

        My sister does this when she’s telling somebody something I said. I told her she makes me sound like Jim Carrey on “In Living Color” when he’d do Vera DiMilo.

        1. Julia*

          I think Shirley means that “several octaves” sound quite impossible, considering the average non-trained human/singer barely has a range of two octaves. Even if her regular speaking voice hovered around C5 (which I doubt), she’d have to go for C3 and that’s quite out of the range of most women, especially ones with naturally high-pitched voices.

          I’m someone with a high-pitched speaking voice. Once, I was having a slight cold, plus I tried to make my voice a little lower without forcing it. We had to do a recording in interpreting class that day and I thought, “today I’ll finally get that husky Idina Menzel sound!” … Turns out, even if I lower my voice, I still sound like Kristin Chenoweth’s baby sister. Le sigh.

    3. ElspethGC*

      Thatcher was Prime Minister 1979-90 and ‘faked’ her voice the entire time – she was criticised in 1973 for her tone (yay sexism) and worked with a voice coach to develop a new one, and proceeded to use it for the rest of her political and public speaking career. No matter what your personal feelings are (mine aren’t overly positive, let’s just leave it there) that has to be a struggle.

    4. FD*

      Nah, that’s pretty normal. Speaking in a lower, slower voice than natural makes you sound more commanding. (Works for both men and women, generally.)

    5. Close Bracket*

      That is not faking your voice. That is speaking in a lower part of your natural range. For what it’s worth, most women “naturally” speak in a higher part of their range then they naturally, without quotes, would. A voice coach can help you find what your actual natural speaking pitch should be based solely on the physical parameters of your biology.

      1. Chinook*

        I had it pointed out to me that I used different parts of my range depending on the situation or language. Basically, my formal phone voice is slightly higher pitched, my Japanese voice higher still and then, when I answered the phone in Japanese, I didn’t sound like myself at all. Yet, when I want attention, I can go deep and loud.

        1. Julia*

          There is a phenomenon of people speaking in a higher voice when using a foreign language, plus in Japan, higher voices are considered better, so you were probably also conditioned to use a higher voice.

        2. KellyK*

          I wonder how common pitching your formal phone voice higher is, because I do it too. (It was also my “customer service” voice when I worked food service in college.)

          And when I’m annoyed, or saying something sarcastic or snarky, the pitch drops.

    6. Dino*

      A girl in my high school faked a British accent for all 4 years. Someone who was in class with her in middle school said that one day in 6th grade she just… started talking like that and continued. For YEARS! When I ran into her at work a few years later, she didn’t have it anymore. So bizarre.

    7. Sarah*

      When I was an intern at a Fortune 100 company, they wanted to send me for voice coaching. I don’t have a particularly unusual voice – I’ve just always sounded young. I actually like my voice, though, so I didn’t love that suggestion, and never pursued it. But, at minimum, I’ve been conscious of my pitch ever since – and, quite often, I think I do lower my pitch, especially when I want to be taken seriously.

    8. ENFP in Texas*

      Considering everything else that ended up being an act at Theranos, this is somehow oddly unsurprising…

    9. Ann O.*

      This is a sensitive topic for me, having been personally criticized for faking a voice. Speaking in a lower register in some settings is not faking it. Our voices have a range of reality and are flexible. For many women, speaking in a lower register is a natural thing to do when we are in positions of authority. Again, this is not fake. Our higher voices are not more real. They’re simply used in different situations. Pretty much everyone uses different registers in different situations, though. It’s just that it’s only noticed and critiqued for some people.

      IMHO, faking it should be reserved for shifting accents or doing a very strong character voice.

  9. Val*

    I love this answer. My mid-western co-workers think I sound Southern (20 years in VA after growing up in North Jersey then moving back to Jersey), my friends from the South think I sound like Jersey, and people in Jersey don’t give a sh*t. LOL. And it generally depends on where I’ve spent time recently. Though this one sounds seriously weird.

    1. Rachel Green*

      Same here, I live in the South, and people here don’t think I have an accent at all. But when I visit anywhere outside the South, people think I have a strong southern accent. It’s all relative, I guess.

      1. sunshyne84*

        Lol I get the same thing. But when I did phone surveys a lot of people would ask where I was calling from and were surprised I was Texan.

  10. Onward and Upward*

    Just a note, as echoed above- this can be a sign of a serious medical issue. If this is the only thing that has changed recently, then she’s probably just being a weirdo! But if this accent is coupled with other noticeable changes in behavior or performance, then it may be worth figuring out a way to tactfully and compassionately address it with her or her manager. Although how, exactly, is tricky!

    1. BadWolf*

      I had a coworker who started asking to be called by different names. The first time, it was shortly after he was hired, so didn’t seem like a big deal. Then it became clear that name requests were related to his sadly unstable mental illness (I don’t know what he had — it seemed in the realm of bipolar disorder, not multiple personality disorder).

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    Secret twins! Job-sharing secret twins, one raised in Somerset and one in Ohio.

    1. henrietta*

      Or, you know, Identical Cousins! One who’s been to Berkeley Square and likes Crepe Suzettes, the other one from Brooklyn Heights and likes hot dogs!

    2. Fiona*

      So, this actually happened to my colleague – or rather, an intern at my company. She applied for a new job after her internship was up, decided she didn’t want it, and “gave” it to her near-identical twin. I saw the twin at that job and said, “Oh hi, I used to work with Layla.” She stared at me and said, “I AM Layla.” Readers, I had worked with Layla for months – I knew it wasn’t her. It was seriously creepy.

      I’m pretty sure she was fired a few months later when they found out. I was always so curious how the cat got out of the bag.

      1. Jennifer*

        I can’t believe that plot happened IRL. That is like, a Hallmark movie plot with Candace Camerone Bure, even.

      2. Dragonsnap*

        OMG what. What. What. That is a nutso story. Also what was Twin B aka Not Layla going to do after that job? It’s not like she could use the reference unless she wanted to live as her twin forever…? Weren’t her paychecks addresses to the wrong person…? This raises so many questions.

        1. Fiona*

          Right? We were all so curious about how it didn’t end with an…arrest? Lawsuit? It’s definitely fraud, right? It was such a wild story. I have no idea what Twin B’s plan was post-job.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m now curious about how it took as long as a few months for them to catch on, if she was near identical but not properly identical – if you could tell at one look that it wasn’t Layla after working with her for months, surely others there had worked with her for as long or longer and could also have told?

        1. Fiona*

          Sorry, I probably didn’t explain it very well. I worked at a post-production company (I’ll call it “Silver Stone”) with Layla, who interned there for maybe 3-5 months. After Layla’s internship at Silver Stone was up, she interviewed for a full-time receptionist position at a different company in the same industry (I’ll call it “Color Factory”).

          After she was given an offer (but BEFORE starting the job), Layla decided she ultimately didn’t want it, so she secretly “gave” it to her twin, Lisa. The people at Color Factory had only met Layla once, at the interview, so when Lisa showed up, I don’t think they had enough familiarity to know that it was a different person. We’re all in the same industry, so it was a really weird and foolish move, because there were bound to be people (like me!) who visited the offices of Color Factory and would absolutely know that she was not Layla. A couple other people had interactions that were similar, but I didn’t know anyone at the Color Factory well enough to say “hey, you have a really weird situation on your hands.” But someone ultimately did, because she got fired.

    3. Stolen ice cream*

      Best speculation EVER!

      Or twins separated at birth and one grew up in London and the other in the US and they just found out about each other and have swapped places to learn about each other’s lives!

  12. dr_silverware*

    Ah yes…I have a coworker who breaks out an exaggerated fake accent for a couple words at a time, so as ya leave the breakroom he’ll hit ya with a CHEERI-O!! Sometimes as you come into the breakroom he’ll pop an ‘ELLO GUVNA on you.

    This is a guy who loves working video game conventions, and once poked me in the forehead. So I’ve always assumed it’s a combination of three factors: the geek fallacy of substituting an odd affectation in for conversation, general misjudgment of social situations, and a feeling of connection to Doctor Who.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      “the geek fallacy of substituting an odd affectation in for conversation” – I didn’t know that was a thing. I just learnt something about some of my colleagues. Also, about myself *cringe*

    2. palomar*

      I used to work with the female version of this guy, except she waffled between a thick Cockney accent and an extremely plummy posh Gilbert & Sullivan sort of thing. It was JARRING, but god, the stories I went home with were kind of worth it.

  13. Merci Dee*

    Frankly, this sounds to me like the perfect excuse to institute afternoon tea in the office. Go all out with a full-on three-tiered tray stuffed with scones/lemon curd/clotted cream, delicious tea sandwiches, and little tea desserts that would just make you drool.

    I need only the thinnest of excuses to whip up afternoon tea.

