Statue of Liberty

Letter from America, part four: 21 Savage and the New British Accent

2/9/2019, New York (Note the proper way to write the date!)


Dear Friends Across The Pond,

This week in America, a curious, novel incident occurred. Atlanta-based, Grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and faces deportation. He raps about the rough streets in Atlanta, Georgia, but he’s really a United Kingdom national who overstayed his US visa!

OK … I understand he spent time as a youth in Georgia. I get that. But his whole persona was real-America. I can’t remember a similar story in recent history of any Brit posing as an American – especially one from the hard-knock streets of the deep south!

Oddly, the opposite happens all the time. Friends come back from the UK sporting the Queen’s accent and using odd British phrases. “Hello, mate! Care for a spot of tea?” Who are you kidding, Dave? You’re from Jamaica, New Yawk. And yo … what’s with the pink cardigan?

It’s a regular phenomenon amongst Americans who come back from “holiday” in the UK. It’s as if they’ve returned from Downton Abbey. Is one more sophisticated using “pram” instead of “carriage”? “Slash” instead of “pee”? “Lift” for “elevator”? “Loo” for “bathroom”? “Chips” for “fries”? “Squiffy”, “dodgy”, “tying one on”? Do they get more attention? More action?

The answer is yes! At least, that is the finding of my non-scientific bar study in December, 1991. (Cheers to all the ladies who unwittingly participated in this study. Though the study was scientific in nature, I genuinely appreciated being shagged by each of you!)

It’s a phenomenon known as ‘Anglocreep’, according to Lynne Murphy, author of The Prodigal Tongue. In her interview with the New York Times Style section back in April, 2018, she asserts this Anglocreep has become a bid for status among Americans.

But Murphy is quick to add that the opposite, ‘Americreep’, is deeply feared in the UK. “The fear of American English taking over the world has been a constant theme in British society since the late 19th century,” she tells the Times.

So what do we make of 21 Savage passing himself off as an American? Is this a harbinger of things to come? Has Britain’s fear of Americreep turned to indulgence? Are you Brits so contemptuous of your affected tongue that you are ready to turn to the dark side and pass as lowly Americans? Is Brexit just another manifestation of your deep self-loathing? Is it a deep-seated desire to part from always having to be right and prim and proper and pip-pip, cheerio?

I urge you to reconsider. Think about why we Americans come to your country and spend money watching your Beefeaters do absolutely nothing, your London bridges do absolutely nothing.

It’s not for the big-ass clock (my namesake!) in the center of town, and it’s certainly not for your fine cuisine. It’s all about the accent, mate! Give that up, and you got nothing. It’s all about the Queen’s English. As Johnny Rotten so famously screamed: “God save the Queen / ‘Cause tourists are money.”

Letter from America, part three: Bird Box cloaks the key to the Trump tweets

Letter from America, part two: Brit cheese beef and Philly cheesesteak

Letter from America, part one: Cheese, TV and modern media in the UK


Photograph: Statue of Liberty by Pixabay/Pexels


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One comment

  1. Hahahahaha, they get funnier each time. I can see why a rapper would want to associate themselves with a hard-knock life. A British accent might help you get “shagged” a bit more often, but reaching the top of US Billboards Hot 100, well…

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