Sunday, June 6, 2010

You’re Really Getting on My Tits

Not that we'd want to, but there are some things we've both discovered that really irritate our fellow host countrymen and women. Here, in no particular order, we let you in on the worst ones.

Toni:

Five Ways to Piss Off Americans

1. Americans, it appears, have a pathological fear of flies and other things that come in through open windows and doors. As someone who gets bitten alive by mozzies, I share the disdain for them, but flies? In most parts of the States, bug screens are placed over windows, and screen doors are everywhere.

American Screen Door

Screen Door after Toni has entered.

One of the quickest ways to irritate an American is to forget to close a screen door on your way into a house. If, like me, you haven't grown up with screen doors, it takes a while for it to become a habit.

2. The other door thing that winds Americans up is leaving them open in the summer when the air conditioning is on. I understand why it shouldn't be done—letting warm air in forces the air conditioning to work even harder to cool rooms down—but this again isn't intuitive to Brits. Cut us some slack would ya?

3. After twenty years here, I still put out forks AND knives at dinner time. My kids roll their eyes and tell me you don't need a knife to eat pasta. It's even worse when it's "finger food" apparently. At least I don't make them eat pizza with cutlery/silverware though.

4. Insisting that an audible "H" at the front of "herb" is the only way to pronounce it. I have to say, while there are a few words I can pronounce the American way (basil and oregano I can handle), I just can't bring myself to drop the "H" in "herb. I was told last week that if Americans pronounced the "h", it would be the man's name Herb. "So what?" I replied, "Basil (not Bayzil) is also a man's name". For some reason the Americans in the room burst out laughing.

5. Fruitcake. To be fair, fruitcake is more a source of laughter and derision that irritation but I had to mention it. There's a joke in the States that there's one fruitcake being re-gifted and wending its way around the country. Unfortunately the fruitcake that I've had here isn't anything like the moist, boozy cake I grew up with, and you wouldn't dream of having a wedding cake made of it. When I tell of friends and relatives who make their fruit cakes six months before they plan to eat it, Americans just can't believe it!

But understand, any Americans reading, that I don't go out of my way to piss you off - it just comes naturally. I'm trying!


Mike:

Five Ways to Piss Off the British

1. Tell them that the only reason they won The War was because the Americans came and bailed them out. This is, without a doubt, the single best way to piss off a Brit, especially one aged 60 plus. I recommend it, though. No, seriously; if you say it to the proper person, you’ll receive a sterling lecture on European history and you just might learn a thing or two, such as the movie “U-571,” wherein the gallant Americans heroically capture a NAZI Enigma machine to help out the British isn’t exactly based on fact.

Given the annoyance factor of the above, it really isn’t necessary for me to continue, but in the interest of evening out the sides, I’ll press on.

2. Say “a LUM’ eh num.” Really, that’s all you need to do to make them cringe. Plus the entertainment value of listening to Brits tying to pronounce it the way Americans do is almost as great as listening to Americans trying to say, “al u MIN’ e um.”

3. When they show you any national landmark—Tower Bridge, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover—regard it silently for a moment, then say, “I thought it would be bigger.”

4. Tell them that the US has qualified for the World Cup more times than England. I’ve been getting great mileage out of this tidbit for years and, although I have just now discovered (via a quick Google search) that it isn’t technically true, most Brits don’t know that so I see no reason to stop annoying them with this “fact.”

5. Correct their spelling.

Like Toni, I desire to assure the Brits that I don’t go out of my way to annoy, it just comes naturally. Except of course for number 4; they’re just so sensitive about their “footie” it’s hard not to take the opportunity when it arises.



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34 comments:

  1. I love this post (but I usually enjoy the posts) I was literally laughing out loud (good thing I live alone, and don't have nearby neighbors, the men with the white jackets would be outside my door).

    Sorry Toni, I have to make one correction. According to what I have been told in reference to table utensils; shouldn't the reference have been knives and forks. Evidently when you say "fork 'n knife" you give the wrong impression. Lol!

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  2. Very funny, Mike and Toni. Good post! I'm not sure though that all Americans drop the H" at the front of "herb" - I never did. Perhaps that's only done in some areas of the USA.

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  3. Putting on the screen doors was a sure sign that summer had arrived, and I would never think to leave one open! My mother would always shout, "Close the door, you're letting all the flies out!"

    And thanks for the knives and forks thing; my puts out knives and forks for everything and I always thought it was just her.

