U3 USB Smartdrives – The U3P Format

December 6, 2007

I recently came across an application that ended in a .u3p I had absolutely no idea what this was but after doing some research I came to find out that it is basically a means to make applications (as well as data) portable via the use of new USB devices called “U3 Smartdrives”.

You can read a very good “Newbie Guide” here at EverythingUSB.com and if you wish to learn more you should visit the home of U3 Smart Technology at U3.com

For people using Windows Vista you should be aware at the outset that there are some current issues, namely many existing U3 smart drives will not work with Microsoft Vista without an upgrade to the U3 Launchpad. You can read an article here that explains in more detail. Only applications that are specifically developed for the U3 platform may be installed and run through the U3 Launchpad. You can browse and download U3 smart applications from U3 Software Central.

This new technology intrigued me because I have tried “being portable” by taking applications and data with me on USB sticks in the past, including an entire (cutdown) version of my WindowsXP on a 2GByte stick.

Sadly Google searches bring up a lot of geek-style sites when you do searches for expressions like “Where can I buy U3 (USB) Smartdrives?” and the reality is that this technology is still under early adoption. The number one manufacture appears to be Sandisk, a dominant manufacturer of flash drives, USB memory sticks and other memory devices and readers. This makes sense seeing as Sandisk and Microsoft seem to be working together in regards to U3 and its potential for enterprise deployment.

At the moment, there really are only a few locations on the web where you can look at purchasing these new U3 smart devices and two of these are the U3 Website and directly from Sandisk themselves.

This technology is definitely worth keeping an eye on. I can see it taking off fairly soon, especially with two industry heavyweights behind it. Developers interested in mobilizing their own applications and/or developing U3 smart applications for mobilization and deployment should look at getting started with the U3 Developer Kit.


“Press 1 for English..”

June 2, 2007

The Hispanicification of the United States: Where does it end?

OK I need to get this off my chest and you can all flame me for it if you wish as I am sure some of you will!

I have become so sick and tired of this country cow-towing and pandering to the Spanish speaking population. What on earth is wrong with America lately? I have absolutely nothing whatsoever against Spanish speaking peoples so do not read this and think it is a racist rant because it isn’t and if you think it is, then you’re as small-minded as everyone else that is following this path of politically correct ass-licking.

I want to make the following very clear to anyone who reads this: I am not racist by nature or by action. I am not advocating or condoning anyone, anything or any group in regards to subject matter such as (but not limited to), racism, illegal aliens, illegal immigration, opening or closing of borders, license to work, right to vote, right to bear arms, protesting, propaganda, or any pro or anti organization that builds its cause or following on any one or all of the aforementioned.

This blog rant is purely about the American language and how concerned I am about the current state of affairs. In a nutshell, what concerns me is the Hispanic demands for bi-lingualism and the apparent insistence that Spanish be spoken by the police, school teachers, educational & administrative staff, hospitals, courts, federal and state government etc., and moreover that American institutions cater to hispanics by “providing Spanish language voting ballots, federal, state and local governmental forms, driver’s license tests, signage, banking etc., etc., ad nauseam.” (Ed. I stole much of that last sentence from someone else because it said what I wanted to say!)

I live in Michigan, we barely have any hispanic people in this state at all. As a percentage of the overall Michigan population, spanish speaking people make up barely 2%. Yet 3 weeks ago, our local Lowes hardware store re-opened after 4 weeks of refurbishment stating to their customers that the restructuring chaos was to ‘reorganize their inventory’ when in fact it has become abundantly clear that the number one reason for the disruption has been to change all the signage to include Spanish. Every single sign, price ticket, label, instructions and electronic till. I can count on one foot how many hispanics live in my town and 50% of those work in the same restaurant! True statement!

Last year the University of Michigan started a study that identified that 10% of the spanish speaking world lives in the US. And rough estimates put that number at approx 13% of the US population.

After doing my own research these are the countries that have spanish as their primary or only language:

Venezuela Uruguay Peru Paraguay
Ecuador Colombia Chile Bolivia
Argentina Panama Nicaragua Honduras
Guatemala El Salvador Costa Rica Belize
Spain (DUH..) Puerto Rico Dominican Republic
Cuba Mexico

As 13% of the US population is approximately 39 million people, that would mean that the entire Spanish speaking population of the world is little more than the population of the United States. Considering the list of countries calling Spanish their mother-tongue (see the list above), I was actually surprised that the number wasn’t a lot higher!

