From my archives: UK-USA Commentary by an expat professional published British writer and businesswoman who has lived in the USA since 1990: Patricia Kawaja . In the USA, wrote columns for Brit Magazine, Mad Dogs and Englishmen magazine, the UK Weekly Telegraph and Union Jack Newspaper for over 2 decades. Below are some of published excerpts and observations on US life. I am proud to be a US citizen [since 1996] and love this country. This doesn’t blind me to its deficiencies! I would never move back to the UK but the USA does not have a polished or educated population. —–Patricia Kawaja
■ From Florida Column by Patricia Kawaja, published for 24 years in Union Jack Newspaper :
■ UK-USA culture corner —I remember when the word shag was absolutely a swearword that was never used except in Anglo Saxon farmyard fornication! Americans certainly never used it. Now I get an email from a respectable Florida charity inviting me to: “Save the date! Saturday May 3! Enter the special raffle to win one of three weekend passes being raffled to the Ft. Lauderdale Swing & Shag Beach Bash!! June 2014 issue
■ THEY LOVE OUR ACCENT CORNER. Found on You Tube for Americans wanting to sound like us –aren’t we flattered–it’s called HOW TO FAKE A BRITISH ACCENT. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8mzWkuOxz8&noredirect=1 The lesson is by an enterprising Brit called Philip Barker. He has compiled recordings of how we speak from every part of the UK, from a ripe Cornish accent to a rough Cockney one. [FYI: My favourite accent is Geordie—least favourite is common Cockney]……..July 2014 issue
■ PUB WIT seen in the UK : Somebody emailed me photos of actual UK pubsigns which aim to lure in patrons. Alas, the sender omitted the pub’s name and city but I can see they are real chalk-written signs by some witty British owner. I so miss our natural wit, not an attribute Americans possess. 1] FREE BEER. TOPLESS BATENDERS. FALSE ADVERTISING. 2] [Outside a university bar]: ALCOHOL AND CALCULUS DON’T MIX. SO DON’T DRINK AND DERIVE. 3] CARLSBERG ONLY £ 1.64 a PINT. HELPING UGLY PEOPLE HAVE SEX. August 2014 issue
■ PUB WIT: More actual pubsigns from the UK. 1] COME IN FOR ALCOHOL!! BECAUSE NO GREAT STORY EVER STARTED WITH SOMEBODY EATING A SALAD. 2] IN OUR PUB YOU CAN DRINK TRIPLE. SEE DOUBLE. ACT SINGLE. 3] MANAGEMENT DISTRUSTS CAMELS AND ANYONE WHO CAN GO WITHOUT A DRINK FOR WEEKS. 4] [Irish pub promotion] BUY ONE BEER FOR THE PRICE OF TWO AND GET THE SECOND ONE FREE. 5] [Pub sign in Glasgow] HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT DRINK: POUR GIN, VERMOUTH AND OLIVES INTO A GLASS. THROW IN THE BIN AND ORDER A WHISKY. September 2014 issue
■ USA LANGUAGE IRKS. It’s been a while since I included any here but readers [including redfaced Americans] tell me they love them! I could fill an entire newspaper with how Americans mangle the English language: [Heard from TV by reporters with communications degrees: “I could have went. He has showed no remorse. She really shined in that dress.” But it’s 2 new ones which compelled me to write. 1] I kept hearing Americans talking endlessly about this retiring baseball star Derek Jeder . Derek Jeder this, Derek Jeder that. Then I happened to see his name in print and was stunned to discover it is Jeter. So why does everyone mispronounce it?! There is no d in Jeter. 2] Humira is an arthritis drug marketed by one of these ludicrous America-only TV commercials where the listed side effects, including death, seem worse than the ailment itself. Hmm, death cures any disease so problem solved methinks. Anyway, in said TV commercials running for a year on major networks, the voiceover repeatedly mispronounces its own product as Humerra. This blunder has me yelling at the TV “It’s Humira, you pillocks. There is no e in Humira. Say it Hew-myra.” [You pillocks is the default English insult I yell at my TV here]. I have pointed this error out to the company via Twitter and their website, so let’s see if they respond. …..November 2014 issue
■ UK-USA LANGUAGE IRKS: There’s an IKEA TV commercial that runs often. A husband asked by his wife to get a long list of items hands it to the IKEA assistant to find. “You got this?” he asks “I do got this” is the reply. How can any ad agency have passed “I do got this” as English fit for broadcast? September 2013 issue
