More Transatlantic Incomprehension

Sporting metaphors are a big problem. At lunch the other day I met a chap who used to work in the White House some years back. “What did you do ?” we asked. “Ummm.. “, he replied, “I guess you’d call me a kind of utility infielder.”

Blank stares. “Well”, I said, “I guess when you have been in a sensitive position you have to play a straight bat”. More blank stares. The other folk at the table were from Switzerland and Germany and were grinning politely.

I got back and asked a colleague how things were going. There was a heavy sigh and he explained that it was one of those days when you were at fourth down with nine to go. Well what could I say ? Its goals that count, Gary.

4 Responses to More Transatlantic Incomprehension

  1. Michael Merrifield says:

    One of the things that bemuses me most about British peoples’ perceptions of Americans is the expectation that because they use a comparable-looking language, they should employ it in the same way with the same collection of idioms and conventions.

    I don’t know how many times I have heard British people cite as evidence that Americans are shallow and insincere the fact that you may be wished a “nice day” when leaving a shop, when the shop keeper clearly doesn’t really care. The same people think nothing of the fact that they equally conventionally and insincerely wished the shop keeper a “good morning” when they met him,

  2. andyxl says:

    Possibly my favourite New York joke is the one where the little old lady is getting off the bus, and the driver says, in a gruff voice, “have a nice day”. The L.O.L says “Whats that ?” and the driver barks back “You heard!”

    But actually friends tell me recently that these New York jokes are all wrong and people are genuinely friendly.

  3. John Womersley says:

    One thing I’ve never been able to understand is how British and American English have ended up with different words for modern inventions. Take the lift for example. When Mr. Otis invented it, he presumably called it an elevator – so why did it become a lift when installed in this country? Why did “radio” become “wireless” (at least until relatively recently)? And it’s still happening: your cellular phone miraculously becomes a mobile phone on arrival in the UK.

  4. andyxl says:

    Did Mr Otis regret this change ? (Now you can tell someone’s age by seeing whether they think I am quoting Cole Porter or Cheers).

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