  14. Argh!*

    There is actually a disorder that does this to people. It’s “Foreign Accent Syndrome” & it’s caused by brain injury.

    Then sometimes it’s caused by someone just being weird.

  15. Rae*

    HAHA faking accents (and storylines) used to be a fun game when we had to cover the call center rather than our normal clients. We even had accent training CD’s of ALL varieties from someone’s theatre days. We used those character builder and information spoofer sites to create our new identities. It was FABULOUS.

    The best part was that occasionally our usual clients would call in and we’d be playing a character and days later when we called them they’d tell us how nice the other person was.

    1. Not Who I Think I Am*

      I knew someone who’d started a business (staff of one) who would fake accents and names over the phone to make prospective clients think his business was bigger than it was.

    2. Who the eff is Hank?*

      When I worked for a theatre in college, my coworkers and I loved to wear fake name tags, wigs, etc from shift to shift. I had the same job/station for 90% of my shifts and it was always funny when regulars said the “blonde girl” was nicer than me, or “the redhead” gave them free stuff.

    3. hermit crab*

      My brother did this when he worked the front gate at an amusement park. There were always a bunch of international student workers around for the summer, and he got one of them to teach him some kind of Aussie accent. He had his backstory all fleshed out and would stay in character throughout entire transactions with customers.

    4. aNon*

      Like the episode of The Office where Kelly is teaching accounting how to answer phone calls after the unfortunate watermark incident and tells them they can use accents. Sometimes she pretends to be Bridget Jones. Fantastic episode of a fantastic show.

    5. EvilQueenRegina*

      I had a summer job at a call centre and someone admitted to using fake accents on her calls sometimes. She’d not realised until I pointed it out that we had prerecorded greetings so people were being greeted with her regular accent before hearing, say, the Scottish one she was using (that’s the only accent I can remember her admitting to using).

    6. sunshyne84*

      I called someone who was pretending to be a robot once. Didn’t matter to me as long as he answered all the questions. lol

  16. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “So my advice to you: ENJOY THIS SPECTACLE. ” But also give us an update in three months!!

  17. Amateur Thespian*

    There’s always the chance that there’s actually a somewhat-but-not-completely-weird explanation. I’m an extremely amateur performer as a hobby. Whenever I’m working on a script that requires an accent I’ll find myself sometimes slipping into it at work. All of my co-workers know about what I do, so they just laugh it off when I slip up. Does he seem like the type who would act or role play as a hobby?

    1. Amateur Thespian*

      And I totally missed that you said she and not he. Sorry about the typo.

  18. Admitted Anglophile*

    I hope OP comes around to answer questions because I have so many. Is it just the accent or the vocabulary too? Has she started calling it “the bin” instead of the trash can? Does she take the “lift” up to the office in the morning?

    You said a lot of people have noticed, how is the rest of the office handling it? Are there lots of obvious meaningful glances during meetings? Are people ducking into each others’ offices and saying “what was THAT?” Have the bosses said anything? Does she interact with clients or customers at all?

    Does she drink tea instead of coffee in the morning? Has she been eating a lot of meat pies and putting malt vinegar on her fries?

    Is it the Queen’s English or does she have an accent from a specific locale (please tell me she’s Cockney)? Or does she mix it up?

    Is this letter from Patrick J. Adams? Is your coworker Meghan Markle?

    1. British Dude.*

      > Has she been eating a lot of meat pies and putting malt vinegar on her fries?

      On her CHIPS.

  19. Knitting Cat Lady*

    It turns out that when I speak English O sound like a true Nord of Skyrim.

    And I have at least three modes of German:
    1. Dialect, as I speak with my family
    2. Informal German, that I speak people from Germany.
    3. Informal German that I speak with people from Austria or Switzerland.
    4. Formal German that I use for Really Important work stuff.
    5. Clearly enunciated German for people whose German isn’t that good.

    Anyone who hears mode 1 wonders if that was German at all.

    1. Mary*

      Which dialect? First time I lived in Germany was in Saxony & I came home saying “ich wääääss nett”.

  20. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    I pick up accents so easily–and it’s embarrassing! I was just in the UK a few weeks ago and I am always afraid that I’m going to sound like I’m making fun of someone. I’m not, and I don’t sound British, my accent just slants British-ish when I’m immersed. (and nearly immediately disappears upon return home) Likewise when I’m visiting my family in the South, my y’alls really start to come out. I don’t even know why it happens!

    But I feel like this is something different. In middle school I had a classmate who had British parents and she came to school one day (suddenly) with a British accent, which was odd because she was born and raised in the US and previously sounded as American as the rest of us. But she did strongly identify with her British heritage (and ended up going to boarding school and university in the UK). Maybe its something like that? People are so strange.

    1. Tex*

      The case you outline sounds like ‘code switching’ where people (sometimes naturally, sometimes purposefully) change accents and vocabulary to fit in with a certain group.

      It’s a distinct possibility for OP’s coworker, but they haven’t elaborated on the details of the new accent.

    2. Jill_P*

      I had a friend in University who was born English but moved to Canada when he was about 9. He’d been bullied and trained himself to speak with a Canadian accent, so by the time I knew him his English accent only came out when he was praying. But then later in University he decided to reclaim his accent all the time- which is his prerogative- but it honestly felt to me like he was faking it just because I was so used to his other way of talking. Definitely my problem, not his.

  21. Oxford Common Sense*

    You’re all laughing about this, but as an Actual Brit if someone did this in my (US) office I would have real difficulty restraining myself. I would think they were taking the piss :)

    1. ElspethGC*

      Yes, this – I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself from telling her to knock it off if I was there. As someone from Yorkshire (not deep rural or any of the city accents, but noticeably northern) I’ve got used to my accent and turn of phrase being imitated and mocked, particularly at a midlands university with a high proportion of southern students. If an American I worked with was doing a ‘British’ accent out of nowhere, I would 100% presume that it was for the purpose of mocking the accent/a specific person.

      1. anonintheuk*

        Ha. I grew up in Doncaster and now live in the Home Counties. To my Essex-born colleague’s horror, I explained that HE might think I am saying ‘booos’ not ‘bus’, but I hear him as saying ‘bas’ not ‘bus’.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Sometimes when I’m watching a British tv show, some characters sound quite odd and after awhile I realize that they’re using an “American” accent. And there’s no single American accent, any more than there’s a single British accent.

      (The best is when they come out with how people talked in 1930’s gangster movies. Yes, people talked like that 80 years ago, and boy howdy nobody talks like that anymore. At least, nobody in media.)

      1. Not Who I Think I Am*

        Or they’ll use a British expression in their (noticeably fake) “American” accent. One no American would ever think to use.

        1. Chameleon*

          I mentioned this above. Every time an “American” shows up on Midsomer Murders I just want to write the BBC and offer myself as the American translator.

    3. can't remember what alias i used last time*

      As another actual Brit who has spent time in the US none of the supposedly British accents Americans sometimes put on actually sound like a real British accent and they do sound like they are taking the piss. Is it acceptable because Brits are (generally) white, if she was faking a Jamaican accent for example would it still be funny or would it be racist?

    4. Mary*

      I was thinking that the answer should be “hire an Actual British Person and buy popcorn”.

    5. cheri*

      Yeah, I’m not sure why nearly everyone here thinks it’s all fun and games. What happens if a Brit actually comes in to the office? Or talks to them on the phone?

      I’m American but from the Deep South and saying things in a southern accent is almost always shorthand for ‘look at how stupid this sounds’. It’s incredibly frustrating. When I moved up north I had to consciously ditch my native accent to be taken seriously (am female, work in tech, and still got carded for R movies until I was about 30; the accent was the only thing I could tweak). A coworker doing something like this would bug the crap out of me.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        Boy, isn’t that the truth. In the movies, a Southern accent is shorthand for identifying a character as stupid and narrow-minded. I can get away with mine in Atlanta, but if I moved away from the South I’d probably work on ditching it altogether (something I can do if I’m careful).

      2. Mad Baggins*

        I thought this as well. It’s delightfully fun when coworkers let their freak flag fly, but if the coworker is doing it to “sound refined,” what happens when she actually meets a British person? What assumptions does she have about other accents?

        Barring an accidental slip after watching too much British TV, I’d take this as an offense waiting to happen…

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed. I’m from Scotland (mixed accent of Ayrshire, Dumfries&Galloway, bit of Fife and Glasgow) currently living in south England. Someone suddenly started talking in a Scots accent, I’d definitely say something.

      It’s rude.

  22. Jiji*

    LOL, this reminds me of college when everyone would come back from study abroad having “picked up” an accent–that would magically be gone a few days into the semester.

