Monday, November 12, 2012

Jenny Twist discusses Anglo-American Relations.

Jenny Twist is here today to discuss confusion between Americans and Brits because of our speech. This reminded me of when I used to watch Absolutely Fabulous and while I thought it was so funny a lot of the humor went right over my head. I also had a British crit partner, so I can fully relate to this. I've talked to him on the phone a few times and he didn't spare me his sarcastic humor. I'm still planning my revenge.

Take it from here Jenny:

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language” - George Bernard Shaw.

Until last year, when I started making lots of American friends, I had no idea how true that quote was. It’s not so much that we have different words for things. It's that we use the same words to mean something completely different. For instance, an American might be quite shocked to hear an Englishman say, “I'm just going outside for a fag.” when he only means he wants a cigarette. And it can be equally embarrassing the other way round. The word fanny may be slightly vulgar in America, but it's downright rude in England, where it is a euphemism for a woman's private parts. The first time I heard the American usage was in a radio interview with a recently-divorced starlet, in which she said she first realised her marriage was going wrong when he stopped patting her on the fanny. I was shocked rigid! She said fanny! On the BBC!



And then there's all the things you have in America that we don't have in England like Independence Day and Thanksgiving and English muffins (I have yet to meet an English person who knows what an English muffin is!).

But we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that you don't have Pancake Tuesday, the Royal Family or faggots (a kind of meatball made from liver and served in a very rich gravy). 

But the thing that worries me most is the English sense of humour. It is based on sarcasm. We often say the exact opposite of what we mean because we find it amusing, as in “Isn't it a lovely day!” to describe a passing hurricane.

And we think it's funny to insult each other. A dear friend of mine, on being pursued by a rather unattractive man and having tried to put him off several times, retaliated with, “I admire your taste, but I'm afraid I find you repulsive!” I didn't stop laughing for days!

And that same friend couldn't stop laughing when a work colleague said to her, “Haven't you got a lot of freckles? Disfiguring, aren't they?”

I am so afraid I'm going to get carried away and say something sarcastic to one of my lovely new American friends. I can't tell you how many times I've deleted an email or a comment at the last minute because I suddenly realised that only an English person would know it was supposed to be funny.

So I would like to say RIGHT NOW, if I have ever said anything to anyone that was insulting, blasphemous or just downright rude, that I didn't mean it. Honest. I thought I was being funny. I can't help it. I'm English.

Despite all the problems and possible misunderstandings, Jenny got together with Tara Fox Hall, who lives in New York State, to produce the anthology Bedtime Shadows, which came out in September and is already doing well on both sides of the pond. They are not only still speaking to each other, but have become even firmer friends.

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family. She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic. 

In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.

Tara was born in the United States, earned her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a double minor in science at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and is currently an OSHA-certified safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop. In addition to speculative fiction, Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, action-adventure, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal action-adventure Lash series and the vampire romantic suspense Promise Me series.


Here is an excerpt from the first story in Bedtime Shadows:

Jenny Twist

I read somewhere that most people have no memory before the age of five and that very few indeed can remember anything before the age of two. It's not that babies can't think. It's that they haven't learnt how to save their thoughts as memories.

But I have a memory much earlier than that.

I am sitting in my pram. I know I am in a pram because the hood is up and the view in front of me is framed by the edge of the hood. I can see this very clearly. It has a trim of elasticated material, black with a white pattern. The pattern may be writing. I can't tell because I am too young to read. Through the hood, in front of me, is a garden, bounded by a high brick wall. The wall is covered in a riot of red flowers. I know now the plant is Japonica but in the memory I have no words for anything. In the middle of the garden there are two people locked in a clumsy embrace. Either they are standing very still or the memory is a still picture – a snapshot in time. 

I can see the woman very clearly. She is wearing a white cotton frock with a pattern of tiny blue flowers. Her face is turned towards me and it bears an expression of anguish. I think she is my mother. 

But I can't see the man clearly at all. I'm not even sure it is a man. But I think it is. He is a shadowy figure, one hand gripping my mother, if she is my mother, the other held over his head. He is holding something aloft, something long and thin – a stick perhaps. I can't see it clearly at all. Everything about the man is out of focus. 

I have always believed that if I could just see his face, if I could identify him, I would understand everything.

Author Links:

Facebook Author Page

Thanks for the great guest post, Jenny. She will be back next week with more!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've always enjoyed British humor, but it helped that I lived there for a short time.

Jenny Twist said...

Thanks so much, Cindy, for hosting me on your lovely site. xxxxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Alex. How nice to meet you. Do you like Monty Python and Fawlty Towers?

Paula Martin said...

Great post, Jenny. It reminds me of my Canadian friend making me stop the car outside a butcher's shop in Cornwall because she wanted to take a photo of the sign in the window advertising faggots for sale!

Jane Lovering said...

I'm so British the words 'fanny pack' make me crease up with embarrassment! I'd just like to add to Jenny's list of Things the British do and say' the fact that the more we insult someone, the more we like them! I know a lot of my American friends really have trouble with that...