United States — Population: 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.).

Yet, despite little more than one tenth of this population speaking Spanish, it seems more and more businesses in conjunction with our ever-placating Government are determined on making the Spanish language have equity with English. I’m sorry if what I am about to say offends you, but this really irritates me.

This situation is becoming more compounded over time. It goes against defending one’s democratic rights when clearly decisions of national importance with far-reaching consequences are being made not by the people and not for the people.  What kind of country are we leaving for our grand children to inherit? One could theorize that it will not be long before road signs all across America will be bilingual and our schools (and not just the school curriculums [Ed. or is that curriculi?]) will become bilingual too.  This is not alarmist, nor is it racist! It holds water!

With so many places in the world speaking Spanish, why on earth do we need to make America’s second language Spanish? (unofficially or otherwise). Why does America even need a second language? If 50% of the population spoke Spanish today, or even 30% for that matter, and we were still pushing English as the primary language, I could see there being issue with that. I am all for democracy and fairness by proportional representation. However, 13%? Clearly someone in power needs to get some balls of their own and make a stand before this country transitions so damn far there is no turning back.

It frightens me just how comfortable and happy people ‘seem’ to be, even in my own neighborhood, in allowing this to happen. Young parents especially, positively encourage their children, (backed by the teachers who teach them and the schools they attend) to learn Spanish almost like we’re preparing for an inevitable takeover. Are we?  Hardly a day goes by when I am out and about that I don’t see some young mother trying to get their two year old to learn “Vámonos” or count to ten in Spanish, because Dora the Explorer says so. Its not just Dora on TV these days either, its also Diego, Noddy, Nina & Star, Dragon Tales and numerous other characters, shows and presenters popping up more and more frequently on childrens’ TV.

Much of this is because our Government offers financial grants to program developers whose shows contain a “minimum” amount of ethnic educational content (by ethnic they actually mean Spanish) and consequently many childrens’ TV shows that require additional funding in order to be made and aired would not be able to do so without this additional Government financing. The proviso being that they must meet the ethnic criteria laid out in the rules of their funding.  A good example of this is the cartoon Dragon Tales which originally aired as an all-English production but is now half  hispanic.

The bigger picture appears to be a subversion of our culture as a whole. Encouraging children through targetted programming to  learn Spanish at an early age is a great way to expand their overall learning and cultural awareness. I’m all for this when choice is part of the equation.  The problem however is that it is becoming so prevalent and driven that it can no longer be considered a choice.  Parents and children are subtly being programmed to believe that not only is it politically acceptable and socially encouraged to learn Spanish but,  more worryingly, it is slowly becoming an unwritten requirement.  Learning Spanish as a choice is a wonderful thing, as is learning any new language, the concern I raise here however is that choice is slowly being taken away, whether you realize it or not.

The United States of America was founded by people from many cultures and countries but as a developing western nation English was chosen as its main language. So it has been ever since. Surely until such time as the population ethnicity swings largely away from English speaking peoples, should it not it remain that way? Is that a racist comment? Of course not. Its a fact.  If more than 85% of a country’s population speaks one language, that language should be considered the national standard.

I have only lived in the USA for a decade and clearly English as a language is a benefit to me personally. However, I am irked by the political cow-towing that is taking place to hispanic minorities.  It is becoming more than an appeasement and more in line with an agenda.

In a fundamental way, this all seems an insult to America’s true heritage! A smack in the face to the founding fathers and all the struggles that have brought America and its people to this point in time.

We hear “America is a melting pot” all the time, but any first generation or second generation family or individual from western Europe or the old Eastern Block will tell you that once they made it here, they kept their family customs and traditions for themselves, for their families, something to be shared and treasured with each other in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, places of worship, and community gatherings. Outside of these however, they made the effort to become part of American culture, to blend in, to work hard, to learn and speak the language of the country that welcomed them with open arms, to pay their taxes, and even try for a piece of the American dream.

I mean no disrespect to the hispanic community but questions I would ask are:

Q. Why is this not good enough for you?
Q. Why should America feel obliged to adopt your language as part of its culture?
Q. What have you done to deserve this right?
Q. What makes Spanish speaking peoples better than all those that have come before you?
Q. What makes you believe that your rights should be pre-eminent over theirs?

