Tonight my daughter looked up from her homework and remarked, 'Mom, you sounded awkwardly British just then.' I can't actually remember what I said, but it was definitely not an American expression. And the longer we live in England, it seems the more 'awkwardly British' I become--saying bin instead of trash can, car park instead of parking lot, biscuit instead of cookie. And not just using different words but different constructions--my three-year-old asked me earlier if the biscuit (yes, biscuit!) I was handing her had 'raisins in'. In the US you would say 'raisins in it'. Another one is using 'quite' rather than 'very'. There are myriad different words and expressions, of course, and I could hardly begin to catalogue them all, although as a family we have tried. One child made it a school project!
But in any case my daughter's phrase 'awkwardly British' rattled around in my head for awhile. How can I be awkwardly British while living in Britain? And the more I write the word awkward, the more awkward a word it seems! But anyway...
My children are quite ruthless when it comes to ferreting out British expressions and pouring disdain upon them. If I ever dared to say truly quintessentially British words such as 'bloke', 'loo', or call a friend 'mate', they would roar with laughter, gasp in horror, or probably both. But those three examples mentioned above are actually British words I can't bring myself to say, along with loo, naff, cheers or ta for thanks, or quid, to name a few. It's not that I have a problem with these words, it's merely that I don't think I can pull them off. I feel like either I'd burst out laughing while saying (or attempting to say) the word, or else the person I was talking to burst out laughing. Probably both.
It's inevitable, though, that we will adopt some Britishisms while living here, and I have noticed when I return to America, people mistake me for being British (cue incredulous laughter from every Brit who has ever met me). In fact, on a plane to a writers' conference in Texas, a very Texan woman exclaimed, 'Oh, you're British!' I laughed and said that no, of course I wasn't, I didn't have a British accent! She gave me a sympathetic look and said, her own accent as thick as treacle (see how British that is?!), 'Bless your heart, honey, you do.'
I've mused more than once that since we are settled here permanently, my children will most likely marry British people (assuming they marry) and have children who will sound QUITE British, because I've noticed that children with one American parent and one British parent living in Britain--guess what? They sound completely British. So eventually I will have grandchildren who will shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes, and say something like, 'Oh yeah, my mum's parents are from America and we have some cousins over there but, you know, whatever.' Or something like that. And then, perhaps, we will seem awkwardly American.