Choosing your words

I’ve found that even when I’m speaking with other native English speakers, I modify my lexicon depending on my knowledge of them. When I am speaking to people who aren’t from New Zealand, I usually, by default, drop all the Kiwi slang I might use at home (dairy, jandals, bro, choice), and speak in a very generic English. When I can, I use words that the listener is familiar with, just to avoid any misunderstandings (e.g. using restroom or lavatory instead of toilet). When speaking to Americans, saying trunk instead of boot makes communication smoother (not that I really ever have to say those words in conversation).

Recently, I had an English house guest, and found myself even changing my pronunciation of some words so that there were no halts in the conversation. I started saying yoggit instead of yo-git, which feels entirely unnatural to me. I don’t know if I did it to avoid letting someone else feel superior (a post-colonial instinct, maybe?), or just so we wouldn’t have to discuss such a silly difference.

It doesn’t really matter though, as apparently she thought my accent sounded American. I can’t win.

Do you find yourself changing your words or your pronunciation with different audiences?

Comments on Choosing your words