England has a huge population of Indians and Pakistanis. The single largest concentration of Indians and Pakistanis outside of their own countries. Does the England Government get behind making Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi, Sanskrit or Bengali its second language? Do the English peoples even think they should have a second language? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO! If you emigrate to England you are free to wear whatever you want to wear, free to speak freely and free to follow whatever religion or doctrine you want to follow but you cannot and will not change the national language because it simply would not be permitted!

So what went wrong over here? Sadly I do not have the answers and I am not sure who does. Like a rolling stone, some things are very hard to stop once they gain momentum. For myself, I will never learn another language under societal pressure. If I choose to learn Spanish (or any other language) it will be because I want to.

So why did I call this rant “Press 1 for English..”? Well if you haven’t figured it out for yourself it is a sideswipe at the ever growing (and increasingly irritating) automated voicemail response evident on phone answering systems of corporations all across America. Push 1 for English? You have got to be joking? If it says anything it should be “Push 1 for Spanish”! There should be no pushing ANYTHING for English! It should BE in English! With only 13% of the population being hispanic, there should be no question that English is an option!

America is not California. Sorry California but you made a mistake a long time ago. Perhaps you should have given more thought to taking that land from Mexico in the first place? I can certainly see why Mexico might want it back. However, just because 33%+ of your population speaks Spanish should in no way represent the other 49 states.

If you are not a social butterfly or a political sheep, I want to hear from you and get your’s and others’ comments and thoughts.

‘S’ or ‘Z’

March 9, 2007

Union Jack “S” —- OR —- Stars & Stripes “Z”

My sister brought to my attention this morning that if I really want to be a true Brit and represent my country, I should use the letter ‘s’ in place of the American use of the letter ‘z’ in words like realise and customise and follow the Queen’s English to the letter. She makes a very good point. While I have pondered the thought of going back through my blogs and doing a global replace of ‘z’ for ‘s’, I want people to know (especially my English countrymen) that it was a conscious decision on my part to use the ‘z’ format.

Why? Well in short it is because I simply wanted my American readership to feel more comfortable. While seeing ‘z’ in words like custimize is merely a peculiarity and mild irritation to a Brit, seeing an ‘s’ in a word like customise is more alien to an American.

Besides, I’ve had over seven years to get used to writing ‘ize’ words instead of ‘ise’ words and I am quite comfortable with it now.

I think if there was a big enough groundswell of opinion for me to change back to ‘s’ I would do so, but to me, its a minor concession to make.

Just because an authoritative and standardised English dictionary existed in England approximately 60 years before such a dictionary came to pass in America should not be cause for me to be overly pietistical. Besides, my blogs are courtesy of WordPress, an American company, a fact I am constantly reminded of when I try to “ise” my words and the inbuilt spell checker underlines my words in red, demanding I change them to “ize” words. I do hate red ink on my virtual documents.

I do however struggle enormously with saying and spelling the word aluminum instead of aluminium. For some reason this really seems to go against my upbringing. Thank goodness there aren’t a lot more words in the English language that end in “ium” because if Americans forced me to replace “ium” with “um” I think I’d just have to pack my bags and head back home to Blighty! Instead of helium we would have helum and Kurt Cobain’s Lithum just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Things: An Urban Dictionary

March 8, 2007

International Conversion Reference Guide
English to American / American to English

I hate redundancy and so I will try not to repeat or reiterate things I have already covered in previous blogs. The purpose of this particular blog is to correlate all those things that I have come across that can cause possible confusion for our two countries and try to provide clear and concise explanations for each.

This document will be a work-in-progress so I will keep coming back and adding to it as I remember things. I feel it is more accurately defined as an ‘urban dictionary’ than an authoritative guide.

Once you’ve read the article and appreciate the format, feel free to comment and contribute your own additions. I do not intend to cover words that we pronounce differently but are basically the same, like aluminum (aluminium), tomato, yogurt (yoghurt) etc., only those things that are actually completely different and can cause the most confusion to a visitor.

The conversion format is American to English in all cases except where you will see *no equivalent* on either the American or English side of the equation notating that there is no known equivalent for said item in one of the cultures. Slang terms will be enclosed in single quotation marks ‘like this’.

