On Being British . . . Or Not

22 March 2013

What’s in an accent? A way of twisting words, a slight inflection, a gargle in the right spot? Much of it has to do with that, mediated by locality and culture. We usually speak our surrounds – often physical location, but also our social circumstances. I grew up around building sites, and heard the rough, low drawl in one ear and the much fainter, mellower tones of the middle class off in the distance in the other. Yet there was something that linked the two ways of speaking – a kind broadening never heard in the big cities to the south, a twang that I never quite managed to tweak myself. And neither did my brother, perhaps because our grandparents influenced us heavily in our earlier years and led us to a way of speaking that was a little less circumspect, but a little more suspect to some.

I once took a phone call from a close relative who told me I sounded like a poof. Her words, not mine.

When I arrived in Hong Kong people started to comment on my British accent. I’ve been dealing with people in a corporation in the US lately who have said much the same. It’s odd how people’s expectations guide them. Take a voice a little out of the ordinary (and I mean a very little, really), a lot more out of context, and push it towards a comfortable category.   

I’m Australian, by the way. Northern. You can’t get an accent a terrible lot less British than that. 


Pass Me Off

22 March 2013

You would think that those most attuned to the profound arcana of the interwebs might just be a little sophisticated with their password policies. Well, I would anyway, and it gives me a little rush of pleasure every time I log on to a website in the know. Imagine if you will a cabal of website admins huddled over a boiling pot, the wind blowing across the moor as their screechy high voices cackle new and clever ways of forcing users to Damn Well Use Unique and Secure Passwords. Oh, the sheer malevolence of their ways. There’s got to be a touch of dark but delightful art in there somewhere. Surely.

But, alas, their voices are never heard in some surrounds. Tonight – a little blustery, a little cold, just the right atmosphere I thought – I registered with a website that would only accept alphanumeric characters, dashes and underscores in my password. So, let’s consider the psychology of this. It just has to encourage people to use common nouns separated by dashes, or their own names, perhaps all three or four, wedged open with underscores. Bet the password guru didn’t think about that.

And on the subject of the unthunk (which is, I suspect, a common habit in this case), my bank’s password policy not only restricts me to alphanumeric characters (none of those shifty dashes, no siree) but it also only allows 8 of them. Way to go, Bank of Insecurity.

What’s a guy gotta do to get a bit of respect from the minions of Moloch? This is really starting to pass me off . . .