28 October 2020

American

I received the following supportive comment from "Terry" in response to yesterday's blogpost:-

It's nice to have an observant reader like Terry who notices the small detail of one's humour.

Terry's remark reminded me of  certain encounters I had in the state of Ohio when I was a summer camp counsellor there in the mid-nineteen seventies.

One night I fell into conversation with a couple of local redneck guys (English: Conservatives) in "Skip and Ray's Bar" (English: pub) by the road to Burton, east of Chagrin Falls.

They had noticed my English accent. One of them asked where I was from so I told them. They seemed a little puzzled to learn that other countries existed beyond the shores of The United States.

I informed them that they in fact spoke the English language and that it originated in England.

One of them - let's call him Bob - visibly bristled and protested, "I don't speak English. I speak American!"  

His pupils enlarged dangerously. He was clearly a proud patriot, affronted by the idea that the very language of his land of sidewalks (English: pavements) and cottoncandy  (English: candyfloss) was borrowed from another country.  

Who was I to persuade him otherwise? Just a cleverdick limey bastard ordering another pitcher of beer, hoping that Bob did not have a rifle  in his pick-up truck (English: a small vehicle with an open part at the back in which goods can be carried).

Of course, I am aware that  the kind of Americans who visit this lil'ol' blog tend to be better educated and  more knowledgeable about the  wider world than Bob  appeared to be. As I recall, he and his buddy (English: friend)  worked in land drainage, moving earth and digging trenches from dawn to dusk.  The salt of the earth. You have to respect people like that. We need them.

57 comments:

  1. from Wisconsin: cotton candy...not candy cotton! Ha.

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    1. Oops! I will change that one. Thanks Dianne.

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  2. Humor or humour? Centre or centre? Aluminium vor aluminum?

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    1. "vor"? Are you turning into a German?

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  4. Americans are courteous as you discovered, Neil. Bristling Bob was the exception.

    No British correspondent succeeded in penetrating the inside track in U.S. politics. James Reston (1909-95) was born in Clydebank, Scotland, but emigrated with his parents in 1920. Wilfrid Sheed (1930-2011) novelist and critic, went Stateside and never came back. His Oxbridge novel, *A Middle Class Education* (as funny as *Lucky Jim*) was followed by novels set in the East Coast. Evelyn Waugh's *The Loved One*, about the funeral industry in LA, was adapted for the screen by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood, with Liberace as the undertaker. Isherwood remained in California, like Hockney, but Auden left postwar New York for Germany.

    As for being courteous, I am reading Richard Ford's story collection, *Sorry For Your Troubles*, and I can't find the word to describe the tone of his writing.
    This is America of industry going to China, white poverty, the trillion dollars squandered in Afghanistan. Ford has an acute eye and ear. Strangely there is no story that has the book's title.

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    1. Bob was courteous. He was a good man - like his friend. The fact that they did not know or really care where their language came from was simply interesting to me.

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    2. Kurt Vonnegut wrote, *When love fails, courtesy must prevail.*


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  5. This was fun! Thank you for this early afternoon chuckle, right in time before my next conference call.

    My running buddy (English: friend who goes running with me) is American, and so is her husband and another handful of good friends I have (last but not least more than half of my pub quiz team). There is a lot more that we have in common than what separates us. Still, comparing notes on language is always fun and often leads to very interesting conversations.

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    1. It's nice that I gave you a chuckle between work tasks Meike.

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  6. I had a friend who sometimes described a group of people as "the tillers of the soil and the changers of the oil." I still consider that a brilliant description.
    Hello from St. George Island where the waves are huge and frothing and it is beautiful.

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    1. And we all need tillers of soil and changers of oil, just as we need cleaners, miners, nurses and builders. I hope that's not a hurricane coming in Mary!

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Our first trip to the US was to Florida in the early 70's, in the days when British tourists were few and far between. We toured around quite a bit and went down to Key West. On our first night in the motel we had dinner in the restaurant and our waitress -"Hi I'm Pam" - was flabbergasted when we spoke to her, and after her questioning, ("Where you all from?" etc) told her we were English. "Oh my - you're English - from England!" said she, calling over some of other waitresses. They gathered round and all asked us to say something in English! We never ever fathomed out exactly what they expected! It's the accent of course, and we were frequently confused with Bostonians! The favourite question was to ask if we knew the Queen!