  23. Em*

    My friend has a brain tumour and her accent fluctuates as a result. Hope that’s not what’s happening here.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hope OP sees this, because, yeah. There could be more to this. I hope not. I am sorry about your friend’s illness.

  24. sfigato*

    I had a coworker (who was southern) who had visited london for a week or whatever and picked up a british accent. It was awesome. And I went to school with a woman who had an Irish accent, so I assumed she was irish…until I learned that she was American and had just traveled there and thought the accent sounded cool.

    That said, I find southern accents and Indian accents infectious and I have to try really hard not to affect them if I spend too much time around people with said accents.

    1. ragazza*

      My father got Irish citizenship and moved there from the U.S.–within a couple of weeks he was talking about the “telly” and had picked up an Irish lilt.

  25. periwinkle*

    My hair stylist noted that her pre-school daughter has become enraptured with Peppa Pig recently, and is now starting to talk with a slight accent as well as use British vocabulary. “Mummy, I cut my finger. Can you put on a plaster?”

    1. Indie*

      Peppa Pig is also responsible for Northern English kids saying ‘grahss’ instead of grass and ”barth’ instead of bath, like Southerners! Luckily it only affects toddlers and wears off :)

      1. Mary*

        God, I hope this is true. My Leeds-born-and-raised daughter keeps saying “plahster”, and it makes me cringe! We’re pushing Little Princess as hard as we can. Might be Lancashire but at least it’s the north!

      2. hermit crab*

        It’s too bad that toddler accents wear off – my husband spent a few years in London as a young kid (starting around age 3 or so) and, as documented by family videos, had the most adorable accent. I’m bummed that he doesn’t have it anymore! Though I think his parents were glad when they moved away and his accent started matching theirs again.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Confession: after I came back from the UK, I would watch Peppa Pig sometimes when I had cable just so I could hear the accents because I missed them.

  26. People be cray*

    My mom writes romance novels and has a friend/fan who lives vicariously through said romance novels. Her accent turns British, southern U.S., whatever suits her fancy that day.

  27. ElspethGC*

    Yes, this – I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself from telling her to stop if I was there. As someone from Yorkshire (not deep rural or any of the city accents, but noticeably northern) I’ve got used to my accent and turn of phrase being imitated and mocked, particularly at a midlands university with a high proportion of southern students. If an American I worked with was doing a ‘British’ accent out of nowhere, I would 100% presume that it was for the purpose of mocking the accent/a specific person.

  28. arcya*

    romcom take!: she met someone in a casual hookup situation and pretended to be British because that’s more fun, never expecting to see the other person again. But now they’re falling for each other! So she has to work the British thing into her every day life now. Is she also scrambling around to learn random British history trivia? Has she started putting up little pictures of the Queen everywhere?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just wrote an answer for tomorrow that says the situation in the letter seems like it should be the plot of a Kate Hudson movie, but now I think that about this too.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Still a great answer. It’s nice not to hear about toxic workplaces for a day.

    2. Luna*

      I actually have a friend who did that! She only ended up dating the guy for a few weeks, but still it was fun to watch her slip into her British persona every time she spoke with him.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Wasn’t this in an Anna Faris movie? Where the guy was Martin Freeman?

    4. Jennifer*

      There was a fictional 36 Questions musical podcast in which the girl created a fake identity on a whim with a dude, the relationship lasted and she MARRIED him (with fake name and all), and then the relationship breaks up once he finds out it was all a lie.

    5. Audiophile*

      Does anyone remember “NewsRadio”? It was a 90s sitcom canceled too soon. Anyone in one episode, Bill, played by the late Phil Hartman, fakes a British accent because he met a woman who believes he’s British and has to keep up the act when she visits him in the office.

  29. Lily in NYC*

    In high school, I had to take one of those SAT-like exams at a different school across the island. I didn’t know anyone there so I decided it would be fun to fake a British accent. I still can’t figure out why I thought it was a good idea and I am sure I sounded like an insane mix of Austin Powers and Shrek.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      In middle school, my cousin and I would pick a different accent/character/backstory on ski trips, and then try to convince anyone we ended up on a lift with that we were those characters. Natch, once we were doing a British thing and the women we were sitting turned out to be British (that, or they saw our bluff and decided to raise us, which is also hilarious).

      1. PhyllisB*

        Not an accent story, but still pretty funny. I used to go to a boarding school with a lot of girls from Guatemala and Venezuela. One day two of them had gone to town and saw a cute boy. Thinking he wouldn’t understand them, they talking conversing in Spanish about cute he was, ect. As they were walking away, he came up to them, and in perfect Spanish, thanked them for all the nice things they said.

        1. chi type*

          It always cracks me up when Spanish speakers in the U.S. think they can just say whatever and no one will understand.
          Like, you know that’s not some secret code right? It’s literally the second most common language in the world!

          1. Kuododi*

            At one point, I was facilitating anger management groups at a local hs for at risk adolescents. One of the groups had a couple of Spanish speaking immigrant girls participating. On the first day of the group, these young ladies strolled in approximately ten minutes late chatting in Spanish about how awful it was they were having to waste their time in group etc, etc. I let them continue for another minute or two and cut them off in Spanish explaining that I expected them to be on time from here on out and we would not be able to be rude to the others by continuing in Spanish. (I’d been warned in advance these ladies were perfectly fluent in English) So, they stared at me as I watched the tops of their heads blow off! That was good for a giggle. BTW… I am as Caucasian as anyone could imagine. Best regards!!!

    2. Mrs. Fenris*

      The summer I was in London, one of my friends got pretty good at a London accent, at least to my ears. I don’t think he would have fooled a local, and he looked very American, but he gave directions to American tourists a couple of times and sounded pretty credible.

  30. Cube Ninja*

    This just puts me in mind of Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element:

    “Look, lady, I only know two languages. English and bad English!”

  31. NewBoss2016*

    I had a friend who did this for YEARS. It was inexplicable, and of course everyone noticed. He had a southern US accent one day, and a charming Brit accent the next. He kind of played it off like he didn’t know what we were talking about when we asked him what was up.
    And it freaking worked! He became instantly more attractive and interesting to strangers at parties. It became normal for us, and we got used to it fairly quickly. I saw him recently after a few years, and sadly he is no-longer British.

  32. Kms1025*

    Ah Ha … that is where Ms 008 has gone! Hiding in plain sight in The Colonies. Her Majesty’s Secret Service advises that she is to report in forthwith…

  33. Liz*

    Just FYI for people who are suggesting that this could be Foreign Accent Syndrome: there’s been an average of around one recorded case per year of this syndrome in the entire world since 1941. Whereas at any given time, every high school theater club has about half a dozen nerds who are experimenting with a British accent because it sounds ever so posh pip pip cheerio. Think horses, not zebras.

    1. Memily*

      There was a guy at my college who was in the theatre department and spoke with a British accent and wore a top hat all over campus. He was from a town about 45 mins from our school, which was in western Kentucky.

      1. wickedtongue*

        I’m now remembering there was one of these at my university! Not in theatre, but I think in the Honors college where I was. Wore tweeds, affected a British accent. It was rumored he came from a VERY small town in Texas.

        College is a strange time.

      2. Julia*

        A friend told me a story about a guy in her friend circle (dating one of her friends) who pretended to be French for years, complete with a French accent and a snobbish attitude about Americans. After they got him really drunk once, it turned out that he wasn’t French, he was from Fresno or someplace. Why would anyone do that??

  34. ragazza*

    I kind of hope it’s a terrible Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins kind of accent. Like “oy guv, cheerio!”

    1. Tace*

      Ah, yes, me too! I like Dick van Dyke as an actor, and I even like him in Mary Poppins; he’s adorable – but his “Cockney” accent makes me want to clap my hands over my ears and scream.

      I call it the “Cock-er-NO” accent.

      Hilarious fact – apparently he had a voice coach?!? Which makes me wonder what his Cock-er-NO accent was like before the voice coach got involved! 0.o

      1. Media Monkey*

        the voice coach is apparently the reason for some of the weirder bits of his attempted accent. as they didn’t run every line with him, they taught him “rules” for a cockney accent. so silhouette comes out horribly because it is so irregular! if you google, his voice coach was irish and couldn’t do cockney either.

  35. Anna*

    My theory: she lost a bet and has to talk like that until someone asks her WFT is up with her accent.

    You must end her misery and ask.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Or this IS the bet, and she keeps being challenged to do another week, double or nothing.

  36. Rachel Green*

    The “voice” in my head usually mirrors the voice of the narrator of whatever audiobook I’m listening to at the moment. So, if I’ve been listening to a Lianne Moriarty book, my thoughts are usually in an Australian accent. Or if I’ve been listening to a book with an English narrator, my thoughts are usually in an English accent. This never carries over into my speaking voice, just my inner thoughts. But, I can see how easy it is to pick up an accent when you’ve been around it a lot.

