Britain and America have been described as two countries separated by a common language.
That statement sums it up pretty well I think.
We each use different words when talking about the same things; “Trash” in the US is “Rubbish” in the UK.
To complicate things further a “Trash Can” in America, is a “Dustbin” in Britain.
The problem has been over the years that Americans keep changing things to suit their own ends. Football is called Soccer, to avoid confusion with the game where, out of the whole team, only one player actually kicks the ball with his foot.
They bring this player on the field only when the ball needs to be kicked, because he is the only one who knows how to do it.
Where they don’t change the word, they spell it differently. In America they took the “U” out of colour and spell it color, which is fine, it simplifies things.
However, when Americans come across a name like mine, “Moulton,” they don’t know the rule is; when these two vowels are together, the second one is silent.
They try to put the “U” in there and it comes out sounding something like Mow-ull-ton, instead of Mol-ton. I have to explain, it is like when sheep make love; the ewe (U) is silent.
Here is a joke that no American will get.
What’s the difference between a Kangaroo, and a Kangaroot? A Kangaroo is an animal, and a Kangaroot is a Geordie stuck in a lift.
To translate for those used to American English. From the end of the punch line; a lift is an elevator, a Geordie is a native of Newcastle, which is a town in the far North of England. They speak in a dialect that even most English people can’t understand.
In fact if it wasn’t for Newcastle Brown Ale, most Americans would not have heard of the place. So a person from Newcastle, trapped in an elevator, would make the statement, “I can’t get out.” However, with this strange dialect they speak there, it would sound like “A Kangaroot.”
Of course jokes are never funny when you have to explain them, but it does serve to illustrate the many different dialects that exist within the tiny island made up of England, Scotland and Wales.
I grew up in the East End of London so developed a strong Cockney accent early on. As a teen my parents moved to Luton, which is only 30 miles North of London, so the dialect didn’t change that much. Locals from Luton, leave the “T” out of the name of their town, and call it Lu’on.
In my early twenties I moved back to the East End of London, so my accent was pretty well established; even though I moved to the North of England in the 1960s, and to Worcester in the West in the 1970s.
When I came to the United States in 1979, I may as well have spoken a foreign language. I had no problem understanding Americans, but they could not understand me.
I remember walking into a Produce Market in New Jersey and asking for Grapefruit; I was met with blank stares. In frustration I walked over to a pile of grapefruit, and holding one up asked, “Was’sat then?”
“Grapefruit,” they answered.
“Wot the faack did I just say?” I responded. Luckily, they didn’t understand that either. I bought my grapefruit and left.
There followed years of frustration until I adapted my version of the English so it could be understood. Now the Cockney dialect, bastardised with American, people think I’m Australian.
The problem is most Americans think that the English all talk like the Monty Python crew. When they realize I am English they say something like, “Pip, pip old chap, absolutely spiffing, jolly good, what.”
They think it is funny, but after thiry years it is bloody annoying, ‘cos no one in England actually speaks like that. Which lead me to the realization that in America there is no slang for “Taking the Piss.” Which is exactly what they are doing with the mock accent.
To explain once more to my US readers, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, is “Taking the Piss” out of the American News Media. There is no slang expression for that in America; it is not the same as “Are you kidding?” or “Are you shittin’ me?” There is a subtle difference.
John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python cast were taking the piss out of the British upper class twit, by exaggerating the upper class accent.
The thing is in England, Piss Taking is an art form, and you don’t always realize it is happening. When you do you ask, “Are you taking the piss?”
Every one laughs, and the piss taking stops. Without the “Piss Taking” expression in America the piss taking continues.
Sometimes amongst strangers I can go with the pretence that I'm Australian. Americans think all Australians are like Crocodile Dundee (Paul Hogan.) or Russell Crow, and it's best not to take the piss out of those people.
Other than that, all I can do is endure it and occasionally write piss taking articles like this one.