Three Generations, Three Accents.


The three of us sat at the table in the typical New Jersey diner. My mother, visiting from South Africa wanted to experience this quintessential setting, and I—the compliant daughter—pushed aside my dislike of diners and agreed. My own daughter, who was 7 at the time, ignored the novelty of the setting and stole glances at her namesake, and rarely seen, grandmother. She was excited to share all her Americanisms and prattled away in her—now firmly established—American accent.

Me and my daughter, Alice at Pompeii. 2017.

My mother chatted away, her lovely soft Scottish accent sounding unfamiliar to my ears. We had moved to the States years before and contact was limited to letters and the occasional phone call. A waitress arrived and I placed the order for our little group. She wrote it down and I waited for the standard question that always followed: where was I from?

“Originally, Cape Town South Africa, but I’ve lived here for a few years now.” Short and sweet.

Soon she bustled back as there was some confusion with the order. A light-hearted discussion ensued as we each tried to sort out what we wanted. The waitress listened, but a frown deepened between her brows. “Can I just ask,” she said. “Are you all related?”

Then pen mid-air over her pad, she paused for a beat and head-cocked asked, “Then why do you each have a different accent?!”

Me and my mother, Alice at Pompeii. 1977.

My reply, somewhat testy, I admit, was this is my mum and this is my daughter.

I am sure we are not the only 3-generations-3-accents family.

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