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    1. I met several Americans who genuinely thought that London and England were the same thing. And how many times did I receive this request..."Neil! Say The Beatles!"

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  9. “Let’s call him Bob”. Yes, let’s. Why not? This post is rife with an air of snobbery and superiority that cannot be disguised as humour even if some readers chuckle. You are quite adept at adding insult to injury and then claiming it was done in all innocence. When you call yourself a cleverdick, you are only half right and, I might add, too clever by half.

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    1. I tenderly agree with you. On first reading this post (and I wasn't going to comment) I felt a whiff of something vaguely unpalatable. America bashing is rife. I know this as a good friend of mine (married to FOS - father of son) is American. FOS is a refined Englishman. He most certainly knows his apostrophes. However, he hates all things American and Catholic. Which, presumably, is why he is married to a Catholic American. Some of the stuff he says, with all of us sat round the table, is borderline ouch. She bears his excess with fortitude and good humoUr.

      It's one thing to take the mickey of others' country of origin, it's another to take the piss. Having said that, and in his defence, YP recently mentioned that he is an Ami-phile.

      U

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  10. America, for all its faults, aims to be a classless society. It’s obviously not true of England.

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    1. I simply do not see why you and indeed Ursula have responded to this post so unkindly. I was recounting something that happened - a real life memory that came to my mind because of Terry's comment. Of course, there was no way that I was implying that all Americans are like that - no way at all.

      The remark, "You are quite adept at adding insult to injury and then claiming it was done in all innocence" is as hurtful as it is untrue.

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  11. Interestingly when I was in the US I don't think I saw anything at all which could loosely have been interpreted as a 'pub'. They were all akin to a 'Public Bar' in a pub or a 'Bar' in many parts of England and Scotland.

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    1. You are right. They were never quite like our pubs. They tended to be dark and slightly seedy. The vast majority of customers were men.

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  12. It seems you may have touched a nerve.

    Ignorance comes in all forms and countries sadly. I do find Americans different though, more opinionated and more sure of their beliefs, whatever those beliefs happen to be. History also colors how people see their world as well. The Americans broke away from England in a revolution. Canadians just slowly eased away from England and no longer really identify with England. These two transitions also affected how our two countries deal with conflict. Neither is right or wrong, just different.

    People are endlessly fascinating to me, even when they drive me crazy:)

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    1. Interesting comparison of two different "transitions".

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  13. Unfortunately that kind of person is still around. I think one of them is in the White House. Now as far as your interpretations, I know them and they don't bother me. It is interesting though. We probably speak more American than English!!!!

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    1. Married to Jean, you should talk like a Yorkshireman Red! Ask her for lessons.

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  14. Well, thanks to this blog I've now taken to calling flashlights "torches". It sounds more romantic. So when we go out after dark to walk the dog I say,"Honey don't forget to grab the torch!"

    As to some of the other comments I think there are folks who really need to take themselves a tad less seriously.

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    1. When Gregg says, "Grab my torch honey!" you need to take care.

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    2. Hahahahahaha!!!! Best. Comment. Ever.

      Still giggling over here..... :)

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  15. As a person that has never lived anywhere but the U.S. I can tell you this country has a very wide range of people, personalities, and approaches to life. Growing up in the South I have certainly known many redneck-types and also many other types. There are some that may come across as uneducated in a formal sense, but quite often they are the type you would consider the "salt of the earth" as far as their work ethic and belief system. They are the type that would do anything to help a friend at any cost. I was raised to respect all people and to see their value. I may not agree with everyone but as long as they are kind and respectful, I am the same. This country truly is the "melting pot" in many different ways.

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    1. I always stand up for America and Americans Bonnie. Some of my best memories are connected with America and American people.

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  16. *Shelley Winters Dumps Her Drink All Over Oliver Reed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.* YouTube. A good laugh and Johnny was a master host.