■ UK-USA CULTURE CORNER…the breathtaking ignorance of the facts among some Americans stuns me. Comment by Conan O’Brien on his show: “The Queen said she would like the royal baby to be born before she goes on vacation. Then someone reminded her she’s more or less been on vacation since 1952.” That 88 year old great grandmother has been working tirelessly for over 60 years. Even when on holiday, she must work through mountains of required paperwork from the red boxes sent daily by the Government. Bet O”Brien’s own granny stopped working years ago. Howard Stern asked on TV for a comment on the Royal birth said he had zero interest in the Royal Family. Fair enough. But he went on at length berating the Queen for “being bone idle and a money-draining sponge on the UK economy.” Ignorance of the facts is always what riles me. As every official UK cost-benefit analysis of the finances involved ever done has proven, the Royal family brings in more revenue [in tourist spending ] than it costs the British taxpayer. As witnessed by the ever-present throngs of American visitors peering through the gates of Buckingham Palace. ■ Email recently received from an American woman in Davenport, Florida “ My name is “Marcie” [real name supplied] and I would like to meet some nice British men. Not only am I new to Florida but I am just recently back from Afghanistan where I worked as a US contractor. I miss the fellowship of British company. Believe it or not the Brits were the only ones crazy enough to have underground bars in Afghanistan. I was in a relationship with a northerner (Wigan) and I have to say I am finding it difficult to convert back to Yanks. I love the culture differences and diversity.” —-Signed Hopeless in Davenport. ” Clever, not crazy, of Brits to build such bars, say I. Plus a Brit, wherever he be, has to have his local. [FYI: I put Marcie out of her misery and steered her to where Brits gather in her area]. August 2013 issue
■ UK-USA Culture corner. 1] Writing about David Beckham’s retirement May 18, a Miami Herald columnist wrote: “…..on his last day with his French team he was given a rousing reception at Parc des Princes before the game, with fans breaking out into chants of “Merci, Davide.” [Thank you David]. No newspaper in the UK would insult its readers by translating “Merci Davide”. First, the international name David used since the Bible needs no translating and even if you don’t speak French is there an adult alive who has not heard their tem for thanks? I always notice how American editors assume a lack of education in its readers, simplifying vocabulary or over-explaining, which British ones don’t. In the UK writers will use an erudite word or term to suit their piece. That way you can learn something new, a better approach. 2] Please God let me not hear one more American chef on the Food Network—-I’m a huge foodie so it’s my fave channel—pronounce Worcester sauce as Wawcestersheer. Am sick of screaming at the TV ” It’s pronounced Woosta,Suace you pillocks.” The stuff has been around for a century and widely used in the USA so how can such ignorance prevail? June 2013 issue
■ PROUD TO BE BRITISH corner. Have you heard of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia? Neither have I. Have you heard of Prince William and Princess Katherine? Who on Planet Earth hasn’t? The former were just in Miami as guests of honour to celebrate 500 years since Spanish explorers discovered Florida. So there was a Spanish food expo and other events, photos in the Miami Herald and attendant hoopla. The thing is, we Miamians had to be informed that this was the future King and Queen of Spain—nobody I asked knew and there were no cheering crowds crushing to see them. Unlike our famous and fabulous future King and Queen, whose every life event makes the American evening news. December 2103 issue
■ BUT I DO YEARN FOR THE BRITISH SENSE OF HUMOUR: Americans lack the razor-sharp wit and candour for which we Brits are renowned. Our media have that wicked way with words with words you never see in US publications. The Spectator of London, on lamenting George Bush’s being relected for four more years: “ ….that the American people had awarded a second term of office to the cross-eyed Texan …a man so serially incompetent that he only narrowly missed self-assassination by pretzel…” January 2005 issue
■ THE BRITISH SENSE OF HUMOUR Is what expats miss here, as we oft lament. Even Prime ministers possess it. At a Labour Party Conference rock star Bono was a featured speaker. He used the word “bollocks” frequently on the platform. Tony Bair leaned over to Cabinet Minister Gordon Brown and whispered in his ear. Dour Scotsman Brown got a fit of the giggles uncharacteristically. Why? Blair had been watching the translator for the deaf and said to Brown “ I wonder what the sign language for bollocks is.” March 2005 issue.
■ THEY LOVE OUR ACCENT CORNER : A Washington Post columnist wrote about the rise in profanity in America. But said with a British accent, swearing can be acceptable the American columnist offered. “I attended a tea not long ago,” she wrote, “when a politician’s name came up. A British woman present, in her refined accent called him such an Ahs-Hoal. I told her we Americans could use that word in any circumstance if we could pronounce it as she did.” —–Excerpt from a past Florida column by Patricia Kawaja in Union Jack Newspaper.
■ ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABUSE by Americans which irk my ears: Saying “You are so fun.” Correct is “such fun.” Saying “carmel” instead of “caramel.” Carmel is a city in California–can’t Americans tell the difference? OCTOBER 2005 issue.
■ ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABUSE by Americans which irk my ears: Why do Americans mis-pronounce melons as “cantalope?”
Cantaloupe does not rhyme with antelope. NOVEMBER 2005 issue
■ ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABUSE by Americans which irk my ears: Saying bowtique instead of boutique. I hear it so often on TV and
yell “It’s pronounced boo not bow–it’s French, for God’s sake! ” DECEMBER 2005 issue
■ ON LIFE IN AMERICA comments submitted by my Florida expat readers, some written by me : “….American men wearing leather shoes with no socks……they are such loud-talkers who don’t know how to behave in restaurants ….coverage of international sporting events as if only the USA is taking part ; England’s Paula Radcliffe shattering the women’s world record for the Chicago Marathon getting barely a mention…….the abysmal stringy stuff they call bacon…..printed maps of the world with the USA in the middle…….the 587 flashing cop cars, firetrucks and ambulances called out to minor fenderbenders…..St. Patrick’s Day Day being over-celebrated by Americans without a scintilla of Irish blood in them.”……Americans saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas. ” December 25 is to explicitly celebrate the birth of Jesus. Every time somebody greets me with the former I make a point of replying “Merry Christmas. ” I don’t care if you’re Jewish–you have enough of your own holidays year-round…..My kingdom for a REAL CUP OF TEA instead of being served a glass of tepid water and tagged teabag with all the flavour of gnat’s pee…..that the president of the country [George W. Bush] cannot pronounce “nuclear”……..Americans declaring to me “Gee, I’m English too” if their ancestors came over on the Mayflower 400 years . I counter with “No, your ancestors were English, YOU are American.” …….the paucity of international coverage on the TV News. [This was written 2002, so greatly improved now.]………..Vocabulary-challenged America reporters using the word “nightmare” in every bad news story………hugely obese Americans piling plates skyscraper high at these All You Can Eat places [which don’t exist in stingy UK]……..En route mis-pronpunced as “enn rowt.” Similarly a bus route called a bus rowt. It’s from the French word La Route you Pillocks, I yell at the TV constantly. Rout is a military term unrelated to route, for God’s sake. ——-NOVEMBER and DECEMBER 2002 issues.
■ UK-USA Culture corner: One of the first things expats notice when we move here is the new vocabulary to be learned. Supermarket shopping gets a blank look if you ask for rocket, spring onions or courgettes instead of zucchini, arugula or scallions. My first experience of that was actually 22 years ago in Tennessee when I had the emblem stolen from atop my Cadillac. Explaining to the car dealer’s puzzled face he suddenly explained. “Oh you mean the hood ornament.” I have remembered that for when I get the double RR pinched from my Rolls Royce……January 2015 issue
■ ENGLISH LANGUAGE corner, or in America I call it MANGLIGE: 1] Why do even university-educated Americans say ‘It was so fun?” It would be such fun for me if they didn’t. 2] We have a worldfamous hotel in Miami Beach called the Fontainebleau. It is named after the historic gem near Paris pronounced Fon-ten-blow. Because so many major events happen in the hotel, it is mentioned often on Florida TV and in conversations. To hear every American around me mispronounce it as Fountain–bloo is a never-ending irritant. Of course, French-speaker moi sticks pointedly to the right pronunciation, so gets ”corrected” by Americans! Grrrr. —–March 2015 issue
■ UK-USA Culture Corner. We expats cannot fail to notice the puritanical attitude of Americans, shocked at the most benign things. On TV inexplicably they bleep out calling a woman a bitch, a totally dictionary respectable word for female dog, or Goddamn, a bare breast in a contextually suitable bedroom scene–the list is endless. However UK TV goes too far, just to show off how progressive we are by airing the F and C words—gratuititously vile in my opinion. Aware of the sensibility of Americans, the BBC producers decided that because its new Tudor drama Wolf Hall, to be sold to America, actors would be issued “very small” codpieces. Regular size codpieces as worn by Tudor men were deemed “too alarming” for American viewers. [We’ve all seen the colossal one on Henry V111’s armour in the Tower of London, considered by many to be just the King’s vain wishful thinking]. The actor who plays Thomas Cromwell, told media it was decided codpieces should be “tucked away” because viewers, “particularly Americans” may not know exactly “what’s going on down there.” ……………April 2015 issue.