    1. Higher Ed Database DOrk*

      Same here, I’ve been listening to a book narrated by Andy Serkis and now my inner voice sounds like a diabolical evil genius from the 1800s. It’s great. :)

    2. Mrs. Fenris*

      Ha! I probably don’t get out enough, but Liane Moriarty’s characters sound American in my mind’s ear. Sophie Kinsella’s characters kind of go in and out of a British accent. My imagination can’t quite keep it up.

    3. The Luidaeg*

      Yes to this! I listened to Big Little Lies on audiobook for several days on my work commute and found I was thinking with the narrator’s accent (although I didn’t let any of it come of out my mouth). Same thing when I finished Eleanor Oliphant —- narrator was Scottish, which was a treat.

      I have noticed if I watch a lot of BBC America, I start to slide into some British expressions. After binge-watching Orphan Black, I noticed I was slipping “Yeah” into my phrases. Actually, though, I kind of liked that particular thing…

    1. Camellia*

      Hmmm. You may be on to something. It would be interesting to know exactly when this started.

  37. Green Goose*

    This is a pet peeve of mine. I’m from California, so I feel like I’ve encountered multiple people in my life who “developed” certain accents later in life. There was a guy in high school that had a British accent and then when people found out he was American with American parents, he didn’t really have an explanation. The big one was people who either moved to England as adults, or people that lived there a year or less and suddenly had a very pronounced English accent. I lived in England for over a year and my voice did not change.
    Its so weird to me because I don’t know how people who have fake accents don’t realize how obvious and strange it comes across to others. I can’t imagine a coworker doing that!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The big one was people who either moved to England as adults, or people that lived there a year or less and suddenly had a very pronounced English accent. I lived in England for over a year and my voice did not change.
      I think some people just pick up an accent more easily than others, though. I live in an area with a distinctive accent. I had a high school classmate who went to college in a different state with an even more distinctive accent. When he came back his first summer, he said everyone there makes fun of his native accent, but all I could hear was his new one. (Of course, given that people were making fun of his accent, he might have been cultivating the new one intentionally, but it wasn’t one that people would normally choose to pick up.)

      1. Winifred*

        I lived in London for a few years and became acutely aware of my American accent. I didn’t pick up a London accent or words, but definitely picked up the penultimate inflection (don’t remember the term for this) many Londoners used in questions. It went away when I moved back to NYC.

          1. Future Homesteader*

            My aunt lived in London for 20 years, and while her accent is at most transatlantic, her vocab and phrasing (especially with questions) is super English. I also love it, it makes me feel weirdly warm and coz(s)y.

        1. Mrs. Fenris*

          OK, I actually did that for several weeks after my summer in London. It sounded very odd at my small town college in northwest Georgia.

        2. London Calling*

          Interrogative uplift. It’s actually Australian and irritatingly catching.

      2. Julia*

        This. I (a German) had been working in Switzerland for less than a year when I went to a German friend’s wedding and one of the other guests asked me if I was sure I was actually German, since I had such a funny accent. I guess it would have been funny had she not been so rude.

    2. Tuesday Next*

      My husband’s aunt and uncle moved to the US about 40 years ago. He sounds “American” (to us) and she sounds as though she never left South Africa. People are different.

    3. Jennifer*

      The British accent guy reminds me of some story I heard somewhere (a podcast? This American Life?) where a guy from California came up with some African accent and used it through college for years.

    4. Kuododi*

      Oh…you reminded me of the teenaged daughter of the husband/wife music ministers at the church DH and I attended while we were engaged. This couple was full time at the School of Music at the seminary where we attended and at one point took a 6 month sabbatical in the UK to teach. (I’m blanking on where at the moment…) Long story short, when the family returned the daughter had affected this strange combination accent which was a witches brew of posh Brit and west Kentucky hick!!! Took a bit of time and patience before she settled back into her life as an American teenager ;)

  38. Darth Brooks*

    I once had a coworker who used a take British accent, although he was using it when I met him. Someone else told me later the accent wasn’t real and they had no idea where it came from. He was…a strange person. Very nice, but also strange.

  39. Boop*

    I have a southern accent when I sing. How weird is that? I have no idea where it came from.

    1. Batshua*

      I have a southern accent when I try to sing and sound British.

      I swear, if I try to sound British when I do songs from my Fair Lady, I get “sumone’s head restin’ on mah knee”, and it’s just … fail.

  40. Elizabeth West*

    Oh this is hilarious.
    The only one I can do with even the least amount of skill is an Essex accent, and that’s only because I watch hours of a YouTuber who lives there. I think you could only get away with it if your accent were impeccable. But I pick up accents, vocabulary, and speech patterns pretty easily, so if I were around it enough, I’d probably end up with one.

  41. Accentless*

    I’m dead jealous as I can’t fake ANY accents, even from places where I lived five years or more. I’m born-and-raised working-class Philly and can’t even do a passable version of that accent except for the occasional lapse into “wooder.”

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Yes, but do you use the word “jawn?” I am more than passing familiar with the Philly accent (friends and family, yo), and I had never heard that one before a couple of years ago. I go to Philly frequently and still haven’t heard anyone use it non-ironically.

  42. Susana*

    So I lived in Eastern Europe awhile, and took French lessons there (hey, the classes were cheap!). I kept slipping into Spanish since I seem to have decided there were two languages in the world – English and Not English. I came back to the States and acquired a French boyfriend. I tried to speak French and he said I spoke French with an Eastern European accent. And once I met a man at a bar, mentioned that I had worked for a Boston newspaper, and he said, with this annoyingly I-got-your-number tone, “so *that’s* where the Boston accent comes from!” Nope. Never lived there – just reported around the world for them.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      Apparently this is a phenomenon among people who have learned a second language after the initial language-learning period of childhood and are working on a third. The brain tends to sort languages into “mother tongue” and “other,” and consequently stuff in the “other” bin can get jumbled up. I learned this fun fact from my Russian professor in university, who had studied linguistics in Moscow, and had taught a zillion Canadian university students, almost all of whom had studied French in elementary or high school, and consequently were constantly mixing up their French and Russian. According to her, this doesn’t happen among people who have multiple mother tongues or learned a second language before the age of 7 or so, and anecdotally it doesn’t happen to my husband, who grew up speaking three languages and is learning his fourth–he doesn’t get them mixed up one bit.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I lived in Sicily for a year when I was a child but didn’t pick up much of the language other than being able to count to 20. Fast-forward 30 years and I’m trying to learn Spanish, and nine times out of ten if I start counting in Spanish I end up finishing in Italian.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Sounds about right. I’ve spoken Spanish since a very young age, and took a stab at learning Japanese in college — I was constantly subbing in Spanish words when speaking Japanese, but rarely doing the reverse, even if I’d just come straight from my Japanese class or Japanese-language dorm.

        (The one terrible, awful, no-good-very-bad exception was ano, which is an innocuous filler in Japanese and is… well, not in Spanish.)

        1. Pebbles*

          Yep, I’ve done the same by using Spanish words to fill in the Norwegian words I was struggling to remember. Especially when trying to ask what the Norwegian word is. (Hint: do NOT say “como se dice”. That’s not Norwegian AT ALL.)

      3. not really a lurker anymore*

        Ok, this is interesting. Thank you. I had Spanish in high school and German in college. I was bad at both of them. My kids are learning German and I sometimes give them an answer in a mixture of Spanish and German. Or use Spanish vowels in German words.

      4. Not An Admin*

        This is so me. I studied Spanish for my 4 years in high school (and spent 3 weeks in Spain, so tend to sound Castillian when I speak it), and when I started taking French in college.. I came out sounding like I was speaking French with a Spanish accent.

      5. cookie monster*

        Definitely. I semi speak German (my 2nd language). I have also taken Spanish and Japanese. Every time I got confused in my Spanish or Japanese classes, I answered back in German. If someone speaks any language other than English (my mother language) to me, I respond in German.

      6. Julia*

        It’s called critical period hypothesis, and people are still arguing whether the cutoff is 8, 10, or the onset of puberty at the latest – obviously there is some sort of personal variety depending on individual language aptitude etc. It also doesn’t apply to everyone. Most German friends I have here in Japan still speak Japanese with a German accent, not an English one.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      I distinctly remember being frustrated with myself for speaking ancient Greek with a Spanish accent.

  43. Rachel*

    Could he or she be closet British? I had a former coworker whose family was from Newcastle, but she moved around a lot internationally as a kid. She spoke with an American accent… until she didn’t. Meetings with me would take an abrupt turn for the Geordie Shore. With senior executives, she’d use the poshest/strangest interpretation of upper received pronunciation.