    Shelley Winters was in some of my favourite movies: A Place in the Sun (with Montgomery Clift) The Night of the Hunter (with Robert Mitchum) The Big Knife (with Jack Palance) Lolita (with James Mason) The Manchurian Candidate (with Sinatra and Laurence Harvey) and Alfie (with Michael Caine).

    Olly Reed was in none of my favourite movies, and one can see why Americans dislike a type of Englishman. My sister-in-law is Japanese, but came to Los Angeles as a child with her parents, loves London, but can't take a certain type of English male, something about their diction and their general air.

    She instanced Tony Blair. I had to agree. I thought Tone was a sanctimonious little squirt from the start. His house master at his old school said: *I wish I was there to clip his wings!*

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    1. I hope that you are not equating me with Oliver Reed and Tony Blair! Besides, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is Scottish...or should that be Scotch? Let's just say that he is a Jock.

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    2. Shelley winters was a difficult woman . He autobiography doesn’t quite balance with the first hand reports from her co stars , most of which found her hard work.
      However , as a middle aged gay man, I adore her chutzpah, her portrayal of Belle Rosen in the Poseidon Adventure, and her generous nature ( she donated her academy award for The Story Of Anne Frank to the Amsterdam Museum )

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    3. Thee is from t'North, lad; South's another country. Thee and me, we're just bleddy servants to fowk in't South.

      Tone is an Anglo-Scottie, or Scotch; yes I like Scotch as a term; it doubles for our people and our national drink; though the Japanese own the distilleries, at least until the Chinese double-cross them.

      My sister-in-law, a Californian, said English male actors in the theatre have wonderful authority on stage, she loves their diction under the footlights, their mastery of vowels and nuance and intonation (watch Jeremy Brett on YouTube talking about My Fair Lady and Sherlock Holmes) but once they act it up like that in public ... well, it's David Cameron and Boris and Saint Tony.

      I knew an American anthropologist who lived in London for many years. I asked her what she thought of the southern English public school types. *England is full of grinning liars and they rob each other blind,* she said.


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    4. I am sure you are right, John: Shelley was a star. Mario Puzo said if we knew what stars have to go through in their struggle, their humiliations, you'd see why they are monsters. Streisand was stitched up during her first recordings at EMI, only her manager believed in her. The management thought her voice was ridiculous.

      As a gay man you will know that Sir Terence Rattigan wrote some of the greatest plays about the repressed upper-English character. David Storey, a Northener, wrote a wonderful two-hander with Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.

      The joke is that the only Englishman the Americans really took to was Cary Grant and nobody else talked like Cary Grant. Noel Coward's song *Mad About the Boy* is about Cary Grant.

      Hitch wanted to shoot *Vertigo* with Cary and Grace Kelly, but could only get Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. My sister-in-law wrote her thesis at Berkeley about *Vertigo* before spending her working life at 20th Century Fox.

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    5. I wrote my thesis for my film studies degree on the role of women in 1970s disaster movies.
      Americans did like David Niven too who lived with and was a great pal of mr Grant
      Terence Rattigan always seems a kind soul to me

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  17. Terence Rattigan was a gentleman in every sense and a great playwright. After Osborne's *Look Back in Anger* Rattigan couldn't get a play on again, a disgrace. Osborne came to see him and apologised, though it was hardly his fault. Theatre is cruel. I loved Kenneth More in *The Deep Blue Sea* though I can't remember the female lead.

    David Niven survived because he found films with the right dynamic such as playing off against Gregory Peck in that WWII drama. English actors such as Michael Gambon are cast to play bad Americans because they are good at being cold and sly - Gambon as the Southern CEO of the tobacco company in *The Whistleblower*.

    James Mason a Yorkshireman lived in Hollywood Babylon and did *A Star is Born* with Judy Garland playing a fading lead man like John Barrymore. He gave a party in his home in Bel Air and Mr and Mrs Jack Warner arrived uninvited. Mason came to the door and said to Warner, *You are not welcome here,* which took real guts.

