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Great Scot! Confusing Accent.

, , , | Working | April 15, 2022

I am a Scottish woman, and I’m spending a university summer working as a counsellor at a very ethnically diverse summer camp aimed at low-income, inner-city teenage girls.

Me: “Come on, girls, everyone queue up for lunch.”

I notice a few surprised looks but don’t think anything of it. I continue calling groups of campers “girls” for the next few days, until I am called into a meeting with my boss and other senior staff members.

Boss: “I don’t know how to say this, but you have to stop calling the kids ‘ghettos’.”

Me: “Sorry, what?”

Boss: “This is serious. I don’t know why you think it’s acceptable, but it has to stop.”

Me: “I don’t call them ghettos. I call them girls.”

Boss: “Wait, what?”

It turns out that the rolled Scottish R is very similar to the soft D sound a lot of Americans make instead of a double T. So, my very Scottish accented “gehr-lls” sounded to an American ear a lot like “ghettos”. It took some persuading to convince the senior staff that I wasn’t being offensive; I was just Scottish!

I explained what happened to the teenagers, who found the misunderstanding hilarious, but I only called them “kids” or “ladies” for the rest of the summer.

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