July 19th, 2011
My name is Kathleen and I am an annoying American. I’m just going to say it upfront. I do all sorts of annoying American things. I switch my fork to my right hand after cutting my meat so I don’t have to attempt to deftly shovel my food in my mouth with my left hand. I read entertainment news, a lot. I wish people ‘Happy Holidays’ during the month of December instead of blanketing them all with ‘Merry Christmas.’ I refer to large groups of people, men and women, as ‘guys’. I am intolerable.
At least according to a couple of British blogs that I’ve run across over the last week.
Did you know that the words ‘hospitalize’ and ‘elevator’ are like nails on the chalkboard for the British? Okay, not all the British, just the author of this blog:
I swear, I looked for an author…couldn’t find a name. I’m guessing he’s named Rupert or Edmund or Crumpet.
I’m kidding – c’mon British friends, stop throwing your tea and toast at me. I come from a very British family, I kid because I love. I’m pretty sure that ‘kid’ is a grating Americanism too….oops.
I was also unaware that the following words are vile American concoctions as well:
Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous.
I guess I have to stop saying things like: That tremendous elevator is most reliable, yet might just hospitalize me for a lengthy stay if it proves to not be as reliable as the talented maintenance staff claims it to be.
The author of the above blog, who for the sake of clarification, I will call Crumpet, also writes the very true statement that when America was formed, we took British English and made it our own. We made up words, changed words, got rid of words, and mushed words together, with sometimes very offensive results.
Toby Harnden writes in his blog for the Telegraph that such simplicities as ‘Have a nice day.’ And ‘Can I use your bathroom?’ are specific to infuriating Americans. According to Harnden, we are supposed to say ‘I would like to use your lavatory.’
More on Harnden’s list are ‘You’re welcome.’ And ‘How are you today?’ These, according to Harnden are meaningless, empty phrases only uttered out of politeness and faked interest in other’s well being.
In a way, I agree. I have learned that when people ask ‘How are you?’ They really don’t want to know, if they do, they will actually stop you, and ask you point blank and demand an answer. Most people use this interchangedly with ‘Hello’ and are expecting nothing more than a fine. If you ever really want to look like a boorish American, tell people exactly how you are doing and see how that goes over.
‘Actually, not so good. I have this growth on my ankle that had this green puss yesterday, but this morning it’s more yellowish, so I think that’s good…right?’
Still though, I think labeling it as an offensive Americanism isn’t quite accurate. The British have similar type greetings for one another, equally vacant of true meaning, such as:
‘Wotcha’ and ‘Ay Up’. According to my source, whom I will also call Crumpet for the sake of protecting his identity – ‘Wotcha’ is used around London and ‘Ay Up’ is more of the Yorkshire thing. Either one, however, is essentially the same as saying ‘Hello’ and much more genuine than saying ‘How are you?’
Why? I’m not sure. Neither is Crumpet.
So I looked for an objective opinion. My mother. My mother has lived in England and in the USA and being the wisest woman I know, I turned to her for some British oddities that would counter our American inappropriateness.
1. Anything over 65 degrees is a heat wave: My mother tells me that as soon as the weather got over 65 degrees (I know Brits, you use that crazy Celsius thingymagoodle) or 18 degrees Celsius…I think…. Anyhow, as soon as the sun came out from behind the British gloom, it was declared to be a heat wave and any self-respecting Brit stayed indoors. My mother was considered a crazy lady to be walking to the store during 70-degree weather.
2. Warm Beer: Evidently, the best way to drink your beer in Britain is room temperature if not a little on the warm side. Ew. My brother used to follow this standard, and still might…since we all left the nest, I have no evidence that he is still taking his beer and putting it on the heater to warm up before enjoying. Ew Big Brother, just Ew.
3. Root Beer Is No Drink For a Child: Evidently back in the 1970’s, they the town where my mother was living in England had not been exposed to Root Beer. She had some in the fridge, where some workman doing some work on her house found it. They drank said root beer and through some psychosomatic alcoholic tolerance magic, stumbled around drunk the rest of the day. And you think our use of the work ‘Tremendous’ is crazy.
In short. All cultures have oddities and special little quirks. It’s a bit like that thing that makes everyone sure that they are ones without an accent and it’s everyone around them that talks funny. But in the spirit of compromise, I propose a deal: us obnoxious Americans will stop using the word ‘Hospitalize’ if the Brits will stop heating up their beer. Deal?