Josh, Julie and the Iraqi English accent

Josh and Julie were my parents-in-law. They were brought up in Iraq, but were expelled when they were in their 20s, went to Israel for a while, and ended up in London. They spoke English with a strong accent and different syntax. During the first gulf war, many Iraqis were interviewed on the radio, and they had the same accent. I realised that they had learned English at school, and to them it sounded correct. To them we were the ones that were wrong.

In my family we still occasionally speak Iraqi English, even though Josh and Julie died a few years ago. Part of it is keeping them alive. Part of it is the way it allows you to shout and exaggerate.

If you were cheeky:

JULIE: I keel you with KNIFE!.

We are planning to visit:

JOSH: At what tiyem you arrive to Edgware?

Julie is putting on her coat:

ME: Where are you going?

JULIE: Dear, we are going to Ocusford.

ME: What are you doing in Oxford??

JULIE: Ocusford Sitreet, situpid!

Then the ‘i’ sound can get converted to ‘u’.

Before we were married:

IRIT: Jeremy’s got a temp job cleaning toilets in Liberty’s.

JOSH (impressed): UFF you marry THUS you will never starve

Stresses could end up in unexpected places:

JOSH: It is nec-ESS-arry to buy pit-ROL

Recipes were always incomprehensible:

JULIE: You put ON-ee-on. It’s cook itself

JOSH: Cook it es-lowly!

Confusion arose about the meanings of words:

JOSH (stopping outside a shop): You don’t mention if I go in?

Or …

JULIE: Will you come tomorrow?

IRIT: Possibly.

JULIE (to the children): Irit will probably come tomorrow.

IRIT: I said POSSIBLY!

JULIE: What different?


JULIE (on phone): That is me.

If you bought something that was expensive:

JOSH: You find money in sit-reet?


Julie picked up some slang words but wasn’t too clear on appropriate context.

Julie and Eva go to a posh shop in Brent Cross:

SHOP ASSISTANT: Madam, this blouse is made from the finest Irish Linen.

JULIE (feels material, thinks it’s flimsy): But it is bollics!

Exit Eva. Julie exits a few moments later.

JULIE: What I say?

2 thoughts on “Josh, Julie and the Iraqi English accent

  1. I was waiting for the bollics story! I have been using this phrase myself ever since I first heard it from The Irit. No one ever questions it, even though I say it in my Iraqi accent!

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