American (first) to English (second)

Hood – Bonnet
Trunk – Boot
Gas/Gasoline – Petrol
Gas Station – Petrol Station
Stop Light – Traffic Light (on red)
Windshield – Windscreen
Windshield Wipers – Windscreen Wipers
Stick Shift – Manual Gear Change (i.e. non-automatic)
Sidewalk – Pavement
Freeway – Motorway
Rest Stop – Services/Service Station
Semi – Lorry
Road Sign – Sign Post

Wrench – Spanner
Monkey Wrench – Wrench/Monkey Wrench
Flat-Blade (Flat-Head) – Screwdriver
Philips – Posidrive / Philips Screwdriver
Come Along – Pulley (specifically ratchetable chain pulley found in an automotive garage)

Around the Home
Restroom (public) or Bathroom (private) – Loo/Bog/Toilet/Bathroom/Ladies/Gents
Faucet – Tap
Stove – Cooker
Closet – Cupboard
Vanity Unit – Medicine Cabinet
Broiler – Grill (and hence broiling = grilling)
Grill – BBQ (Americans use the term BBQ’ing too but specifically Grilling to an American = BBQ’ing)
Toilet Tank – Cistern
Toilet Paper – ‘Loo Roll’/’Bog Roll’
Baseboard – Skirting Board
Baseboard Heating – Floor Height Radiators
Doorwall – Patio Doors (uPVC)
*no equivalent* – Electric Kettle (for boiling water) –

Americans use archaic stove kettles, a saucepan, or a jug in their microwaves for boiling water. The concept of boiling water in an electric kettle is almost non-existent.

Pants – Trousers/Pants
Underwear – Pants/Underpants/’Undies’/’Undiegrots’
Tennis Shoes – Trainers
Sweater – Jumper
Bibs – Dungarees
Nylons/Hose – Tights
A run in a woman’s hose – A ladder in a woman’s tights
Diaper – Nappy
Sleeper/Playsuit – Sleepsuit
Pacifier – Dummy (Americans also use slang favorites like ‘binky’, ‘nuk’ and… ‘ninny’* {see physical})

Bangs – Fringe
Ass – Arse/Bum/Backside
Pregnant woman’s baby belly – Bump
Booger – Snot/Bogey/Ninny
‘Loogie'(Loogee) – Phlegm/’Greb’
‘Cooties’ – ‘Lurgy'(Lurgi)

Going Places
Going to the movies – Going to the cinema (English say “movies” too but Americans never say “cinema”)
Strip Mall – *no equivalent* (closest would be shopping center)

Basically a strip mall is a consecutive line of adjoined shopping stores either in a straight line, a rectangular horseshoe, or a full quadrant but the overriding features are that a) it has its own common parking to all stores and b) it follows a uniform design across all stores as the entire mall is usually designed and built by a single contractor who rents/leases out the individual stores to businesses. We do have similar places in the UK but is less common for an entire shopping outlet to be planned and built first in the hope that it will later be filled by high-street stores.

After creating this page I came across Chris Rae’s excellent The English-to-American Dictionary which you should also check out. Chris, a Scot, has been at this a lot longer than I have and his site has a wealth of content on this very subject including a great deal of reader contributed data.

Common Misconceptions

February 28, 2007

I would never presume to re-educate ‘my fellow Americans’, not that I am entitled to use that term, given that I am a Limey who hasn’t taken his Citizenship test yet, but I do feel it is within my rights to put pay to a few misconceptions and in the process hopefully right a few wrongs.

First of all, let us look at American misconceptions of the English.

Part 1. Teeth
We don’t all have bad teeth! I really don’t know where this falsehood first began but it simply isn’t true. I spent 31 years of my life in England and I did not see a larger percentage of the populace with crooked, yellow or generally bad teeth as I have seen here in the U.S. I think films like Austin Powers just help to exacerbate the pre-conceived myth that all British people have bad teeth. Not true.

I will say this however, there is definitely a morbid fascination with “whitening” and “straightening” one’s teeth here in the U.S. The number of commercials on TV dedicated to products and services to make your smile whiter than pure snow is quite remarkable. The marketing machine making all Americans think they have to have perfect, white teeth is so mind-alteringly insidious, its almost as bad as the same marketing that makes all women think they have to be stick thin.

Will you meet a Brit with bad teeth? Yes quite possibly, but would you like to stand them up against a hillbilly as a shining example of the average American? I think not.

