For the most part, my British nationality is probably not all that hard to determine. Even before Americans hear me speak, they might—from my un-straightened teeth, vaguely European dress sense, and lost-tourist countenance—place my origin as "from somewhere across the Pond." Their suspicions, indeed, are usually—usually—justified once I open my mouth and words such as rubbish, brilliant, and daft come out.
However, the odd (sometimes very odd) occasion exists when even my accent is not, it would seem, a sufficient marker of my Britishness. Every so often, Americans will place my brogue thousands of miles from its actual home, sticking their pins into some peculiar points on the accent map.
With that in mind, below are just five such places. I have labeled them chronologically from most understandable to what-the-f#&%-just-happened?
Given that much of Australia's population derived from British immigrants and banished convicts, it is perhaps understandable that Americans would confuse my accent with that of Down Under. On one occasion, when I was working in a call centre, a customer rejoiced at having reached me because he was, in his own words, traveling to Sydney the next day and wanted to pick my brain for travel advice. Having myself never visited Australia, I nonetheless didn't have the heart to crush this poor individual's enthusiasm. Instead, I not only donned my best attempt at an Ozzie accent, but proceeded to invent a list of eateries around Sydney Harbo(u)r. To this day, I hope he enjoyed the five-star service supplied by the Snake and Kangaroo Inn.
Okay, I get it: I'm a relatively pale man, my skin bears more than one freckle, and I am occasionally fond of Guinness. That said, I would almost contend that Irish accents have more in common with certain varieties of American English (the two share common rhotic traits, for example) than they do with most forms of British English. On this point, however, I do recall a particular St. Paddy's Day (St. Patty's Day in the U.S.) when someone (who shall not be named) glanced at my greenless outfit and remarked, "I figured you of all people would dress up for St. Patty's." At that moment—somewhat appropriately—my good old pale skin turned green, as I quipped, "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
3. South Africa
As with the first two places on this list, I've never so much as breathed the South African air, much less identified as one of the country's citizens. Still, that hasn't stopped some Americans from placing my home city as Cape Town. Bizarrely, one woman—upon learning my true nationality having initially made this faux pas—attempted to iron over the creases by joyously insisting that she once dated an Englishman whose accent was "just like yours."
For the most part, Canadian English and American English can sound—to the untrained ear—almost interchangeable. So much so, in fact, that Canadian actors such as Michael J. Fox, Ellen Page, and Jim Carrey have seemlessly portrayed characters that were, for all intents and purposes, American. How anyone could mistake British English for Canadian English is quite beyond me, but this—believe it or not—has happened to me on more than one occasion.