Tartan Tongue

Today, Mannion recounts a phone call with his local power company, which will seem painfully familiar to anyone who has, well, ever called a power company. I commented, “Just be glad you don't have a Scottish accent, too.” (Shakers who have been around awhile will no doubt recall Mr. Shakes’ inability to easily order a couple of sandwiches.)

It’s an interesting experience being married to an immigrant. I have, at various times, felt (undeservedly) special, when someone compliments him on his lovely accent, or vicariously frustrated, when he has a difficult time making himself understood, or confused, when I use a British colloquialism (taking the piss or half four) that has infiltrated my lexicon and am greeted with a blank look, or embarrassed of (and for) my own countrymen and –women, when they show their ignorance of anyplace outside their own borders. Living in a small town doesn’t help.

In the first month we were here, we regularly met with such asinine questions that I feared he would run screaming back to the Highlands, refusing to spend the rest of his life among abject idiots.

Is Scotland part of America?

Is Scotland bigger than America?

Is Scotland a Communist country?

Is Scotland part of England?

Directed at me, after noting he is from Scotland: Does he read English okay?

And the most frequent question: What?

For at least an entire year, I think Mr. Shakes had to repeat everything that came out of his mouth, directed at anyone but me, at least twice.

He never even had a particularly thick accent, being from Edinburgh, which produces a much softer brogue (and therefore understandable to American ears) than Glasgow. (Think Sean Connery, rather than Billy Connolly.) Why 007 could be understood but not him was the bane of Mr. Shakes’ existence—and a green ogre that begged constant comparisons wasn’t on the list of things he appreciated hearing. Ever so slowly, the accent started fading. Tuna replaced chyoona; film replaced fillum. Such retraining of his tongue has made his life easier.

Recently, someone asked him if he was from Texas.

I can’t really hear his accent at all anymore—and I would believe it’s because the brogue is completely lost, were it not for the reminders of others.

Today, on his weekly pilgrimage to the local comic book shop, Mr. Shakes was discussing Batman Begins with the staff; his enthusiastic endorsement, and, no doubt, the use of the word fooking, left the manager in tears, doubled over with laughter. “I feel like I’m in Trainspotting!” he exclaimed.

Sometimes I’m jealous of those who can still hear his accent, as if it is a gift that I no longer have. But the ability to hear his Rs that sound like Ds, and his Ts that sound like CHs is gone because he is my husband, and my best friend. We spend more time talking, about anything and everything, than we spend doing anything else, often finding ourselves turning off a fillum a half hour or so after we settled in to watch it, once we realize we’ve paid no attention to it, off instead on a collective tangent about existentialism or whether Spider-Man could take Wolverine. All that talking has left me deaf to what everyone else hears. A small price to pay, in the end, for the rare and wonderful gift of knowing and loving him wholly.

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