Friday, July 22, 2011

America - An Apology

I read this interesting piece the other day, about Americanisms that have entered the English language.
It has produced a fair amount of debate and response, including a few American responses claiming not to be fond of Britishisms (my favourite being the headline that read, ‘Hey Britain, we don’t think your Britishisms are the dogs bollocks either’. You would never see the phrase dogs bollocks in a family newspaper over here, if we had any family newspapers. Recent criminality reveals our newspapers to be of the Tony Soprano family variety. Which reminds me of the time, after I got married in Las Vegas – true story – and we were having a drink with an American couple. She said, as Americans are wont to do with we Brit men, that she loved my accent. I cracked a weak joke, so lame I can’t remember it, but she laughed politely, and then put on a  - really quite bad - English accent and knocked me playfully on the arm, saying ‘You wanker!’ I almost spat my Banana daiquiri off the roof of the Rio. Call someone a wanker in a bar in England and you’re likely to get a punch in the face. But I digress…)

The article set me thinking that we Limeys moan a lot about the influence of America. Everything from our supposed lurch towards presidential politics to a diet of fast food is pinned on our friends across the pond. I have to admit here I’m a committed Americophile (not sure that’s in a dictionary, but I’m sure Anglophile is – go figure (ooops...)) and some of my best friends are American. I love American music, American film, American literature, even American food. It was as big a cultural experience for me to walk into Graceland or Sun Studios as it was to walk into Versailles (and don’t even ask what it was like to go to Dollywood…) Most things I value have come from the States. Yes, there are many things that baffle me – the religiosity of public life, the idea that ‘liberal’ can be a term of abuse, American football (not the rules, just the fact that people would watch it) Everybody Loves Raymond and morbid obesity, but on the whole I think we Brits have much to be thankful to Uncle Sam for.

I’m not sure it works the other way. Yes, the Mayflower sailed from here, but they were a dull bunch of Puritans and killjoys and I doubt anyone missed them. And yes, The Beatles and The Stones were pretty good, though neither would have existed without the blues. Oh and we invented baseball, a great game. But most of the things we’ve given the US over the years have been pretty dire. We should be doing the apologising for what we’ve exported rather than criticising what has come the other way. After literally minutes of thought I came up with these five atrocities:

Piers Morgan – a pompous puffed up, self-serving, talentless cretin. Hopefully to be burnt in the fires of the phone hacking scandal very soon.

Simon Cowell – see Piers Morgan. Without the phone hacking bit. I see he tried to get the authorities to shift the World Series for the X-Factor final. Good to see he has a a firm understanding of his new market.

Reality TV – I wasn’t sure we can claim the credit for this one, but my US cousin says we started it. If so, sorry.

Benny Hill – what happened there? Though the French liked him too come to think of it. But old men chasing after women in public is pretty much a national pastime over there. But why you, Americans?

Newcastle Brown Ale –  over here, drunk only by, actually, you don’t see anyone drinking it over here. Even people from Newcastle don’t drink it. They get smashed on Budweiser instead.
Case closed. We’re sorry.


Dan - Friday


  1. Apology accepted. Though it appears you may be flailing yourself unnecessarily over your cited contributions to my country's woes. Most bad beer and boobs in the US are homegrown.

    Postscript/translation: "Boobs--Stupid or foolish persons."

  2. On the other hand, you Brits came up with televised poker (with the little table-cam that shows the hole cards), Blackadder, and 95% of PBS. The good 95%. Not to mention Cheddar cheese. I'll forgive you Benny Hill and Tom Jones and, until the past couple of decades, a national cuisine so awful PETA would protest its being served to a kitten.

    And BOY has there been a turnaround in British food.

  3. Thanks for the postscript Jeff. You did have wondering me briefly how you guys were growing them.

    Tim, we came up with televised poker? Knowing we came up with televised pool and darts too, it makes my heart swell with pride. Britannia rules the airwaves (when it comes to broadcasting pub games)!

    I'm partial to a bit of Tom Jones though...

    Too right about food. We've had the good sense to adopt the cuisines of all the immigrant cultures we've welcomed. To our immense benefit.

  4. How many different ways can you say anglophile? From a very young age, I was taught that the English had it right (except for the food). Language, grace, manners, my mother adored it all. Her father was a teacher of English at the University of Vienna (pre-Hitler) and spent some summers in England, studying and fishing. Hence, I have maintained a long time love affair with English Lit, fashion, and, as Tim says, PBS, just as much of America. So no apologies necessary. Fortunately, I discovered the rest of the world as well.

  5. Ditto Lil's comments. (My grandfather, however, was not an English teacher.)