■ UK-USA Culture Corner. We expats cannot fail to notice the puritanical attitude of Americans, shocked at the most benign things. On TV inexplicably they bleep out calling a woman a bitch, a totally dictionary respectable word for female dog, or Goddamn, a bare breast in a contextually suitable bedroom scene–the list is endless. However UK TV goes too far, just to show off how progressive we are by airing the F and C words—gratuititously vile in my opinion. Aware of the sensibility of Americans, the BBC producers decided that because its new Tudor drama Wolf Hall, to be sold to America, actors would be issued “very small” codpieces. Regular size codpieces as worn by Tudor men were deemed “too alarming” for American viewers. [We’ve all seen the colossal one on Henry V111’s armour in the Tower of London, considered by many to be just the King’s vain wishful thinking]. The actor who plays Thomas Cromwell, told media it was decided codpieces should be “tucked away” because viewers, “particularly Americans” may not know exactly “what’s going on down there.” ………….May 2015 issue
■ UK-USA Culture Corner. We’re used to the mammoth portions served in American restaurants and the resultant doggy bag habit. Yet I recall quite an effort to persuade my visiting mother to leave with leftovers whenever we ate out in Miami. “Mum that’s what Americans do, “ I insisted. “Nobody here is going to think you’re being lowclass.” Besides, why waste good food? So there is now a campaign afoot in the UK to convert the British to this practice, writes a columnist in the Miami Herald, because the BBC reports 21 tons of food wasted per UK restaurant per year. About the weight of 3 double-decker London buses noted the American writer! This is all apparently because the British are too embarrassed to ask for a take-home box. Considering how stingy we are it must be that or snobbiness. Since leftovers are always more flavourful the second day anyway, it is one sensible American habit we should adopt pronto. ……June 2015 issue.
■ UK-USA COMMENTARY CORNER Why do Americans mispronounce constantly? The long-established European chocolate spread Nutella is pronounced in TV commercials here as Newtella. Inexplicable. It is made of nuts, not newts. —–APRIL 2016 issue.
■ DOES ONE WORD SUM US UP? A British anthropologist, speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival about her book “Watching the English” concluded there is one word which can differentiate an English person from any other nationality in the world. Americans don’t use it for instance, as we do. It’s a word that immediately identifies an Englishman. It’s almost a national catchphrase for us. She maintains it encompasses all English traits in one simple exclamation, saying it is “so quintessentially English” and can be used in the event of all disasters ranging from “burnt toast to the outbreak of World War three.” I utterly agree. That one word is “Typical!” —-APRIL 2016 issue
■ COMMENTARY CORNER. The word “hero” is so overused in the USA. A hero is somebody who acts above and beyond what is expected behavior. Americans drone on about every fireman being a hero. Wrong. A firefighter is PAID to risk his life. Admirable work of course on our behalf, but it’s their job. Commonsense actions, which one steps up to do if called for by presented circumstances, are all called heroic in this country of all-awards-all-the-time back-patting culture. If the house next to mine catches fire of course I would see if I could help— neighborliness not heroism. That large crowd of bystanders a couple of years who united to upright a car to free the man underneath are not the heroes the media raved about. It’s commonsense to try to lift the car up since you many helpers around you, duh. The worst example of overwrought hero worship was here in Miami 2 years ago. Car accident on the Causeway. From car in front baby is ejected onto the road amidst traffic. Woman in car behind gets out to administer CPR to baby on the side of the road. Dramatic photo of it posted online and Hero headlines abound. Well I would have done exactly the same. So would you probably. Who sees a baby ejected onto the road and not rush to help? Saviour woman turned out to be the baby’s aunt and a nurse so not a hero—she just took the obvious course of action till paramedics arrived. We’d all do the same seeing a reachable baby in peril, wouldn’t we? Heroic would have been the car violently ablaze and Auntie reaching in to risk her own body being burnt alive. —– December 2015 issue.
MANGLING OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE BY AMERICANS: What I hear all around me, shudder:
Mispronouncing the name Graham as Gramm…….the name Colin as Kohlin……….the ailment asthma as azzma……….Parents as parrents……..blouse as blowse……herbs as erbs………..
MY OTHER CULTURAL OBSERVATIONS: [Not published in my newspaper column]
■ Because most Americans have little geographical education, they assume others do too. You often hear ” It’s in Paris, France or London, England.” Insulting–both cities are so famous they don’t need the country added for clarification. The Duh factor is huge in America. —PK
■ They laughably and superfluously call our monarch Queen Elizabeth 11 instead of just The Queen. Since Elizabeth 1 has been dead for centuries obviously we mean the current one. Duh factor again. Americans assume people’s ignorance–something we just don’t do in the UK. We don’t over explain and risk insulting the other person, taking for granted a higher level of general knowledge. –PK
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