    My sweetie is from Liverpool. Still sounds like he’s from Liverpool. The whole thing was awkward.

  44. I was a linguistics major*

    A small nitpick re Madonna: I do not believe that Madonna was ‘faking’ a British accent for any reason—not too sound more sophisticated, not as one of her personas. At the time, she was living in London and married to a Brit, raising 2 children with native British accents. It is 100% normal to adopt the speaking patterns of people around you (especially the cadence, if not the actual word pronunciations), and is a common strategy used by people so they are more easily understood by natives. The weird co-worker just sounds like she’s being weird.

    1. DouDouPaille*

      I second this. I always got annoyed that people assumed Madonna was being “pretentious” — it’s totally normal for a person who is surrounded by British accents to adopt some of the accent themselves, whether unconsciously, or consciously to promote communication/integration. Happened to me when I lived there for 4 years.

      1. Nonsensical*

        Fun fact: it can happen with sign language too! Been frequently told that I sign with an eastern US state’s accent despite being from the midwest.

  45. Peep*

    Oh MAN. This reminds me of a classmate I knew through grad school — she used the WORST fake British accent, but what baffled me is that people BELIEVED her and thought she was all sophisticated and posh. It was like some alternate universe, why didn’t anyone except a handful of us realize it was SO badly fake?!

    We’re in Southern California — she apparently told people she had a specific 2nd grade teacher who was “British” she “learned” the accent from. My old boss grew up in the same district at the same time, and knew the teacher — she didn’t have an accent.

    I was hired to finish a project she started but didn’t get far on… it was working on a group of very dirty icky boxes near silverfish, cat hair, etc. I wore my grubbiest jeans and tennis shoes. She wore tea dresses, heels, and an apron. I mean, really? You need to take the accent that far? I’m not sure what became of her…

  46. Environmental Compliance*

    I’ve been asked before if I was faking my accent. I’m Midwest born and raised, but by a very Swiss family. I usually have the very neutral Midwest blah but the extra “or”s come out in lots of things when I get tired or just really excited. I had a coworker complaining at one point about mud after a field work day and I very tiredly grumbled back that evryting worshes, verdammt.

    I also had a professor who was originally from northern Minnesota. If he thought we were going too off topic or were getting too rambunctious, he’d start talking in pure Yooper. It was hilarious and awesome and a surprisingly great way to get everyone’s attention.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Northern Michigan, but the same accent can apply across the upper edges of Wisconsin and Minnesota too.

        Upper Peninsula = UP = UPer = Yooper.

        1. ML*

          You betcha, and to hear the accent watch Escanaba in Da Moonlight, or Fargo eh. I don’t really speak like a Yooper despite growing up there, but if I listen to some of the radio from my hometown over the web it takes me back.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I’m not sure if Swiss here refers to some place in America or actual Swizerland.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Yup. Grandparents were first generation. Their parents spoke Swiss German at home with broken English.

    1. Aleja*

      I’m a Pacific Northwesterner now living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and it’s been a real adventure learning about Yooper accents and culture. The first things you learn are pasties (“a” as in apple) and saunas (pronounced “sownas,” darnit). Now I even know a couple of Finnish and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) words. There are, in fact, multiple Yooper accents, and people from here can get pretty bent out of shape if you mistake which region they are from. Say yah to da UP, eh! (Note: not only do most Yoopers use “eh” a lot, but they also generally pronounce it “hey”!)

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Bit of a peeve…

      British is not English.

      And if you mean English – English accent is not Home Counties accent.

      The rest of us exist too.

      (I know, you probably didn’t realise … and TBH can’t wait until I’m not British any more … but it isn’t a good thing to sideline so many people.)

  47. Amber Rose*

    A friend realized that no matter what weird verbal tic you pick up, nobody will ever really call you on it. So he played a game where he’d end all his sentences with ‘meow.’
    “OK, I just need you to sign here meow.”
    “Did you just meow?”
    “What are you talking about meow? I need your signature here please meow.”

    It’s honestly fun to confuse people in this mild, inoffensive way. And it’s fun to be confused too, if you don’t let it get to you.

    1. Elbe*

      “So this question is … more just truly bizarre than anything.”
      *runs to grab popcorn*

    2. Batshua*

      OMG, if I could get away with this at work… !

      I would have a whole new game to play. :D

      1. Amber Rose*

        Play with friends. See how long it takes them to notice. Some people never do. =P

  48. Jake*

    Its pretty easy to accidentally pick up on stuff like this.

    I grew up in Illinois, moved to southern Kentucky, then to Pennsylvannia.

    When I got to PA, people used to ask me where I was from because I “talk like you’re from Chicago, but phrase like you’re from the hills of Tennessee” To me I sounded exactly like them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this person is just around Brits/watching British television and has slipped into a weird accent because of it. However, yes people are spectacularly weird, so maybe this is just her doing this for the fun of it.

  49. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    Doing fake accents with different customers made the night shift go by so much faster.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      YESSSSSSSSS! I had a telemarketing job after high school, and the only way to keep myself interested in the script was to do different accents.

  50. Live and Learn*

    I’m curious what others think. Is this deemed quirky but harmless by most because it’s a British accent specifically? British accents are often seen as sophisticated and proper so some people wish they had one and may try to affect one. Also British people are diverse so it doesn’t necessarily reflect race or religion, although if the accent was very specific it could represent a certain socioeconomic group based on regional accents (think Cockney accent or rhyming slang). But if someone suddenly started picking up a Pakistani or Chinese accent it would seem very culturally insensitive and mocking. There are people who naturally have an accent they wish they could get rid of because it causes some people to place unwanted judgement on them about education or ability, but rarely do people pick up those accents for on purpose unless it’s for purposes of mocking (or acting.) Just a thought.

    If the accent affecting co-worker worked with British colleagues or clients I’d want to tell them to knock it off since it could seem like rude mocking even if it’s not meant that way.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The fact that she’s using an accent that originates with another dialect of English (language), as opposed to originating with an entirely different language, does make a big difference, but yes — that English (nationality) accents are perceived by Americans as generally sophisticated does make a pretty big difference.

    2. JarvisCocker’sManBag*

      It’s hilarious that you think British accents are sophisticated! You’ve obviously never heard a Brummie (no offence to any Brummies reading this)

      The thing with genuine British accents is that you can (sometimes) pinpoint them to within a few streets of where the person grew up, look up “Wearside Jack”.

      I live in the South of England now but I’m originally from a small town in the North East, and when I started at a new job a couple of years ago I heard a woman talking at the other side of the office and I immediately knew she was from the same town as me and it turned out she grew up about a 15 minute walk from my childhood home.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        It’s about the very broad neutral accent in media, not so much regional accents and/or dialects. We have ours in the US as well of course – people outside the US may well be aware of various regional accents, but if they only consume our major media, they’re mainly getting the neutral American accent.

        Chances are good (imo) that Americans in awe of the Sophisticated British Accent are thinking of Captain Picard, Gandalf, Loki, James Bond etc.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


          Of course Americans aren’t going to generally be up on every single variation on how people speak in the British Isles — no more, I would bet, than your average Brit would be able to discern the difference between someone from Boston versus Providence. That doesn’t meant there aren’t broad generalizations to how one country speaks differently from another.

  51. Catwoman*

    This is officially my favorite AAM post. :)

    I agree, sit back and enjoy, OP! (As long as she’s not doing doing this in front of an actual British person because it is SO annoying to have your own accent mimicked back to you. This is the line.)

    1. Batshua*

      (I am THAT person [echolalia!], and I used to find it super mortifying, but since it’s very hard for me to control, I have just decided to accept that my brain hates me and wants me to be weird around people.)

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        I don’t mean to pry and please feel free to ignore, but I’ve never met an adult who had self-described echolalia. How does it manifest? Have you always done it? My son had a tremendous amount of echolalia when he was very young…when he was in preschool it was over half of his vocabulary. He is 18 now and still gets sort of stuck on certain phrases or vocal habits.

        1. Batshua*

          /Mostly/ it’s picking up and mimicking how other people talk. I absorb turns of phrase and accent and cadence more easily than most people.

          Because I didn’t have classic echolalia where you just respond to what someone said with what they just said, I didn’t realize I had it for a long long time.

          I do still have like, phrases that are “stuck” in my head, but they don’t always come out of my mouth. I also do that thing where I make pop culture references to communicate my thoughts and feelings sometimes, but it’s just subtle enough that I come off as nerdy.

  52. Lapsang Lishan*

    I know a woman like this. She’s been doing it since we were in high school. Her accent isn’t even Madonna-esque, it’s pure Lily Allen. She is a strange person who has done a lot of things for attention and has an extremely fragile sense of self, so if I met anyone else who did that consistently, I would probably initially think the same of them just based on my experience of her.

