By indexer
3 years ago

Divided by a Common Language

(Please note: This piece is NOT designed to be taken too seriously!)


I have never really got the hang of Americans. For one thing, they do the oddest things such as electing seriously strange oddballs as their Presidents. For another, they purport to speak English but don’t quite manage it.

It’s not helped by their extraordinary attitude to sport. How can their kids possibly grow up speaking proper English if they think that football involves virtually no contact between foot and ball, and that a touchdown consists of running across a line and throwing the ball in the air?

And they’re useless at cricket. In their perverse version of it they can’t even put an “s” at the end of “innings”, and they insist on calling bowlers “pitchers”. Utterly weird.

They are also useless at place names. For example, why can’t they understand that there is no such place as Low-b-row? Can they not grasp the obvious fact that the first o-u-g-h is pronounced “uff”, the second syllable is “buh” (at least my enquirer got that one right) and the final o-u-g-h is “uh”. Surely that’s not too difficult, is it?

I was once stopped in Bognor Regis, on England’s south coast, by an American in a car who asked the way to the “ocean rout”. I gathered afterwards that he meant the coast road, so why couldn’t he have said so in the first place? It’s the English Channel for goodness sake – hardly an ocean. And what’s an ocean rout? Something like the Battle of Trafalgar? In which case he was not only heading in the wrong direction but nearly 200 years too late.

My worst experience with American English was when I was doing a Saturday shift at my place of work four storeys up a building in London. An American came up and said:

“Do you have a restroom around here?”

This was the first time I had ever heard a toilet or loo referred to as a restroom. It’s not the sort of place I go to for a rest! So I thought he must have said “restaurant” - hence my reply:

“Sorry – we do have one, but it’s closed on Saturdays”.

He gave me a very strange look. However, wearing my best “helpful” face, I offered to get him out of his difficulty. I pointed through the window towards the streets below.

“There’s quite a good one a couple of streets away. You can just walk in – you don’t need to book.”

“You need to book in advance in London?”

“You certainly do at the most popular ones, but this place should be OK, even on a Saturday. Even if it’s full up inside you should be OK outside on the pavement.”

The American backed away from me, the look on his face being an expression verging on horror. I imagine that on returning to his home country he was full of stories about weird English hygiene.

At least he didn’t ask for the bathroom – now that would really have got me worried.
3 years
RasmaSandra Good one. Yes, we Americans can be quite odd at times. When I instructed people in English privately here in Riga, Latvia I always took the time to explain the specific differences between British and American English. Most of the time they understood and some of the time it took a while to sink in. I am originally from NYC and my hometown has so many variations of the English language that it would make you dizzy and even panicky.
3 years
3 years
indexer @RasmaSandra Most of this story is true! The building in the photo is the scene of my "restroom" mistake - I did point out of the window towards the nearest restaurant, but I didn't go as far as saying that you didn't need to book and could be accommodated on the pavement!
3 years
3 years
Shavkat That's so informative
3 years
2 years
Strabunica013 Interesting article !
2 years