Eva87 said...

It's amazing how different we are. I am still finding new things like this all the time. I don't really have any firm American friends, nor have I been over there, but I dread meeting an American because I am very sarcastic and I really don't know how they'd take it. I have also been known to delete emails or comments at the last minute for the same reason, Jenny!

Miriam Newman said...

This is a great post, Jenny! Having been raised across the pond largely in a household where my Cornish grandfather and Irish grandmother were present, I find I did adopt the sense of humor that surrounded me. It makes me feel a bit like an alien at times when people misunderstand, so I completely sympathize with what you've experienced! You can insult me all you like (just not my books :).

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Communication is always a challenge. However, I love Dr. Who, Merlin, and Sherlock. I also think it's funny how you refer to the Atlantic Ocean as the pond. I just have an entirely different idea of how big a pond should be.

Cindy said...

Thanks for dropping in everyone. This post made me laugh several times.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Although I'm proud to be an American, when it comes to humor I may have been born on the wrong continent. Mine is very dry and sarcastic. Sounds like I'd fit in well in England.

Also, the language differences between America and England is fascinating. For example, above, in the first paragraph, Cindy refers to her "Partner". In the U.S. many gays refer to their companions as their Partners.

This summer I met a lady from Scotland, when she introduced her husband as her partner,I was initially under the impression it was a live in boyfriend (that's another way the word is used in U.S.). It wasn't until much later that I learned she was married.

My eleven year old son, was fascinated by the fact the Scots call what we refer to as French Fries "Chips" and potato chips were called "Crisps".

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing I really enjoyed it.

Celia Yeary said...

Jenny--you gave me my laugh for the day. Another UK friend of mine, Jane Richardson once told me the English had never heard of an English Muffin.
I hear "biscuit" and I think a bread that you split and add butter and jelly for breakfast. But then I learn "biscuit" means cookies. Hmm.
But even parts of the US use words differently, just as different countries would. Northerners are still trying to figure out many Southern phrases and terms and slang.
Great stuff--I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Alexa said...

Great post and so true! I have British relatives (mom's from Sunderland) and even now, after all the times I've been with them, I still get shocked once in a while until they explain what they mean.

Desirée Lee said...

Haha, amusing! England and America, two countries separated by common language. Here I thought they were two countries separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

Maybe I need to move to England. Then my sarcasm may become socially acceptable.

Thanks for the laugh!

Carpe Noctem,

Author Desirée Lee
Putting the Romance back in Necromancy

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Paula. It's such fun. When my friend visited me here in Spain, she took photos of Bimbo bread and Bonka coffee!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Jane. Nice to meet you. You're absolutely right. The more we like them the more we insult them!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Eva. We are twin souls!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Miriam. Nice to meet you. Cornish and Irish! Now there's a lovely mixture.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Michael. I think the pond is probably a perfect example of our weird way of looking at things.

Jenny Twist said...

Hello, Andrea. I get confused when it turns out to be a business partner and I've made all the wrong assumptions!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Celia
Yes, Jane would never call them cookies. Although there may be a Scottish variation. What you just described would be called a piecey in Glasgow. So glad I gave you a laugh.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Alexa
Muy husband is from Hartleypool in the North East. It's practically a different language. The women address each other as 'man'!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Desirée. I bet you'd get on very well with the Brits. Mind you, you might have trouble with the awful weather,

Cindy said...

Thanks again everyone for stopping in with your interesting comments.

Jay Noel said...

I absolutely love British humor. Even the raunchy stuff is still very witty.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Jay. Nice to meet you. Raunchy? Good grief, I didn't think we did raunchy. Innuendo is more our style.

Annalisa Crawford said...

As a Brit I was always under the impression that Americans didn't get sarcasm, then I started watching Friends, especially Chandler, and realised that wasn't strictly true!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Annalisa. Pleased to meet you. I think generally that's true, but I know a master of sarcasm who is American, and I know that Monty Python has a huge following in the States. So there must be plenty of people out there who appreciate the British sense of humour. Trouble is, you don't know which ones. So it's wise to tread carefully.

ManicScribbler said...

Great post, Jenny, as ever - and very amusing.
Oh and let's not forget that over here an ass is a donkey ;) (and I feel a bit of one right now for being so slow to catch up on your blog tour).

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I worked with two nurses from England and we did run into language barriers sometimes. Sometimes I was just clueless about what they meant. I don;t really get humor that hurts people. I guess it's different when you do it as a culture. I do like the weird food though--faggots and spotted Dicks. LOL
Great article, Jenny.

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Manic. You are many things to me, but never an ass (of either sort)

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Sarah. I don't like humour that is intentionally hurtful, which is why sarcasm only works in England. Everyone knows it's a joke. Glad you like the silly names.
Love Jenny

Anonymous said...

Jenny, your post was very funny! I was reminded of my English co-workers first day at work when he came downstairs with the group for a cigarette break. He realized that he left his pack upstairs and asked if he could "pinch a fag". We were horrified and he turned bright red when we explained what he'd said!