    Personally whenever I run into one of my mom’s compatriots, I end up speaking back to them in their accent. I don’t usually have one, but it generally lingers for the length of the conversation with that person, and a little while after. I’d probably be mortified if someone heard me doing it at work though…

    1. Myrin*

      She is a strange person who has done a lot of things for attention and has an extremely fragile sense of self, so if I met anyone else who did that consistently, I would probably initially think the same of them just based on my experience of her.

      I’m the very same way, and not just “initially” – I wouldn’t be able to shake that feeling at all. Like, as I said above, I love Alison’s jokey answer to this but IRL I would actually find this situation so deeply annoying that I’d probably make it two days tops without saying anything. Literally every person I’ve ever met who’s done this – my estranged father being one of them – has done so because they wanted to seem ~cool~ and feel important. (And I’m talking about the situation as described in the letter, someone full-on always speaking in a dialect that isn’t theirs, not the thing commenters describe where you subconsciously start to adjust to the speech of the person you’re speaking to or where the accent spoken in the area you moved to starts to rub off on you.)
      (Granted, dialects and accents in my language have a different standing, place in life, and cultural background compared to the US, so my stance might very well seem foreign to some.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I love that Alison encouraged OP to take the high road. But I am not sure I would be able to do that, either. I would find it attention-seeking and annoying myself.
        OP, don’t get sucked in. Focus on your work as your priority. Maybe eventually, the boss will drag her in the office and tell her to knock it off because everyone is talking about her and not doing their work. Who knows.

  53. Elbe*

    When a letter starts like that, you know it’s going to be good!

    I suspect that this person has been watching a lot of British TV or has been hanging out with British people. If it were a conscious attempt at personal branding, I think that the accent would be more consistent.

    Either way, it’s hilarious.

  54. Lou*

    Something similar happened to me – a schoolfriend in Scotland who had been well spoken moved to Glasgow of all places and ‘inherited’ an accent plummier than the Queen’s. I’m still baffled as to how she kept it up, but it was entertaining.

  55. Ruth*

    This reminds me of my old insane coworker who had spent time in England in her 20s, and whenever anyone had any criticism of her or any problem with her or her work, which was frequent because she was awful, she would blame it on a “cultural difference.” As in, it wasn’t her innate incompetence or inability to get along with people, it was the fact that she had a British culture.

    She was in her 40s and hadn’t even been to England in almost decade. And yes, she sometimes slipped into a British accent.

  56. anon for this*

    To be honest, if I could pull off faking a British accent, I’d do it in a heartbeat. As it is, I just make do with a fondness for the letter U and mindful word choices. For me, it’s a way to deliberately Other myself; it’s not about pretending to be British, it’s about not being [my particular nationality].

    I’m not saying it’s why she’s doing it, but that’s why I would.

  57. Ryan*

    I have a really large extended family, and one of my cousins has a thick Irish brogue.

    Somehow I never realized my Aunt J was her mother. Aunt J legit sounds like Fran Fine’s Mom from The Nanny. I finally ask my Mom why my cousin sounds so different—was she like, raised in Ireland or something?

    My mom laughs and is like “nah, they’re from Queens. She’s just…crazy.”

  58. JanetInSC*

    My brother, as a young man, went to Myrtle Beach and faked an Australian accent the entire time he was there…said he met a lot of girls that way. I, an Anglophile since reading Paddington Bear as a kid, like to try to use the British style of eating in nicer restaurants. It’s fun.

  59. Twenty Points for the Copier*

    This is so timely. I was just talking about a guy I went to college with who faked a British accent to pick up girls. When called out on it, he said it was because his mom was from Boston. Which ?!?!?!?! I mean, the college was from California (and I think he was from out west, too) but it wasn’t like people there did not know that Boston was not in England.

    The wife of the friend I was telling this story to actually has a coworker who has foreign accent syndrome as a result of a stroke that she’s otherwise pretty fully recovered from. Apparently she used to have a Jamaican accent but the last time my friend saw her at a company picnic, her accent had changed to full Boston southie. Since it’s involuntary and medical people just go along with it, but they’re in a field with a lot of repeat in person visitors so I imagine it must get interesting. Of course, my first thought was whether Alison would suggest disclosing it in the initial interview!

    1. Sarianna*

      I mean, I’m assuming that he meant Boston as in Massachusetts, not Boston as in England, which does exist.

      1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        pretty sure, Boston, MA. the guy was a real skeeveball, too, who only hit on the most innocent-seeming freshman girls.

  60. Lauren K Milligan*

    Game time! OP, write out all the viable responses on squares like offices do to bet on the Super Bowl. Have your coworkers ‘buy’ a square (their guess) for $20. When you find out why she’s doing it, the winner(s) splits the pot with a local charity. And then share the update with us.

    1. Minocho*

      Or, each one picks a favorite British alternate word (torch, chips, crisps, boot, flat) and you all try to find a way to get her to say your word first!

  61. Batshua*

    I have echolalia and I pick up other folks’ accents like WHOA.

    I know I’m doing it, but it’s not a conscious thing and so I can’t easily stop it. Before I found out you could have accent-specific echolalia (I don’t repeat phrases other people say the way the classic diagnosis describes it), I was super weirded out by it; I even picked up a friend’s stutter, and I felt horrible about it. Now I know it’s just my brain being weird.

    It’s like a useless superpower, I guess. Unless I want to be a spy and go undercover?

    1. Triple Anon*

      I’m kind of the same way. I pick up accents easily. Now I have a weird combination of accents from various places I’ve lived or had good friends from.

  62. Duffman*

    The single most annoying thing about doing study abroad trips was there was always this ONE person.

    1. Fabulous*

      Same with my Michigan. It’s like I went through learning phonetics for nuthing.

    1. SunshineOH*

      I went to high school with a new guy who had an Australian accent. Or so we thought. Halfway through the year he had this big dramatic CONFESSION that he had been taking it the whole time. Turned out he actually had a brother at the school, who we all knew but had no idea they were related. Can you imagine being the brother? Oof.

  63. voyager1*

    I guess I am just weird but I don’t see this as all that funny, more just weird. I mean not like wheelchair guy extreme weird freaky, but more like the folks who dress up as babies or the My Little Pony obsessed fans.

  64. Interviewer*

    This reminds me of the SNL monologue years ago with Gywneth Paltrow after Shakespeare in Love/Sliding Doors/Emma, where she talked in a British accent about growing up in London, and eventually Ben Affleck stood up from the audience to call her out on it.

    OP, my bet is she’s got someone in her life who is influencing her accent. It’s happened to plenty of us. But please ask her about the recent change, and let us know what she says!

    1. MCsAngel2*

      I totally remember that one.

      “Ah, you’re from America. We dated for awhile….”

      ::super Britishy:: “Sorry?”

  65. Office Person*

    As long as it’s not a brain tumor or a traumatic brain injury, who cares?

  66. NCKat*

    My nana was English and she lived with us when I was growing up, so I picked up a British accent from her. I have to watch myself when I get mad because that’s when it comes out. Spelling tests were a torture when I was a child.

  67. Only here for the teapots*

    I was born in/lived in ‘the hood’ from 1966-2003 and spent most summers in ‘the barrio’ with cousins. I may look like a mild-mannered middle-aged white lady, but every once in a while (usually when I’m angry) I have to speak my home dialect, much to friends’ & coworkers’ delight & amazement.

  68. NCKat*

    Also, be aware that sometimes a foreign accent is the result of a brain injury or stroke. It’s rare, but it does happens.

  69. Bigglesworth*

    One summer while working at camp, my brother in law, who has a very deep second-bass voice, spoke in a thick Russian accent. No reason other than wondering how long he could pull t off. Hens worked at that camp before and was there with his sister, so you’d think people would realize he was a local, nope! When he slipped up and spoke in his normal accent, one of his coworkers asked him why he was speaking in a cheesy fake American accent.

  70. Not So NewReader*

    Damage in the speech area of the brain can cause this, OP. I have seen that one first hand.

  71. There All Is Aching*

    Ooh, I love Alison’s theory that maybe the coworker’s American accent was fake this whole time! I literally just discovered yesterday that Christopher Nolan (director of Inception, Memento, Dunkirk, etc.) and Jonathan Nolan (creator/co-creator of Westworld, Person of Interest) are indeed brothers even though Christopher sounds British and Jonah sounds totally American. Turns out, younger bro Jonah picked up a Chicago accent when the family moved from London to Illinois because local kids didn’t cotton to his English accent.

