Friday, September 19, 2008

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I know that's the adage, and it's true in my case, at least lately. I've been struggling on occasion in my relations with British people, and it's an attitude problem. I think it's that I've wearied a bit with the "first and best" attitude held by some when it comes to their contact with Americans.

I can trace my attitude change to an incident at a party held by a colleague of Mrs. Werbenmanjensen a month or so ago, when I was about to get the "why-do-you-call-it-the-World-Series-when-it's-only-teams-from-America?" lecture, as if this had never occurred to me nor had anybody ever mentioned it to me. I finally had to ask him if an English cricketer would rather win the World Cup, a contest among all the cricketing nations of the world, or The Ashes, a contest with just one other country (PS: It's The Ashes). He didn't think that a fair comparison, but he did point out in the same vein that the Six Nations is technically only a contest between four nations.

This conversation was the first of several incidents I've found at least a little irritating lately. Perhaps the whole thing was accelerated during the Olympics period when the British press was picking a fight over medal tallies. (No, it wasn't just so Americans look good this Olympiad. We've always done it that way. It's you who choose to denigrate silver and bronze by failing to count them.)

So to any native who might be reading this: I've lived here two and a half years. So please understand:

1. The "British" Open was the first of the major golf championships in the world and should therefore be called "the Open Championship." I know this, so please don't lecture me about it.
1a. No, really, Americans don't take the Ryder Cup that seriously, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise. Golf ain't a team sport.
2. There are various claims about inventions attributed to Americans that may have been British. History is written by the winners.
2a. We could get into a long debate about who exactly invented the first computer. Suffice it to say: IBM and Apple are not British companies.
2b. You are way ahead of the US when it comes to broadband, digital television innovation and mobile phones. I said it. Leave me alone.
3. You spell honor with a "u", check with a "que" and summarize with an "s". I work for Americans. Therefore it would cause some difficulty if I got in the practise of spelling like you.
4. (Courtesy of Mrs. W) When I say things like "VY-ta-min D" there's no point in you saying back to me "VIT-a-min D." I know we pronounce it differently. I'm not going to change, and neither are you.
5. I'm not saying things like "brilliant" and "bugger all" to make fun of you. It's things I've actually picked up.
6. "High-fives" are not something British people do or are that comfortable with. But I'm going to do them when I'm excited anyway.

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Blogger Middle Kid said...

I'm glad you had a chance to vent, Smitty. It sounds as if the British are a bit like Ensign Chekov -- you know, everything was actually invented by a Russian.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Kevboy said...

Or like the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" who can trace every single word back to a Greek origin. Ethnocentric views are universal.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

You're sounding a bit moody, mate! Hope you're doing all right! :)

11:32 AM  
Blogger ArcticT said...

Hey Smitty, this is the polar guy you met running round Hampstead Heath. I've been living in the US for almost two years now and to be honest I think I face a few of the same issues you do.

Less of a first and best, and more of a biggest and thus best mentality seems to come along. So to all Americans:

1. Don't faux-apologize to me on July 4th for kicking my country's arse. Well done, nice job, your military record is spotless.

2. Vitamin, Aluminum, s over z, it goes both ways. (btw Smitty, Brits originally spelled it Aluminum if you want some ammo)

3. Don't be surprised if I snort into my drink when you talk about double-fisting in a bar.

I think all your points are fair and we Brits should stop annoying Americans wise enough to live in Britain. At the same time, if you could exhort your countrymen not to take so much pleasure in exactly the same behaviour that would be great.

Oh say can you see. . .

P.S. Apple and IBM may be American companies but Jonathan Ives, the designer responsible for the Apple resurgence, is a Brit. Another case of American money and British genius combining? :)

4:06 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

Hello, Ice-T,

Americans have a tendency to be jerks at five paces. I'm surprised you didn't go crazy a year ago! ;)

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Six nations are indeed six nations. They comprise four Sovereign Nation States. There's a difference...

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Believe me, the Brits hold themselves in the highest esteem as well. Listen to how they pronounce any word with a foreign (French, Spanish, Italian, esp.) origin and they simply refuse to say it with any trace of ethnicity. When I first moved here from the states I couldn't believe people ate "fillets."

Also, they have negative things to say about pretty much every nationality, esp. the US, obviously brought on by their own jealousy.

Why is it that every time I go back to the US for a visit, I am weighed down with lists and lists of things to bring back for my British friends - things you can't get here or things that are just too expensive. Funny how aside form the occasional bar of Cadbury's chocolate, no one in the US ever asks me to bring anything from GB to them!

Have you ever taken the ferry to Calais for the day? Pathetic! Full of Brits climbing over each other to get cheap booze and cigarettes. And zero French people coming over here for any bargains. Why would they?

11:39 AM  

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