Why Can’t the Yanks Be More Like the Brits?

One of my LinkedIn groups has a discussion thread titled “Where are you parking?’ It has to do with the delightful gaps between the English spoken in the USA and the same or similar words in the U.K., Australia, etc.

Here’s my original blog post on the issue, written in 2011, which was swallowed in the great Blue explosion.

JohnOK, so I “adapted” the headline from My Fair Lady. Sorry, Mr. Lerner.

The reason for my question arose several days ago. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to reject the plan to save the Euro caused a major kerfuffle in Britain. Parliament thought he had some ’splainin’ to do.

I couldn’t believe my ears when the Speaker tried to bring the House of Commons to order. Cameron rose, but the members just kept shouting.  “Mr. Speaker,” aka John Bercow, is apparently used to this mayhem.

Bercow: “The house must calm itself, taking whatever medicaments are required for the purpose. And the prime minister’s statement must and will be heard.” Just so you won’t think I made up that first bit, here’s the transcript and link to the audio on NPR.

The image that first came to mind was a bunch of middle age to elderly men popping Valium, Xanax, or maybe a shot or two of gin. Then they quietly crawl back to their seats, sucking their thumbs and clutching their blankies. Cameron is able to speak because his former hasslers in the place is asleep.Sam

Second thought, which has occurred to me before, was John Boehner could never pull off anything like it. He’d cry instead and then Barney Frank would hit him over the head or force the Valium down his throat.

Third thought, “taking whatever medicaments required” is so much more elegant than the old school “take a chill pill” or the more modern “chillax” (sp?) I can’t hear Boehner saying any of the above.

On a broader level, I have long wished that we could imitate the open debate of Parliament. Congress should have forced Bush to face down the members during the course of his eight-year reign. It would be good to see Obama there, too, but not nearly as much fun. Maybe if the members took “medicaments,” it would be a bundle of laughs.

My overall wish is for more elegant English on this side of “the Pond.” The Brits wax elegantly poetic. We like terse. I remember on a trip to Scotland thinking how wonderful it was to see the universal image of the little dog with the little poop coming out his behind and a line through the picture. The sign read, “Please do not permit your canine to befoul the footpath.” It’s almost a Shakespearean iamb. American translation: “Curb your dog.” The thought occurred that by the time the owner finishes reading the Scottish sign, it’s too late to prevent the deed. But the reader has enjoyed a wee bit of literary fancy in the meantime.

Another sign I observed on board an omnibus — that’s a bus to you Yanks. And, no, it wasn’t one of those fancy red double deckers, just commuter transport going from airport to  train station or some such. The sign read: “Please mind the head when alighting from the omnibus.” American translation: “Watch your step.” Again, by the time the passenger has finished reading the U.K. sign, KLONK. But requested, oh, so politely.

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