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  4. Ha, ha laughing here at so many things you have both said. Great post. According to the Brits not only do I never use a knife, I also eat holding the fork in the wrong hand, never mind that I use it right side up and they use it up side down. Well I must go now and make some fruit cake and wrap it in aluminum foil while I wait for my Sunday roast to cook. Cheerio
    P.S. I see you have me as a link on your blog. Thanks and I will add you to my blog roll.

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  5. Mike - I am all about irritating the Brits when it come to football, but how in the world did you, until recently, think the US qualified for more world cups than the US? England has been to way more world cups and I can't imagine anyone would believe such a claim.

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  6. Anonymous: I'm a bit chagrined by this. I read it in an article on the web back when I was doing some research for the last world cup. And the article said the US qualified more times than any country except Brazil. I don't have the reference now, of course, but as I said, a quick Google search confirms that it is so not true. That's what I get for believing something I read on the web ;)

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  7. In the interest of stirring the pot, both erb and aluminum are the original pronunciations of those words.

    Now, there are perfectly good reasons for Brits to have altered the pronunciation.

    Herb, being originally a French word, is written with an h. It's common for newly literate people to start pronouncing words as they're spelled, and adding an h made sense. Americans do not DROP an h, though - we've retained the original pronunciation.

    Aluminum was named that way by the guy who first isolated it, however the term in much of the word was altered to fit with more conventional scientific nomenclature. They simply thought "aluminium" sounded better. This is akin to George Bush saying "nucular" instead of "nuclear" - they took an unusual ending and turned it to a more familiar and typical one for that subject. Perfectly normal... but another instance where Americans have retained the original pronunciation of a word.

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  8. Toni:
    Another good way to piss us off: point out that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were all slaveowners, but the Crown (or more probably, Westminster) outlawed slavery in the British Empire while the above people still held on to theirs (that is, except Washington, who was dead by then).

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  9. This post was good for a giggle on all accounts
    Toni, my mother, who was raised mostly in the South (Florida, which was still part of the South back then), started making fruit cake months in advance of Christmas as well. She aged (is that the correct term?) in the pantry, periodically drenching them with liquor.
    Until reading your post, I had no idea that hers was the "good" kind!
    Vindicated, Mom!

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  10. PS. Apologies for the typos and omissions. I didn't proofread my comment. 8-/

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  11. Great post.

    Tony -Born and raised in the USA, I always set the table with a knife fork and spoon. Also like to eat pizza with a knife and fork (odd?). I am always taken back by the bad rap fruit cake (and mince pies) get here. I make my fruit cake at least 8 weeks before Christmas (rich fruit cake w/marzipan) and make my own mincemeat filling for pies. I suppose being raised by 2nd generation Brits is the reason I don't fit the mold.

    Flies are another matter - hate them in the house - love my window and door screens.

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  12. I have to say that although a Brit I thoroughly approve of the screen doors and am always shouting at the husband and children to keep them closed....mind you the mosquitoes around here are vicious.

    I refuse to say Erb and Bay-sil - especially when it comes to Erbal tea. Although my father in law tells me that the American pronounciation of oregano is correct, because it follows the Italian.....

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  13. I'm from Wisconsin originally and have always pronounced 'herb' with the 'H'...and I get yelled at and made fun of it because of it. I always figured the 'H' was there for a reason, might as well use it.

    Then again, on this token, I have a tendency to pronounce raspberries with the 'P' fully present so what do I know?

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  14. Great post guys!

    Toni, the thing with flies is we are raised to believe they are dirty and carry germs, hence the aversion.

    #4 - I find that I physically CANNOT drop the 'h' from herb, therefore I carry a pocket dictionary with me at all times. Upon criticism, I'm happy to open it and show other Americans that pronouncing the "h" in herb is perfectly acceptable. Herb is a stupid name anyway!

    And yeah, our fruitcakes can be used as doorstops!

    Mike:

    #1 - 'Oh no he di'nt!'

    #4 - I wouldn't believe that for a second.

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  15. Conuly,

    Nice story, so can you explain why Americans say 'Uman being'. Is that from the French, too?

    Mike, we know deep down Americans feel bad for being two years late for the first two World Wars, which is why they are always trying to be really early for the third one!

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  16. Moe: Then how do you pronounce "mosquito" ;)

    Mr. Potarto: Well said ;)

    RE: Flies and screen doors. We can get away with having windows and doors open here without any bugs coming in, but where we lived in the States, that was impossible. The flies were everywhere, and the mosquitoes, and the wasps. You know, I never thought about it until now, but I've never seen a fly swatter for sale in Wilkinsons all the time I've been here.