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  18. Apologies to YP
    No intention of hijacking your blog .......( this is why I asked hamel if he had his own blog)
    Kenneth Moore who was not know for his great acting played opposite Vivian Leigh who looked unwell throughout the movie ( and was near a breakdown in real life)
    David Niven played himself in every movie he was in

    James mason never succeeded in American movies , now we know why
    Chin chin

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    1. I'm forgetting Sir Michael Caine; and Terence Stamp, a very thoughtful man who had his season in the sun: *The Collector* was first rate; and Frederic Raphael's superb adaption of *Far From the Madding Crowd* with Stamp, Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Peter Finch; Finch an Australian who learned to talk like an Englishman in *The Trial of Oscar Wilde* (Mason playing Edward Carson chillingly) and *Sunday Bloody Sunday*.

      When the Sixties ended the American money pulled out: Alexander Walker wrote a book about it. Caine's *Get Carter* was the last Northern movie for many a year, a film I enjoy for the locations and character actors as much as for Caine's subtle performance.

      Albert Finney the Salford lad picked up American roles late in his career. Bogarde is such a brilliant screen actor (*The Servant is impeccable) but Americans never took to him.

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    2. I could write an essay on The Servant alone
      Please start your own blog.....your film knowledge is impressive and the chat addictive
      Jx

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    3. Have to disagree about Sir Kenneth More, a great stage actor, and wonderful in the TV series as Chesterton's Father Brown, hard to play a saintly sleuth.

      Paul Freeman commands the stage as Kenneth More did. I saw Freeman in London playing a rich Thatcherite success story and he made me see this man's belief in the importance of wealth-creation as no else could.

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    4. You two guys should find yourself a hotel room and put "Do Not Disturb" on the door knob. Nobody will ever know what went on inside.

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    5. Titter...
      More was better at comedy than drama ....

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    6. Kenneth More revealed depths in Father Brown that went deeper and deeper:
      *I'm a man, with all the devils that men have inside them,* he tells a murderer, while stopping the guilty man from committing suicide - *No, that way Hell lies.* Bookish Americans love GK Chesterton.

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    7. I will have to revisit his father brown me thinks xx

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  19. The gun toting, Trump voting anti maskers don't visit my blog either. Instead the Americans who do are erudite, worldly and outward looking. Stereotypes can be strange things at times. As a reader of the blog Separated by a Common Language, I am often surprised at just how many differences there are between the two different versions of English. Her last post was about roast versus roasted.

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    1. Of course there are differences between English English and Australian English too. For example, here's an Australian word I came across the other day - "larrikin". I have no idea what it means!

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    2. Oh yes, many differences between us but if we can't set our spellcheckers to Australian English, it is better that we set them to English English rather than American English. I often have to ask my English born partner to translate something for me, the latest I think being a Belfast Sink.
      No doubt there is a dictionary definition of larrikin and while not used now, it was a word used by my grandparents. A larrikin is male, usually young, with high spirits, loud, a prankster, maybe steps over the edge of law at times, perhaps good fun in small doses, a bit wild, maybe a little aggressive but not really a bad person. Certainly not a chav, perhaps closer to a yob or as we used to say, yobbo.

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    3. Thank you Andrew. I admit that I sometimes behaved like a larrikin. Less so these days.

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  20. Gidday Yorky, getting tired of the sound of me I shouldnt wonder, but a larrikin's just a fair dinkum bloke who likes a good time, it isnt against the lawr mate, he'll give you a Tinny when your throats dry, but he wont make the move on your sheila even when she's in her wet cossie by the swimming pool and you can see her ... you get the picture mate, I'd have blogs of me own like, heaps, but I'm on medication see, and doc's worried about me mental state, thats a larrikin's life.

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  21. I laughed so hard at this.

    I have a friend. She's got a thick southern accent. When men say dumb stuff like this, she leans forward and says in her rich accented voice, "Oh now honey, don't talk like that...that's how men with small dicks talk. You don't want everyone to think you're one of those, do you?"

    I don't think the above approach would work for you though. Just a hunch.

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    1. I would never say dumb stuff but please don't ask me anything about Mathematics! Thanks for calling by again Debby. I am glad the post made you giggle for that is the spirit in which it was written.

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    2. I like it and wonder how I could rephrase it to mean the same thing.

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  22. Small pickup truck (Australian: ute)

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    1. Ute? I thought that was an aboriginal wind instrument!

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    2. In German, it is a female first name.

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