There is not an accent someone in my home hasn’t attempted through the years, and Riley is currently rocking an Indian accent.
We’ve gone through Southern (highbrow, lowbrow), Gangster, Australian, German, upscale British, cockney British, Chinese, Russian. Matthew spent months speaking in a Texan twang and offering people a cup of whiskey and threatening to shoot them.
It isn’t like the theater kids in college who walk around speaking in their version of Shakespearean English. We say politically incorrect things in politically incorrect accents, we’re offensive and we know it. We like it that way. I don’t know why, but this is just something we do.
I find myself starting to tell the kids that doing bad, stereotypical impersonations is not nice, and then I remember how I spent a whole year as a child mimicking a British accent. And then Swedish. Elvis on and off through the years. When my mother sent me to an Indian psychologist to talk about issues at home I felt I had hit the jackpot. I didn’t want to be there, and so I spent most of the time answering his heavily accented questions in an equally heavy Indian accent. Mimicking Indian accents hadn’t really begun yet, and luckily he thought it was novel and brilliant. Luckily psychologists are odd. But I’m not really in a position to throw stones about accents, am I?
As Riley walked around the house yesterday keeping up a stream-of-consciousness chatter as Gandhi, it occurred to me that children in other countries, children in other eras, probably did and do the same thing.
Did American-born children mock the newly-landed Irish and their accents a century ago? Do Indian boys at Indian dinner tables put on bad American accents, say things they think Americans would typically say, and receive cocked eyebrows from their mothers? Do Chinese boys try on French accents and try to one-up each other with authenticity? Somewhere, is an Italian preteen mocking her way through her therapy session with her German therapist?
And how are we, Americans, perceived? What does international mocking by other cultures’ children amount to?