A defense lawyer from Virginia, one I used to admire and respect, has launched a vile, personal, and utterly accurate attack on me on his blog.
Jamison Koehler writes:
"every prosecutor has a weakness, something you can turn to your advantage in court, and I think I have discovered Pryor’s: He hates it when you fail to distinguish among the British accents. I’m sure I could find a way to work into my opening statement the fact that I really see no difference between an English accent or a Scottish accent or an Australian one."
He rightly predicts that such a devilish blow would rattle me. We are all proud of our heritage, and as an Englishman I'm proud of the many lands we conquered and subjected to endless cups of tea, stamps bearing the Queen's head, spotted dick (it's a type of pudding, people), and cricket.
But I encounter this a lot in Austin, and I have some standard responses for when people tilt their heads and say, "That accent. It's from _____, right?"
And here's what I tell people when they guess I'm from...:
New Zealand: "No, England, which is similar but we have more people and fewer sheep."
South Africa: "No, England, which is similar but we have fewer sharks, shanties, and less sun."
Scotland: "No, England."
Wales: No one ever says this.
Ireland: "Would you guess Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland?"
This stumps them because (a) many don't know the two countries have very different accents, and (b) even if they do, they couldn't say which is which.
I let them off the hook by saying, "No, the country to the east."
Which is when they say, "Scotland?" (Consult map to see why this is funny.)
Australia: Here's how that conversation goes:
"That accent. It's from Australia, right?"
"Heavens no. England."
"Don't be sorry, just don't do it again."
"Well, how do I tell the difference?"
"You can't, you're American. Look, if you have to guess, always guess English because if you accuse an Englishman of being from Australia, it's very insulting."
"But what if I accuse an Australian of being an Englishman? Isn't that insulting?"
"Yes. Very. But who cares?"