Divided by a common language

Divided by a common language

BY MARK VERRALL

 

I wrote a piece sometime ago about how difficult it was for me to learn Thai. However, there is a country whose language I find even more confusing. I am talking of course, about America. It is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw that Britain and the U.S are two nations divided by a common language. This is especially true regarding slang, which can get you into all kinds of bother.

Divided by a common language

Divided by a common language

 

For example, the word ’fag’ in America is a rather derogatory term for a homosexual man. In England it means cigarette. So if you are in America and inform someone that you are dying/gasping for a fag…well, you get the idea. In America, ‘fanny’ is slang for a woman’s behind. In the U.K. it means a woman’s er…vagina. So if your American friend says ‘she has a nice fanny’ your initial reaction might be ‘How do you know?’

 

Another bone of contention is the spelling. It was only natural I suppose that after they gained independence that they would want to form their own version of the ‘Mother tongue’ and spell it as it sounds, thus centre became center.

 

The one that really gets to the Brits is Aluminum, which we call Aluminium. Then of course there was the George W. Bush ‘Nukular weapons’ . I rather miss old George. What other world leader could come out with something like ‘I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully’.

 

Now the U.S. has Barack Obama who is a superb orator and has great charisma but I think the ironic thing is that he was supposed to be the President that would unite the country and I think he will go down as the most divisive President in U.S. history. Also, if your savings are in U.S. Dollars think very seriously about changing that!

 

A major problem with America in their insularity. Watch any U.S. news channel and virtually every report is about America regardless of what is happening around the world. This helps to breed a certain ignorance of world affairs. We all have a favourite story about Americans making mistakes regarding other countries.

The Pyramids

The Pyramids

A famous one is the American consortium who bought London Bridge to take to Arizona believing they had purchased the London Tower Bridge. You can just picture the engineers scratching their heads as the ‘crates’ were unloaded, saying ‘Where are the Tower parts..?’

 

Several years ago I was watching a stunning game of Rugby between the then World Champions, South Africa and the New Zealand All Blacks. The All Blacks were playing the most perfect Rugby I had ever seen. There was an American chap sitting with us and he said ‘I guess this is the European version of American Football’ You could hear the jaws dropping to the tables around the room.

 

Also some years ago, I had a French girlfriend in Bangkok and she had been an exchange student in the States. At a student party a guy approached her and asked her where she was from “‘France” she told him. “Is that in Paris?” he asked. But even better another guy asked her the same question. “France” she said. In all seriousness he asked her “Do you have electricity in France?”

 

france without lights

france without lights

 

I read something on the internet about American student’s exam answers. Two of my favourites were ‘The Pyramids are a mountain range in Egypt’ and even better ‘Beethoven was deaf, so he wrote very LOUD music.’

 

I’m not saying Americans are silly, but they might want to reform their education system before they touch healthcare!

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