Thursday, November 20, 2014

Don't Encourage Americans to try a British Accent

I read with great interest about a study of accents today. Apparently children on both sides of the Pond pay more attention to British accents.

The article says - "It can be a struggle to get children to listen to instructions with so many distractions around, but speaking with a British accent might help."

The study was done on both British and American children, and both sets paid more attention when addressed by someone speaking in a British accent, preferably with a northern lilt. Yes, apparently someone with clear pronunciation and a non-regional accent commands less attention than us northerners. I have to think however, that part of the "commanding attention" might be amazement at hearing the accent in the first place. Like the posh kids in the Catherine Tate sketch when faced with a Geordie babysitter for the day.

If it's anything like my experiences in the USA (with both adults and children) people hearing my not-quite-like-the-Queen accent spend more time trying to guess where I'm from (Ireland? Australia?) than actually listening or following my directions.

Given that the Daily Mail web site is now available in the USA, I'm assuming that a few Americans actually read it. That fills me with dread. It's bad enough when they try to imitate me - sounding more like someone from Navi Mumbai than Newcastle - but listening to them pulling a fake Mary Poppins in an attempt to get their kids under control might just be the undoing of me. It was bad enough when Dick Van Dyke did it.

Yes, a lot of them actually sound just like this -

Heaven help us!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

North American Winters - Remind me why I live here.

So, up here in North America - I say "up here" but Chicago is actually on the same latitude as Madrid! - the winters can be harsh. Last year was a real doozy with temps so low we were advised only to go out if needed, not to take children and dogs on long walks etc. I thought it was cold being brought up with the winds howling off the North Sea but this is a different kind of coldness.

This is how I walk the dog -

Fashionista on the loose!

But it wasn't until I started dispensing advise to Perfectly Happy Mum that I realized just how much we have to adapt living here. PHM has recently moved from England to a suburb of Chicago, and - the temps have just started to plummet. We are already existing below freezing (20's Fahrenheit) and trying to remind ourselves that this will seem positively balmy in a couple of months.

So yes, we all run out to buy snow-pants-that-actually-fit for the kids, more gloves and mittens than you think you would ever need ('cause they disappear mysteriously), hats, balaclavas (see above), warm boots etc. We stock up on de-icing salt for when the snow and ice comes, 'cause it's rarer than hens' teeth once that happens. If you're in the burbs (PHM) you might want to buy, or at least locate your nearest snow blower and your car needs to be prepped to the max. That's not just with de-icer, but the emergency stuff for when you break down and have to wait. Even in the inside of a car, if the heat's not on it can get dangerous in no time. 

Remind me - why do I live here?

But there are other things that, unless you have a friendly person who also doesn't take it for granted, you'd only learn through bitter experience.

Static - is fierce at this time of year. When you touch someone else, it's electric, but not in a good way! Opening a car door without first putting your sleeve over your hand can be painful and just pray to the heavens that your indoor carpeting isn't too synthetic! There's not a lot you can do about this unfortunately. Many heating systems (being air that's circulated through the house) have a built-in humidifier, and you can also buy small portable devices. Or - you can place bowls of water all over the place and watch in amazement at how quickly the water evaporates! 

Chapped-ness - a big one. Everyone here has a Chapstick in the pocket at all times. Not only do lips get chapped, but hands too; particularly fingertips. There's a wealth of creams on the market to deal with this and it's usually just a question of finding one that works for you. Perfectly Happy Mum went out shopping for supplies the other day and came back with what she thought was the most disgusting taste ever on a Chapstick - 

Believe me, there are worse, including one called Carmex, - the heavy duty stuff that stings like a mother! 

Outerwear - your namby pamby European winter coat will last you till about the second week in November and then it's the Eskimo look for you! As seen from the photo above, fashion goes out the window as everyone dons floor length duvets cunningly disguised as extra long parkas. Woolley gloves are abandoned in favor of ski gloves, jeans are of the fleece-lined variety, and boots must come up to your mid-calf at the very least. And no heels. Are you kidding me? Actually, having landed arse over tit once too often last winter while walking the dog, I'm going one better than flat boots this time. Oh yes, I'm purchasing me some of these babies from LL Bean - 

I'm nothing if not prepared! 

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