Part 2. Royalty
There are two rife misconceptions that need to be put to bed here right away! The first is that every Brit you meet must know the queen. False!
The second is that most Americans think they can trace their lineage back to royalty. Also False! There are over 60 million people in the United Kingdom, that’s almost one fifth of the entire U.S. population on an island 40x smaller and hardly any of them can trace their ancestry back to royalty, so what makes you think you can? And if by the remotest chance I am mistaken, then we have a situation where the majority of settlers that departed England’s shores to start a new life here in the Colonies are related to royalty, which means that the War of Independence would make no sense at all. A war to gain independence from governorship and taxation by an English government backed by a monarchy, when we’re saying that most of that royalty was already over here? Wouldn’t that be somewhat akin to fighting yourselves?

Part 3. Fruitcake
Yes its true a large number of English folk love a good, heavy fruitcake at Christmas. I will say this though in its defense, it is not the same cake passed around year after year because no-one wants it. Now that might be true here in the U.S. where the definition of ‘cake’ appears to be a pound/sponge cake covered in fake cream icing. A really good Christmas fruit cake is home-made, extremely dense, heavy and moist and contains a lot of alcohol (usually Brandy or Rum). Unfortunately these ‘quality’ fruitcakes that English families enjoy bear little resemblance to the dry, unsavory fruitcakes that are sold commercially in stores and it is these, regrettably, that fall into the hands of our American friends.

Part 4. Tea
We all love tea! This is for the mostpart true. Tea is an excellent brew and a wonderful drink befitting any time of day. I have found that a really good, quality tea is very hard to purchase here in the U.S. Even in specialty stores, the shelves here in the U.S. are stocked with ‘fragrant’ and ‘piquant’ specialty flavored teas like Darjeeling, Earl Gray, Green and Orange Pico and some other very bizarre offerings involving plants that should never be spoken in the same sentence as the word tea. Given that these options are all that is available to most Americans I am not surprised in the least that America has fallen in love with coffee instead.

Part 5. Stuffy
I often get my American friends and family trying to impress upon me their impressions that English are stuffy, stand-off’ish and arrogant. Let me break this down:

i) Stuffy – Only the very rich have a tendency to exhibit this behaviour. As the very rich only constitute 1% to 2% of the British population, its not really true.

ii) Stand-Off’ish – This is a mis-perception. English are typically very reserved and quiet when you first meet them. They like to study you before they get to know you but once they do you will find they can become some of the best friends you will ever have. Sadly if you only visit the U.K. as a tourist or on a business trip, you won’t be around long enough for the average Brit to warm up to you so I can see where this impression comes from.

iii) Arrogant – I think there is some truth to this but it is true on both sides of the pond. American arrogance is more brash and down-to-earth (and in-your-face) whereas British arrogance is more aloof and intellectually inclined. Neither nation likes this manifestation in the other so its touché I’m afraid.

Part 6. London
It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans make the assumption that I am from London. Only about 8% of the entire population can be considered to be ‘from’ the London and Greater London area which covers over 600 square miles. I’ve been asked “What part of London are you from?” on several occasions. This, to me, is akin to asking Americans “What part of New York are you from?”. Sadly the same fascination with London drives the tourist driven American to visit little more than London when they travel to the United Kingdom and then make the assumption that they have “seen England”. How much more inprecise and an injustice this could be is hard to fathom and would be like an Englishman visiting New York and saying “That’s it. I’ve seen America. Now I can leave content!”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There’s a lot more I can cover but that will do for now. I now want to cover a different area which can cause considerable embarrassment for Brits visiting America and Americans visiting the U.K.

American terms
Fanny pack – In the U.K. a fanny is not your ass (we say ‘arse’ by the way). On the contrary, a fanny is slang for a woman’s vagina. So please, when you visit the United Kingdom, no shouting out phrases like “Anyone seen my fanny pack?” or “I slapped him on the fanny”.

Puffs – Here in the U.S. “Puffs” are delightfully soft tissues for blowing your nose on. However, my American wife and her family were very bemused when I first emigrated over here and they presented me with a box of “Puffs”.  I was suffering a mild cold at the time and upon being presented with said “puffs” I proceeded to laugh uncontrollably. You see, in the U.K. “puffs” are homosexuals. So again, please save yourself and everyone around you the embarrassment of asking for some puffs or what you would like to do with them.

