Tuesday, 23 November 2010

On Blogging

The room, which had been buzzing with conversation moments before, was silent.

"That was painful," someone muttered, and they were right. Moments before, I had embarked on telling a story that in my head sounded interesting and relevant to the topic of conversation. It didn't quite pan out that way, and halfway through I wished I hadn't bothered.

You see, there's some sort of problem with the way I formulate sentences when preparing to say them out loud. It never works. I have an idea in my head that has the potential to be an interesting anecdote, an amusing joke, a poignant, deep and meaningful speech. Except it never fulfills this potential; the words stumble out of my mouth and lie in a heap - like alphabet spaghetti - in front of me. Attempting to follow one of these conversations is like bear-baiting, the thing you're contending with is desperate to leave you exhausted and confused, and it would take some skill to make it through without losing the point.

And then there's my accent. This isn't a problem with friends or family, of course, but it's incredible how quickly someone will assume that you're stupid based solely on the way you speak. The first time I realised I even had an accent (odd though that may sound) was my first year of university. The most cringe-worthy moment comes from a seminar on Roma Citta Aperta, an Italian neorealist masterpiece. At the time I knew nothing of literature, film or poetry, and had jumped headfirst into a degree course that was half made-up of all these things. Good move, Tom.

So I arrived, understanding what I was told but lacking the means to express it. This particular seminar was a massive turning point for me. We'd all watched the film, and been discussing it for half an hour. I sat at the back, as usual, avoiding the lecturer's eye lest she ask me a question. She asked if anyone had noticed anything in particular about the portrayal of the Nazi occupiers. The room was silent in response. Seized, all of a sudden, by a need to prove my worth, I ventured an opinion;

"Well, they're all, like, gay." I nearly added an 'innit' at the end there to make it sound even worse, but there's no need - it's bad enough as it is. I caught someone to my left rolling their eyes, some others actually laughed. The lecturer replied,

"Yes, exactly. There are definite homosexual undertones." I got it right, you bastards. I was right; I had the answer she was looking for, only I didn't have the correct words to express it. I realised then that this was generally the case in my literature classes - I knew these things, I noticed them, but I didn't know how to get the idea across without sounding like a complete chav. So I read an incredibly boring book on literary theory and criticism, and armed myself with enough knowledge to make myself sound like I knew what I was talking about.

So that solved that problem, but how often do you get into literary conversations at parties? Not often at all, so my complete lack of oratory skill remains an issue. My accent has improved (a year in Italy demanded it - otherwise the people I held conversation classes for could have auditioned for Eastenders). If you heard it now, you'd probably wonder what I was making a fuss about. I've buried it, almost. But I do lapse into it - especially after a drink - and I love it more now than I ever have before. I'd consider resurrecting it if I could do so without people thinking I'm retarded.

And so, to remind myself that I'm not stupid and to give me a place to communicate the strange things I think, I started a blog. I'm not sure why, but I communicate much more effectively in writing. Maybe that's because there's less pressure to perform; I can think, re-think, write and re-write. Then there's the added benefit that if someone doesn't get what I'm saying, I don't witness their reaction. I don't have to see their eyes glaze over as I struggle to pull the conversation back from the brink of nonsense. It's come to mean quite a lot to me, so when people say nice things about it I can be rather too gushing in my gratitude. But I'm British - we have to say please, thank you and sorry at every possible occasion, so my thanks to Amber, Tabitha, Risha, Kisekae, Gnetch and everyone who reads and comments. If it weren't for you, I'd be destined to a life of painful conversation - or silence, which may be preferable.


  1. I didn't know I had an "accent" until I went away and everyone would be all "why do you sound like ~that!" in a really offensive tone.

    It made me want to hold on to it all the tighter, just to piss people off.

    And, I bet you're a fantastic conversationalist... accent or not. <3

  2. Um, you still have an accent (I presume) - a British one. But I get what you're saying...regional, cultural accents.

    I live in a part of Canada where most people have neutral accents. But if you go to the East Coast, where the Irish and Scottish had more of an influence, you definitely hear that stereotypical "Canadian accent."

    Oh, you reminded me of another story. I took a class called "20th Century British History and Film" in my third year. I, having close British friends, knew a lot of slang. We watched the movie Trainspotting - and if you've seen it, you'll know there's a part where Ewan McGreggor's character goes on a rant about the English and calls them wankers, but sayd their desended from wankers...etc.

    After the film was over, my professor (a man with an amazing sense of humour) asked if anyone had any questions. This girl blurts out, being totally serious, "What's a wanker?"

    My prof was like,...hmmm...how do I describe this. He said "Self love?"

    Anyways, I'm glad you have this little place to express yourself and tell the stories you feel you can't properly tell in real life.

  3. No no, thank YOU for having such a wonderful blog!

  4. Accents are cool. I dig my Philly accent out every once in a while, and it pops up when I'm really pissed of at something.

  5. I sound exceedingly posh; so I receive cold reactions from people based on that, only occasionally though. I am from the North, however, so I tend to say bath with a short 'a'. I really love accents, particularly the soft Scouse accent and the myriad of southern accents. Is it too much to ask for a sound clip? You probably all owe us a sentence now.

  6. I have Zilch accent. I wish Canadian's had epic accents.

    And LOVE reading your blog, no need to thank me for it. I should be thanking you for giving me a regular dose of interesting and awesome stuff to read :)

  7. What kind of accent do you have?
    I, unfortunately, have NO accent at all. That's a 'Northwest' thing I think. We have the cleares, most bland way of speaking.

    But yes. I agree. Maybe we should all read the same poem, and post it, so we can all hear each other's accents?

    Haha, and Tom, you're a lovely, well put writer. No worries in communicating through text at least.

  8. No, cuz. Thank you for writing honest stuff like this.

    Honestly, we have the same problem. I am socially awkward. Well, not all the time. Only when I'm the new one in, say, a group. Not all people have the same humor as me so I feel like if I crack a joke, they might not think it's funny. Or they would think I'm being serious when I'm just being sarcastic. It is difficult sometimes. I think I communicate better in writing too.

    But about accents, I do have an accent and I agree, most people judge others based on their accents and it's not fair. But I think you are awesome, and brilliant, and funny. Your comments always make me laugh.


  9. @ Risha - Oh I haven't completely lost it. It's still there, and I'm not ashamed of it, not really. I just have a right chip on my shoulder when I think people assume I'm stupid. It's mostly paranoia, I'm sure.

    @ Allison - haha! Self love! What a polite way of describing it. I probably would have gestured...

    @ Kisekae - stop it, you.

    @ TheTsaritsa - I've been stalking your blog so I can find out what a Philly accent sounds like. I only know Texan and New Yorker...I think. I'm rubbish.

    @ Rachel - maybe one day. But I feel self conscious now. I might accidentally make it sound worse than it is and you'll think I'm from Walford. Well, you know what it sounds like - it's Essex, innit.

    @ Tabs - I suppose like Allison says we all have an accent, but I know what you mean. Maybe I should follow Risha's lead and make the most of having a regional twang. 'Twang' doesn't mean something rude across the pond, does it?

    @ TallBrunette - I have an Essex accent. It's a bit like Cockney, only less cool. At least it was, before I tried to posh up a bit. Now it's fairly nondescript. I think I'd need a drink before reading anything. That's the only way I can properly coax my original accent out of hiding!

    @ Gnetch - AH THANKS CUZ! We have so much in common I can't believe we didn't realise we were related sooner. I might do one, one day. As I keep saying, I'll have to be drunk though, so it won't be pretty!