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  17. Nah! It's more fun to hunt them down and kill them ;)

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  18. All sarcasm aside, I know why British people (or, you know, me) think the US should have gotten involved in WWII earlier, but why WWI? Does it just get lumped in there because US happened to get involved late? I honestly just don't see a good reason for the US to have joined in.

    A country of fewer bugs? That sounds nice. Even in the middle of the city, a few stories up, and with screens on all my windows, a fair number of bugs still end up buzzing around my apartment as soon as the weather warms up.

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  19. Elizabeth: WWI is a tricky one. We got there in the end, for good or ill.

    The bug thing is amazing. We leave windows open all the time and our balcony is always open in good weather. And hardly a bug to be seen. It's a far cry from how I grew up.

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  20. Toni--I thought all you had to do was start dissing a green bean casserole to get yourself nearly deported... ;)

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  21. Well I guess I'm still 51% Brit, as right now I'd like to slap yer Mike!

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  22. Good post - many a true word spoken in jest! And plenty of opportunity for us all to really wind each other up tomorrow with our World Cup draw!! May the best team win.

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  23. Oooh! Good game, good game!

    Over the years I've come across hundreds of ways Brits have been able to p1$$ off Americans, many amusing, some unedifying.

    Here are some:

    1. "Baseball was invented in England (cf. Jane Austen), but later relegated to the status of a game played mainly by small girls."

    2. "With its stupendous superiority in technology and enormous fire-power, how come the Americans lost the war in Viet Nam?"

    In riposte to the criticisms of how Brits pronounce 'herb' and 'fillet' (in truth, the way we pronounce those words is probably how they were pronounced by the French themselves at the time we took them into the language, the Middle Ages): "If Americans are so good at French, why is the famous University pronounced 'Noter Dayme' (don't they have a faculty of modern languages there)? And what is a 'chaise-lounge'? And if so many Americans can speak Spanish, why is the Alaskan port pronounced 'Valdeez?'"

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  24. Mike you wound me up without any of the intentional ones - I’ve been getting great mileage out of this tidbit for years and..., -It's a TITBIT it really isn't a rude or offensive word why did you change it?
    Etymology: perhaps from tit- (as in titmouse) + bit
    Date: circa 1640
    1 : a choice morsel of food
    2 : a choice or pleasing bit (as of information)

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  25. Anonymous: I was wondering when someone would pick up on that ;) Americans are genetically unable to say the word "tit" without giggling. So in the US, it is TIDBIT. We even blush when we say titillate ;)

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  26. PS: Come to think of it, that is why I chose that specific title for this post; the phrase "getting on my tits" is unknown in the US. And I first heard it here on television. Before the watershed! I nearly dropped my crumpet ;)

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  27. "Nice story, so can you explain why Americans say 'Uman being'. Is that from the French, too?"

    It's not really a story, it's just simple etymology.

    As for "yoomin being", I've only heard ONE person say that in my life, and (as proof that Americans don't actually say this) she personally caused five of us to lose a spelling bee because we couldn't figure out what the heck she was saying!

    However, let's look at what Merriam-Webster says. Ah. Human *does* come from Anglo-French!

    Not that this is really very helpful... but funnily enough, a quick google search indicates that most Americans who know of this think of it as a British thing!

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  28. This is so priceless! I have spent much time taking the piss out of (as one says) the Italians, but never quite thought about all of our American quirks...! (Although I could think of a few, starting with 24/7 eating cycles)...

    Love it.

    If you have any funny language stories to share, we had a few good winners of Brits in America on our blog www.upyourbottom.com
    We'd love to hear yours!

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  29. Francesca: Welcome! Love your blog, BTW ;)

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  30. 5. Fruitcake. Apparently Corsicana fruitcake hasn't been tried by the Brits. Not sure there is a boozy version, but moist heavy and totally delicious Corsicana fruitcake gets eaten, not regifted. Fun Fact: There is also a facility in Corsicana, Texas, for the insane. Or at least used to be. So TWO meanings for the term "Corsicana fruitcake" LOL.

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  31. LOL - if that's the biggest things anyone has to bug about, we'll all be fine!

    Practical things like coddling mechanical things and not being eaten alive by mosquitoes indoors I can see. What I've never understood is how people can be so tacky as to demand that things must be done their way when it doesn't affect the outcome of anything. Who cares if someone says "baazil" or "bayzil", as long as they don't try to add it to either type of fruitcake?

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  32. Oh man! As a Brit living in America, this is my life in a nutshell.

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