Beer – This information I am giving you now is probably the most valuable snippet of information you can take with you on a trip to England. What you Americans call beer, the British call “lager”. Lager is a light, slightly carbonated and chilled beer, in other words, Bud, Miller etc. It is not what British people consider to be real beer. So, if you like your Budweisers and your Millers and your Heinekens then ask for a can or bottle of lager when you’re in a bar or pub. If you ask for ‘beer’ you are going to get a draught pulled pint of bitter or mild which is pumped to the bar from barrels in the cellar at slightly colder than room temperature. This is what British consider to be “real” beer and is a lot yeastier, uncarbonated and will often come with a creamy, frothy head (if its a good pint).

English Terms
Fag – Please, my fellow countrymen, when you come to America, do not visit a store and request to purchase a packet of “fags” when desirous of obtaining cigarettes. “Fags” are homosexuals here in the U.S. and not cigarettes. You will not be received warmly if you ask if you can “bum a fag” (Ed. English slang for ‘borrow a cigarette’)

Arse – Use the word “ass” when traveling the Colonies please.

Lorry – Americans have no clue what a lorry is. Just say “Semi”, “18-wheeler” or “truck”. Be careful though, a “truck” is also used in local lingo to denote a “pick-up truck” which is typically a 4WD vehicle with 2 or 4 doors (quad cab) and a 4foot or 6foot flat-bed loading area at the rear with drop tail-gate.

Loo – If you need to use the bathroom here in the U.S. don’t say “loo”. Americans love to refer to the bathroom as the “rest room” and have no idea what a loo is. Also try and refrain from using the word “toilet” as for some strange reason they find it vulgar. “Lavatory” is passable but I would stick with “rest room”, “gents” or “ladies” if I were you.

and on the subject of housing…

Bungalow – They call it a ranch (don’t ask)

Semi-detached – They call it a condo or duplex

Housing estate – They call it a sub-division (again, don’t ask). When my wife and I first started dating, apparently I lead her to believe that I was a lot wealthier than I am by telling her I lived on an ‘estate’. She spent several months believing I lived in some kind of manor with expansive grounds instead of my humble 3 bed detached.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Please post a comment if you have anything else you would like to add!

Heritage – Who Cares, You’re American!

February 25, 2007

If there’s one thing that I have come to loathe since living in America its that every time I meet an American for the first time, they feel an innate need, nay driven even, to expound on their personal and family heritage with me. Its quite often the conversation starter that immediately follows the ice-breaker “what part of London are you from?”.

I have not spent more than 2 minutes in the presence of an American yet without them telling me what generation of American they are. What country or countries of origin they, their parents and their grandparents hailed from. Even those who have since become my best friends have rolled this one out on me on at least one occasion. A typical conversation will take the following form:

“I’m 3rd generation American you know! My mother is Italian and my father is from Scotland. Hey that makes us countrymen right? My grandfather on my father’s side was from Poland and my grandmother on my mother’s side was half German and half French. (I’ve usually tuned them out at this point but being polite I feign interest, perhaps even dropping in the odd ‘Oh really?’ or ‘That’s great!’). I guess that makes me half Italian and half Scottish… or is it a quarter Scottish, a quarter Polish, a quarter German and a quarter Italian? Oh wait.. I forgot French! Oh but we don’t like the French do we!”

Now the reason I switch off is not because I am rude. On the contrary, I am a true people person and if you met me in person you’d know this. No, the reason I switch off is because after 10 years I’ve probably had this exact same one-sided conversation play out at least a thousand times.

Here’s where I usually let them take a breath and I ask my questions.

Me: “Where were you born?”
Them: “Ohio.”
Me: “OK, and where were your parents born?”
Them: “Well my father was born in Pittsburgh and my mother was born in San Diego”
Me: “So you’re American then”
Them: “Well yes but…”
Me: “And your parents are American also”
Them: “Well yes but I’m quarter Italian, quarter this..quarter that.. (you get the idea)

Now for me as a Limey, here’s the paradox. For a nation that is so nationalistic and full of self pride, why would almost all of its subjects choose to harp on about the fact that their ancestry is anything but American? Its almost as if to call yourself a full-blooded American – born and bred, is a dirty word. Yet, you will never find a country that waves its own flag harder than the United States.

America is the best and worst of all things. It is truly the world’s greatest nation at this moment in world history. A true world power. That alone would make me believe that if you were born here, you would want to call yourself “American” first and foremost, especially to foreigners such as myself. And yet, when I question an individual that feels this need to proclaim their diverse ancestry to me and I ask them “why they don’t just call themselves ‘American’ I am either met with confusion or in some cases actual hostility.