  72. SourTea18*

    Accents are wonderful things~

    It could be a case of accent-sponging (this is coming from a born-and-bred Brit who in theory has a mix of a southern English accent and a mild Scottish accent (from Fife-area)…but gets asked regularly if she’s American (and has only been to America once)), but who really knows ^^

  73. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    Daniel Mallory Ortberg offers this phrase to people who write to Dear Prudence sometimes:

    Life is a rich tapestry.

    I feel like it is appropriate for this moment.

  74. What Have I Done*

    I will admit that I have a terrible time not copying other people’s accents. I think (or hope) that it’s a holdover from my youth as an Army brat when I had to assimilate quickly and often. So now, if I am with someone with a strong accent, I pick up on it. I do try to control it but it doesn’t always work.

    1. buttercup*

      I have this one American Southern coworker who has the cutest accent ever, and I find it really tempting to imitate it when we’re conversing. I refrain, however, because would be super weird if I did as I’m definitely not from the South and it would seem like I’m mocking her.

  75. Also a DC person*

    I had a teacher in HS who would inexplicably switch back and forth between and American and British accent (we are American.) Being teenagers…we did make fun of her for it, but it was truly amusing.

  76. Jonaessa*

    I just screenshotted this and sent it to my friends telling them to stop writing to Ask A Manager about me! While I do not use an accent all the time, I occasionally like to mix it up and throw out some Australian/British or New York/New Jersey accents. (My accents tend to blend which is why I need the practice.) My job can get really boring sometimes, especially during the summer, so I like to have fun. It always gets a laugh and it’s really pretty harmless. OP, I hope you can see the humor in this and just go with the flow. My spirit sister would probably appreciate it.

      1. Jonaessa*

        I was born and raised in Texas around other Texans so I never noticed I had an accent until someone pointed it out to me while I was living in California for a few months several years back. (I think I asked if I could get a “sack” instead of a “bag” at the convenience store and OMG, was that hysterical to everyone.) Like most of the other commenters, if I am around someone who does have a noticeable accent, I start picking it up as well. It’s not intentional at all, and I have no idea how I even come to be this way. I just have to remember to keep my voice as even as possible lest someone think I was mocking him/her.

  77. Seespotbitejane*

    I just really appreciate this advice because I feel like people often see harmless quirks as problems to solve instead of past of the rich tapestry of life to enjoy. It’s a shift in perspective that makes life better for everybody.

  78. Gemma*

    I am a musician, a vocalist, and I was trained in the professional Theatre programme at Carnegie-Mellon University, one of the top Theatre schools in the world. My ear is very sensitive to languages, and I study several of them, as well as studying accents. Because of this, I have a particular problem when it comes to the Received Pronunciation accent, which many people associate particularly with Shakespearean drama and British film and theatre productions, in general. That is to say, if you drop me in a crowd of British people, within 15 minutes, I will unconsciously start speaking in an RP accent, and the only thing that will really give me away is that lexically, I will always be an American. Once, I had a client in New Jersey which was a branch office of a British firm and whose staff were nearly all from the UK, while there, I realised that I had starting “doing it”, and that none of them were even noticing.

    In crowds of Germans, I have been asked if I were from Germany, or whether I had lived there, if they know or believe me to be American, because my German accent is that of a native. I was taught by a German native, I was one of his top students, and my grandmother’s family happens to come from Germany. During my school years, whilst I was studying German, I lived with my great-grandmother, who was suffering from dementia and would sometimes forget to speak English. Since my grandmother left Germany at age 4, she did not have much facility with German, and it fell to me to communicate with my great-gran, who was eternally amused by the Hochdeutsch accent I learned in school, since she spoke with a Plattdeutsch accent. She would laughingly say to me, “You sound like a courtier at the Kaiser’s palace!”

    Isn’t the world a grand place? Enjoy the music all around you!

      1. Media Monkey*

        agreed. they have noticed but being British are just talking about it behind your back. also, no one actually speaks in an RP voice in real life except for maybe the royal family, so they would definitely notice!

  79. Noah*

    Definitely, definitely, definitely start using a ton of British slang with this person. (Don’t use the accent though.) Saying, “Let’s take the lift, then wait in the queue at the caff, you old bird.”

  80. Green Arrow*

    Not quite the same thing, but I live in Australia, and I help run kids camps in the holidays. My best friend likes to put on accents for the first half of the week just for funsies. One time he spent the first few days talking in an Irish accent and then let it slip back into his normal Australian accent. One of the other leaders hadn’t realised, and told him “Wow! You do an Australian accent REALLY well!”

  81. FrontRangeOy*

    I have a vocabulary of more or less consistent soft vowels, softened r and s sounds and over prounouced h.

    In my case because I spent nearly 2 decades singing in demanding choir programs and learned to soften or over pronounce to make sounds more pleasant or more clear. Add to that my childhood best friend’s mother (immigrated to the US from Belgium as a young adult) and a lifetime listening to NPR and BBC World Report and I sound like a charmingly confused debutant who unfortunately forgot which continent she lives on.

  82. Carlie*

    If you go to YouTube and search for Chris Pratt Graham Norton Towie, you’ll get Pratt doing a good Essex accent. :)

    I’m a Midwestern transplant to the northeast, and it’s weird when I notice my kids have a different accent from me. I notice my family’s much more the longer I’m away from it, and definitely slip into it more when I’m tired or mad even though it’s not like I minimize it on purpose at other times.

  83. Workerbee*

    Oh, does this bring back memories!

    At my Midwestern American college, I spent most of my time around the “Internationals” as they were collectively called, even among themselves, and quickly absorbed enough of a conglomerate accent that incoming Internationals assumed I was European from the start. I didn’t even hear it in myself at first, but soon enough, I did. I rather miss those days. :)

    Relatedly, I don’t know if this is really an accent, but after we went through “A Clockwork Orange” in Satire class, both my professor and I confessed to thinking and trying to talk in Nadsat. It was rather lovely in its way.

  84. Chameleon*

    I will admit I tend to mimic accents pretty easily even if I’m not very good at them. Usually if I’ve been listening to them a lot (e.g. terrible Welsh when I’ve overdosed on Torchwood and Hinterland) but it happens situationally too–I have a weirdly hard time not slipping into an East Texas drawl whenever I ride horses.

  85. Jen Gregory*

    Alison, curious if your answer would have been different if this was a customer-facing employee? I could imagine clients getting worried or confused by the sudden shift in accent.

  86. KAB*

    I was thrilled to see some other posts from people that know someone like my friend– in the bizarre anglophile category, that is.

    She went to a top-ranked (like, top ranked in the world) university. Someone mentioned fragile egos above and that’s a good way to put it. She dropped out after a year for a myriad of minor issues (beefs with some professors, not getting classes she wanted) and announced she was transferring to a British school because she didn’t belong in the US. She managed to get into a very low-ranking university over there– I know that top ranked =/= good fit but she had delusions of grandeur thinking she was going to get admitted to Oxford. She went to a good school, but it was not THAT good, ha. Despite what seemed like an easy workload– she struggled academically, had few friends– most of which were other Americans, felt that the area she lived in was so unsafe that her life might be threatened…

    She ended up not getting a visa to stay and work after school and had to move back after a couple years. She clearly hated it there yet all she ever posts is how she was torn away from the country she was supposed to be born in– it’s been YEARS. She exclusively uses the British spelling of words and peppers in what she thinks is obscure British slang, including notes to clarify what the slang means within the post!

    I can easily see her just deciding to put on an English accident arbitrarily at work one day! This letter really cracked me up because, assuming the person doesn’t have any kind of serious medical issue, I totally know the type of person to just boldly make that change and act like nothing happened.

  87. A*

    This is me! Sorry. I have migrated between the US and the UK for years for uni, work and life. It’s not intentional but I know my colleagues noticed some of my cross cultural quirks including a special way of enunciating. This isn’t something that I possess any conscious control over but may sound vaguely strange and possibly Madonna-esque. It is simply a by product of living in two places for an extended period of time. I hope you can ease up on this person and maybe cut her (?) some slack. I am in the same situation and would feel badly if someone judged me as trying too hard to be something I’m not, when it is only a reflection of my upbringing and life experiences–but they might not know that and just rush to judgement. Has the person lived in the UK previously? Did the accent come about suddenly? If it’s always been there and tends to come and go I would give her the benefit of the doubt and not question the authenticity. Sometimes what the ear hears is adjusted to in speech. My two pence :)

  88. The Drawstring Bag*

    Go ahead and enjoy it if you can. After all of this site’s discussion on office behavior, this isn’t stinking up the office, right?

  89. Triple Anon*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but a lot of them so far, including mine, have been about ways in which this could be unintentional.

