Didn’t I used to speak “American”?

In the few days I’ve been home, I’ve picked up on how my speech patterns have altered in the last year.

We don’t line up, we queue.

We often get on the lift.

I hope I can get together with people whilst we’re in town.

And when buying Ellie a slice of Pizza for lunch, I asked her to help me pay the “Pizza Uncle.”

Obviously, these are mostly Britishisms that have survived from Singapore’s colonial past.  But I never really noticed them sneaking into my speech whilst (see how I did that?) we were in Singapore.  It felt more odd, I suppose to use “line up” when Ellie’s teachers were using queue up (and all the signs say Q or Queue here).

While (hah! I am American!)  I can consciously correct most of these back to the Americanism, the one I struggle with is the whole “Uncle/Auntie” thing.  We Americans don’t really have terms for random men and women…”lady,” “guy,” “dude,” etc…but all of them feel so much less respectful than Uncle and Auntie.  I like that E is learning to address adults with respectful titles (with friends I do use Uncle/Auntie or Miss/Mr firstname) and I struggle here…and then just usually use Auntie/Uncle anyway, even as it draws a strange look from the recipient.

If you’re a fellow expat…what non-home-country turns of phrase have found their way into your everyday speech and gotten stuck there?

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14 Responses to Didn’t I used to speak “American”?

  1. Maria says:

    My daughter said to me the other day, “Mom, I think it’s cute the way you still say ‘bin’ when you mean ‘garbage can.”

    Many of the Britishisms come naturally to me (being born in England and having one English and one Irish parent) but “whilst” has never crossed my lips!

    • Crystal says:

      I love the “let’s bin it!” campaign…it cracks me up!

      I think I’ve always loved whilst (I remember reading it in what was likely A Little Princess or Secret Garden as a little girl) but never feeling like it was appropriate. Now it seems normal 🙂

  2. bookjunkie says:

    I think that’s sweet 🙂 Makes me wonder how my speech patterns would change if I lived somewhere else.

    • Crystal says:

      It’s funny because you have that even in the US. What we call soda is called pop in other parts of the country. We call it a water fountain and others call it a bubbler. Stuff like that. I think you can only hold out on some things for so long before hearing something used consistently eventually changes your speech!

  3. kierstens says:

    I say “quite” all the time now. “It’s quite hot,” “the dish is quite good,” etc.

    I forgot that it sounds uber british and my friends told me I sounded pretentious… apparently not cool …. hahaha (what I like to call, pulling a Madonna)

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, but you’ll soon be at Yale, where sounding pretentious can only be an asset (j/k!)

  4. Jim says:

    I would suggest “gentleman” and “lady” as American substitutes for “Auntie/Uncle” when addressing strangers (e.g. “Say hello to the gentleman” or “Give the money to the lady”). Those aren’t perfect substitutes, but translation isn’t an exact science.

    BTW, how do you say “wicked pissah” in Singlish? 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I generally use lady at least…gentleman seems awfully formal (but guy/dude is too informal)…probably the best alternative though…you’re right.

      Wicked pissah–not sure…will have to open that up to my Singaporean friends. We can do an informal poll while you’re in town 🙂

  5. Zach Woods says:

    Crystal – Is Auntie / Uncle for older women / men that you do not know a Britishism or an Asianism? I am truly curious but I am thinking that it is more Asian than British.

    Do you have readers from Britain who can comment?


    • Crystal says:

      No, you’re right, Uncle/Auntie is absolutely an Asian-ism. I meant to separate the two things, but was too tired, apparently. Good catch 🙂

  6. Laura says:

    I’d have to agree with Zach that I didn’t think using Auntie and Uncle was a British thing (apart from when they are actually your Aunt or Uncle). It is only something I’ve started using in a more general way since I’ve been here so I assumed it was an Asianism.
    I’m British so I guess most of what I’ve picked up are little bits of Singlish. Some of the words you’ve commented on don’t strike me as odd as I use them all the time and actually hadn’t appreciated how British they sound.
    Funnily enough I’ve noticed what I think of as American words for things here too, for example diapers (nappies in the UK). The funniest thing I think though is a mobile phone or cell phone being referred to as a handphone that had me confused for quite a while!

    • Crystal says:

      No it is an Asianism (Uncle/Auntie) and that was me being unclear and tired when writing.

      Good catch on the Americanisms. You’re right that I’ve never heard “nappy”. The hp for Handphone confused me as well for ages.

  7. mishelle says:

    Pizza Uncle!!! ROFL! That’s awesome 🙂

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