Every great world power that has ever been started out a pure ethnicity, but by its very nature, a world power must continue to grow and expand in order to survive and not stagnate and as such expands its physical and political boundaries to draw in other cultures and ethnicities. Look at any of history’s great super powers, the U.S.S.R, the British empire, the Roman empire, the Egyptian empire, the Mongolian empire etc. etc.

In heritage terms, the only thing that separates an American from an Englishman is time. If I were to be pedantic, I could argue that I am part Roman, part Saxon, part Norman, part Goth, part Viking etc. but centuries and millenia have molded the English in to one unified nation. I was born in England, therefore I am English, and proud of it.

So, to all Americans I say this, if you were born in America, you are American! Be proud of it. This nation is a great one and although it seems at times that the world is against you and you are alone in your struggles, you are not alone and you need not mask your pride in your birthright. So cast off the chains to past heritage and association. You can be proud of your ancestry without having to try and be anything else but what you are, an American. So, move forward as Americans and stop telling Limeys like me that you’re anything but pure blooded American!

Understanding the Differences

February 25, 2007

So, we all know that there are differences between American English (or “Webster” as I prefer to call it) and the Queen’s English (or “real” English as I prefer to call it) but on both sides of the pond, few know just how many there actually are.

Few Americans realize that there is a world outside of the United States. Fewer still realize that it wasn’t they that invented the English language, .. or sandwiches .. or space travel (I could go on but I won’t). In fact if you are a Brit living in America, most Americans will happily tell you that a) you have an accent and b) you don’t speak English (as they understand it). A sad truth is that even fewer Americans know, that even before full independence was achieved, there was a conscious effort to begin a ‘separation’ process on many levels from England. Not least among these was the development of Webster’s English (now American English) which would be taught in the developing school system across the 13 colonies and beyond. This modern take on the English language included changes in both spelling and pronunciation of many words and also included the introduction of some new words.

Now a polite word of warning. . .

Unfortunately the above facts appear to have been conveniently forgotten and if you are a new Limey in America, you can be forgiven for thinking there is some kind of bizarre conspiracy going on to make you think that all you have been taught in English schools is somehow wrong and that you are being made to feel somewhat stupid as you inadvertently stumble over numorous “mispronunciations” when engaging in conversation with your new American acquaintances or families. Now here’s the best advice I can give you:

i) Don’t keep fighting it. You will never single handedly re-educate 300 million Americans. Especially when 1 in 8 of them has Spanish as their native tongue.

ii) If you plan on living here, as excruciatingly painful as it is to try and start pronouncing words the same as Americans, you might as well give in and make that effort because you’re already at a disadvantage with your accent and if you walk in to a room and start throwing around words like ‘to-mah-toh’ and ‘yog-urt’ and ‘alu-min-ee-um’ you are going to get some very blank stares. Believe me.

Now while we are on the subject of accents, let me also prepare you for two constants that you will come across:

1. Americans will take much joy in asking you where you are from, but not before they have tried to guess. Guessing will usually take the form of “Australia?” “Canada?” “Scotland?” or “Ireland?” but don’t be surprised if you get thrown curveballs like “Are you from France?” This has happened to me more than once in the seven years I have lived here.

2. You come from London! I don’t care if you are from Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Ipswich or Bristol many Americans (especially those working behind the till in gas stations) will ask this question of you:

“What part of London are you from?”

Now you can muse as much as you like about whether this question derives from their belief that Britain = England = London or whether they believe (as some do) that the U.K. only has two cities, London and Edinburgh (“Ed-in-burrow” <cough>) with a road between the two.

Now, to be fair to Americans, most “could care less” as they are want to say. Although for a Brit, that would beg the question, “how much less could you care?”. The correct phrasing of “could not care less” appears to have totally escaped all but the best educated over here. Thankfully my wife, who hails from Michigan, is not among the unknowledgeable, and had she been, I would not have failed in my duty to correct her!

In the next blog called “Things” I’ll make an effort to list all the things that can cause the greatest confusion between our two great cultures. I plan on “Things” being an evolving document which I will keep adding to as I remember stuff.

Readers are more than welcome to contribute their suggestions for things they feel separate English and Americans (Limeys and Yanks) and I am interested in hearing from both. After all, I don’t want this blog to be completely one-sided.

(Ed. “Yanks” is a term that almost all British people call Americans, regardless of whether you are an American from the north or the south. Its our equivalent to your “Limey”)