    But what if it’s not? The LW said it feels like a personal branding play and that she’s “decided that she’s British”. What if the LW meant that she’s made it obvious that it is intentional? I would ignore it, personally, but I can see how it could open a can of worms. Hypothetically if this person interacted with clients, vendors or co-workers from the UK and they found out that she’s not actually British, it could be offensive. Obviously depending on the person, but I think some people would be offended. Especially with cultural appropriation being a common topic these days. I can see how it would be good for the company to know what’s going on so that if it came up, they could respond with an explanation. But I guess it would all depend on how likely she is to interact with British people.

    A lot of people (myself included) have mentioned accidentally picking up accents, neurological injuries or natural differences (echolalia), etc. But if this accent is very strong and comes with a lot of imitation of the culture, it could come across as intentional.

    I dunno. I like Allison’s advice, but I also think there are some issues that could come up, at least in certain situations.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Also I’d be 99% sure that an actual British person – whether they share the accent she’s imitating or not – would realise immediately it wasn’t authentic.

    2. only acting normal*

      Also re cultural appropriation
      Britain is not a monoculture and faking some of the minority-culture accents could be especially problematic.
      E.g. it’s not so long ago that the governing English actively tried to wipe out the Welsh language. It’s the reason a lot of Welsh people (me included) can’t speak Welsh because it was suppressed for generations, and it’s only since I’ve been an adult that numbers of speakers has started increasing after long decline.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        So much agreed. Up my way, from when Gaelic was outlawed, to more recently being punished in school for talking “slang” … Christmas holidays to Burns day celebrate “Scots”, February get belted for saying “aye”…

  90. Jasmine Guy*

    been doing a Glasgow brogue for 15 years in my work lige, but I’m from Iowa. even people from Scotland tell me I must be from Glasgow. :) It helps me deal with the stress of being in customer service.

  91. Georgia Peach*

    I’m 39 and have lived in Georgia all my life. I grew up in a medium sized north Georgia town and went to college in the Atlanta area. Apparently, my Southern accent disappeared. A few months into my freshman year, my parents told me my accent was gone and that I was speaking faster. I didn’t notice.

    I stayed in Atlanta after graduation. I travel a few times a year for work, and sometimes I’ll ask colleagues in other offices if I have an accent and they all say no. I don’t know what I sound like now, actually. I don’t know much about linguistics at all, and I have no idea what my accent is. It doesn’t sound like anything. I didn’t set out to rid myself of my Southern accent.

  92. Akcipitrokulo*

    Bit of a peeve…

    British is not English.

    And if you mean English – English accent is not Home Counties accent.

    The rest of us exist too.

    (I know, you probably didn’t realise … and TBH can’t wait until I’m not British any more … but it isn’t a good thing to sideline so many people.)

    1. EM*

      Sorry- that was an accidental nest. Agree with your comment by the way. RP does not equal all English.

  93. EM*

    Just to clarify, I assume this office is somewhere-not-the-UK and the colleague is a native English speaker? Otherwise, she might just want to fit in. When I was living away from home I desperately wished o could drop my “colonial” accent, just so I could stop hearing jokes about it. And I’ve had colleagues adopt “fake British” accents because RP can be easier to understand, and when you’re talking cross-dialect people will try a lot of be clear.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I have had to speak a *LOT* more slowly since moving to SE England :) I’ve got a mixed Scottish accent, and we do many more wpm orally…

  94. nep*

    Is it at least a good British accent?
    (Love Alison’s advice on this one.)
    Hail to the weird.

  95. Jemima Bond*

    I have another fantastic suggestion to add to my previous ones upthread*
    Make it a challenge to slip a British version of a word or some British slang into conversation with her every day. That’s just being supportive, yes? The UK contingent of this commentariat will I am sure be happy to assist me; Or indeed non-UK readers such as Admitted Anglophile who has already given some good ideas.
    How about starting gently with calling good things “brilliant” and bad things “rubbish”? Then work up to “Well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!” to express astonishment – that will be part of the Northern phase. We can move onto the subtleties of the use of “innit” in South London Teenager Week, perhaps in July?
    *caution – suggestions may not in fact be fantastic

  96. Jemima Bond*

    Also surely this is a rare AAM-approved instance for making popcorn in the office microwave?

  97. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    People often ascribe an accent to me (British, vaguely European, sort of Transatlantic, something other than American Midwest, where I was raised) because my words are very precise and my vowels are long and my consonants crisp. It has to do with the shape of my mouth, which is from a skeletal abnormality, and I swear to god I’m not doing it on purpose…

  98. Discordia Angel Jones*

    Great thanks for the idea Alison.

    I’m British, shortly moving to Texas. I can do a decent generic US accent because I spent a while there as a child. I will go in with a US accent and then switch to British randomly and see if people notice *evil cackle*

    I’m also looking forward to picking up the Texan accent with my musical ear (fun fact, I went to uni in Manchester and picked up a Mancunian accent while I was there – couldn’t do it for the life of me now I don’t live there any more though).

  99. Shawn*

    Reminds me of the post where the woman changed clothes (and sometimes her entire look) frequently throughout the day. I loved it and feel that you should allow this person to shine! It sometimes take courage to be who we are without worrying what others think. I’d love to have a coworker like this!

  100. Goya de la Mancha*

    Lol this is just so weird, love it.

    For some reason my mind went immediately to a Cockney/Cheapside-esque tone!

  101. Dr Johnson*

    As a Brit living in the US I’d hate this. I occasionally get people mimicking my accent and I find it so aggravating. It’s better than just randomly talking at me about how much they love the Royal Family, but not by much. Obviously, someone who starts mimicking my accent while talking about how much they love the Royal Family is my personal nightmare.

    Provided this isn’t some after effect of a traumatic brain injury, I suggest the OP also gets in the spirit and starts using some Britishims around her by calling her a wazzock or numpty or pillock. As she seems to be now self-identifying as British she’ll appreciate you engaging in some traditional British p***-taking with her.

    1. Deejay*

      Or ask her if she’s having a bubble (Cockney rhyming slang – bubble bath=laugh, i.e “are you joking?”)

      1. Dr Johnson*

        If she’s faking cockney, the office should try exclusively talking in cockney rhyming slang for one meeting.

  102. Lumos*

    I had a teacher once who was Irish, but had spent a significant amount of time in Britain, so had a lovely accent that was somewhat an amalgamation of the two. I avoided speaking to him whenever possible because I pick up the accents of people I’m talking to, and his was so unique, he would have to think I was mocking him. The few times we did speak, every time I left the conversation he was staring at me sort of angrily. I always felt so bad! I can’t imagine how I’d sound if I binge watched British t.v. oh noooo.

  103. Anita-ita*

    I love this AND love AMA’s answer! I love seeing things at work and outside work like this. My husband and I fake a British accent when we travel internationally, since we are often times without internet we do this to keep ourselves entertained. We are a rich couple named Nigel and Phoebe from England. We have tea with the Queen and talk about purchasing land, our stock investments, and rental properties :P

  104. Media Monkey*

    I once had to stop reading a book (no idea on the name or author – it was one of those trashy beach reads you pick up at the airport or get free in a magazine) after one chapter because one of the characters was British and to show this, he said something like “gor blimey strike a light guv’nor” in every sentence. So annoying.

  105. KTBex*

    I had a research assistant who just started a new job – she has a tendency to speak in a British accent occasionally, and she maintains it for quite a while! I wonder if it’s the same person!!

  106. Aerin*

    Oh man, I’m prone to slipping into this without noticing. It was bad in my theater days when it would carry over from rehearsals, but even now it happens once in a while. I binged Downton Abbey and probably sounded vaguely Northern for weeks. I’ve always been something of a mimic, so if I’m talking to someone for a while I’ll probably start mirroring their accent in the same way as I mirror their gestures. I hope they don’t take offense to it, since it’s something that’s largely unconscious.

    I remember one time when I was working at the Opera House at Disneyland, I had one day where my accent was just all over the place. I did one lobby spiel where over the course of the 7 minutes or so, it started off somewhere in Minnesota then wandered down the Mississippi to end up somewhere in the South. I still have no idea what was up with that. I was probably just tired.

  107. SC*

    There’s a genuine thing called “foreign accent syndrome” and it happens after a stroke. Basically parts of the tongue get paralysed and the accent changes. So Londoners start sounding like Scots, Yorkshire people start sounding like Italians.

    It could be a stroke, basically, is the take away here. Best to advise she gets it checked out.

  108. Girl friday*

    I think anytime someone behaves irrationally that it’s indicative of their mental health. We spend so much time at work that we forget people are actually on their best behavior at work, as scary as that is to think about sometimes. Employees are literally saying “This is the best I can do today,” even on their bad days. Congruence should be the lowest common denominator at all times. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for being rational even on our worst days until we see someone that can’t be. And I think action should be taken immediately by supervisors at least a document her change in behavior. Stress does weird things to people and this could be the beginning of a psychotic break.

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