The Importance of Enunciation

I don’t normally chat about my movie preferences without being asked, but recently a neighbor walked over with our Netflix envelope in hand.  It had mistaken arrived in his mailbox. I thanked him cheerfully, saying we still get DVDs mailed because my husband and I watch a lot of foreign films that are otherwise unavailable.

That innocuous sentence instantly wrought some sort of reaction. He turned his head ever so slightly to the right, his eyes looking up as if confused. I’m pretty sure his nostrils flared as he took in a deep breath. Then the charming older gentleman said carefully, “I didn’t know those were available on Netflix.”

Something was indefinably weird about our conversation but I had no idea what it might be. I assured him, in a far more cheery voice than usual, that we’re particularly fond of films from France, Denmark, and Sweden.

There was a long pause. I’d uttered two sentences about our fondness for foreign films and he was reacting as if I’d revealed a highly personal secret.  He looked at the plain red envelope and said nothing. His discomfort must have been downright contagious because I tossed in one more sentence, hoping to find some closure to the topic so I could say goodbye and retreat. I said, “Some people really hate subtitles but it’s totally worth it.”

Understanding broke out on his face like a rash. A red rash. He said, “Oh, foreign films.”

Then my face turned red. I speak with what we in upper Ohio consider to be no accent at all and it didn’t occur to me that he’d misunderstood. But he had. He thought I’d said my husband and I watch a lot of porn films.

The moral of the story? Enunciate!

This piece is shared from my main site, where I post weekly. Here, not so much…

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of four books and served as 2019 Ohio Poet of the Year. She's the editor of Braided Way: Faces & Voices of Spiritual Practice. She works as a book editor, teaches writing workshops, and maxes out her library card each week.
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4 Responses to The Importance of Enunciation

  1. katechiconi says:

    Great story! Of course, it wasn’t necessarily your enunciation at fault, it was much more likely to have been his hearing… Interesting article too, from one who is regularly accused of speaking BBC English. I contest that hotly. These days the BBC is far more diverse and regional accents are no longer frowned upon. My father speaks the exaggerated ‘upper class’ English that says ‘gel’ for ‘girl’ and ‘orf’ for ‘off’. My own accent is more neutral, but there are still plenty of u/c idiosyncrasies that stand out to Australian ears, but I’ve been speaking that way too long to lose it. Apparently hearing the accent combined with Aussie idiom and slang is very funny. Personally, I think they should just ‘rack orf…’

    • True, could have been his hearing. Or my tendency to scurry my sentences along.

      Strange that you can be “accused” of speaking with any particular accent, as if it means
      something about who you are. They definitely shoud “rack orf!”

      • katechiconi says:

        Ah, it’s just the old colonial grudge, the competition between the Aussies and the Poms. You should hear the divisive language used on TV when there’s an important Australia/England cricket or rugby match on TV. And imagine “rack orf” said in the Queen’s accent and you have a flavour of the humour involved in using this classic Aussie phrase with such a terribly, terribly British accent!

  2. Humor may be universal but comedy is often terribly specific.

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