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The United States and England - Friends with Differences

By Edited Feb 12, 2016 4 19

Anglo American flag
The British came to our shores in 1776 and 1812 in a spirit of brotherly love and fellowship…. for each other. For the inhabitants, they commenced to levying taxes, quartering soldiers and burning beautiful colonial era homes. Over a century later, relations were on the mend and, to help, the United States sent some old warships, four million troops and proceeded to burn down a lot of pre-war French and German homes.

Seems like a bad bargain, but the U.S. and England, nevertheless, have developed and maintained a steady and intimate friendship. Indeed, there is a kinship, a veritable soft spot, felt by the mutual friends across the pond. While there is much to connect these two great nations, there are still some serious bones of contention between the two.

Each maintains that it retains the upper hand in world opinion and hopes to export its own brand of sophistication and culture. Here are a few of the more notable, contested issues and a scorecard to help you determine who is winning the hearts and minds of the world.


The Letter Z

George Bernard Shaw famously stated that England and America are two countries separated by a common language. A keen observation for a man who would later have trouble discerning the difference between a statue and a real girl.

Aside from the fact that British spelling just does not use the letter “zed” in enough words to make the playing of Scrabble any fun, there is the question of the meaning of actual words. For instance, the use of “chips” instead of “French fries.” Ostensibly, the English want nothing to do with the French. OK, but the definition stems not from a national origin but from a culinary technique.

Similarly, the word “holiday” which by their own dictionary's definition lasts one day has been transformed to mean vacation. Perhaps, they are too closely and unknowingly emulating their continental counterparts who think that every weekend should last quatre jours.

Most inexplicably, they insist that football is played with a round ball and no hands whereas any Texas grade-schooler can tell you that real football involves pigskins, stickum and cheerleaders. To their credit, the British have surpassed the Americans in their embrasure of insipid broadcasters, tedious home-team chants and booze.

SCORE  US:1, GB:1 (+1 for Football, +1 for Scotch)



Shelby Cobra

French and German engineers, including guys with names like Benz and Daimler, invented the modern automobile and Henry Ford figured out how to mass produce them. All of these countries drive on the right. The British, however, drive on the left.

What possessed them to go and adopt such a contrarian attitude? The Royal Navy is probably the answer but pure spite also played a significant role. The dismissal of James Watts’ steam engine as the de facto standard was a shock to the preeminent world power of the time.

In response, they mandated that internal combustion machines should be customized if they were to be imported to England. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in the rest of the world and now only England and a few of her former colonies behave in such an absurd manner as driving on the left.

SCORE  US:2, GB:1 (+1 for Muscle Cars)




Writing Paper

Everyone writes letters. Then again, that was before the Internet. Back to reality….

For centuries, people wrote letters. In fact, they wrote so many that the sheet of paper most commonly used became known as “letter size."  The introduction of the metric system in Europe changed all that and a size, familiar to Europeans as A4, became exceptionally popular.

Similar in size to the American letter-size, A4 has a significantly better aspect ratio. That is, if you reduce, enlarge, cut it in half or modify in other standard ways, it will retain the same proportions as it had before the modification. This characteristic is especially useful in the print industry. In short, the standard has spread to almost every country in the world except those in North America and the British are damn proud of it.

SCORE  US:2, GB:2 (+1 for the Metric System)



Light Switches

In the UK, light switches are flicked down to complete the electrical connection while, in the United States, the reverse is used and the switch is toggled up.. The Brits will argue the point but, with a little thought, it seems obvious that flicking the switch up is really just a subliminal, albeit misguided, summons to the sun and is therefore the obvious and preferred method.

SCORE  US:2, GB:2 (Does it really matter? They’re light switches.)




NYC Cabs
Taxi Cabs

Step into a cab in New York City and you never know what you will encounter. From Mad Max to a sophisticated Pakistani particle physics professor, they all drive in the Big Apple. These "hack" drivers are also amongst the most friendly, talkative and informative people on the planet. For instance, one can learn how to say, “Where’s the beer?” in almost 200 languages just by taking cabs in the capital of the world. FYI, in Urdu, it’s “Daru, kaha hay?”

London, on the other hand, gives its taxi cab drivers what is considered one of the most difficult-to-pass tests in all of the Western world. It’s necessary. Have you taken a look at a map of London? It’s the seeming result of taking that infinite group of monkeys working on Hamlet and sending them to urban planning school.

London is labyrinthine. That’s an understatement, by the way. Whilst and despite navigating the narrow streets in oversized, black cabs, London cab drivers are a remarkably civil group. Almost always chatty and well informed, they provide excellent entertainment while traversing this city's almost continual traffic.

SCORE  US:3, GB:3 (+1 for the Education., +1 for the Civility)


The Result

There you have it. The battle to influence  the world is a draw. We’re not going to talk about the Pax Brittanica, the Pax Americana, Hollywood, or Stanley Kubrick. Similarly, we won’t mention the fact that the English language itself is the very model of cross cultural pollination and the lingua franca, to use a most outdated term, for, not only, all scientific endeavors but also for any polyglot nation that wishes to assimilate its various inhabitants.

Instead, we’ll remember the innumerable lives offered by the sons of these nations in pursuit of peace and the inestimable value of British and American history and values. Then, we’ll sit back and smile and thank God that we were born in one of those countries. Full stop. Amen.



Apr 5, 2012 11:40pm
Great read! Loved the comparisons and the scoring.
Apr 6, 2012 12:05am
Thank you so much. I like this article a lot but you're only the fifth person to read it. I need to change the title or something. Cheers!
Apr 16, 2012 2:23am
Didn't the first British visitors arrive on the Mayflower?
Apr 16, 2012 3:05am
I'll stick to being Canadian. We combine the best of the American and British ideas, and avoid the worst of both countries. The clear winner in the battle is Canada!
Apr 16, 2012 5:18am
JD. I have to agree. Hockey (Go Rangers!! I'm from NYC), Molson, Second City and most of all the people make Canada the tops.
Apr 16, 2012 6:06am
In Britain hockey is a game played on grass by girls wearing gym skirts.
Apr 16, 2012 7:51am
You guys wear skirts on a lot of occassions, don't you? Just kidding.
Apr 16, 2012 9:32am
Congratulations on being featured!
Apr 16, 2012 5:54pm
Haha, this is funny. I have yet to find a French person I don't like, I just don't visit France. French fries are skinny potato sticks,a chip is a chunky cut piece of potato, not a bag of crisps.
Andrew is correct, us girls play Hockey, but we are quite fierce with it.
Football with scotch? What is your address and I will post you what the real alcys drink here, super strength Tennants, haha.
Mind, you stay strong to your American roots. Is that Sioux or Cherokee, maybe Choctaw? Maybe you are from one of the original British settlers? lol.
Henry Ford, what a man, making driving affordable for everyone.shame they killed his dream.
Have tweeted because it made me smile and is really funny.x
Apr 16, 2012 6:24pm
I enjoyed reading your article about all the differences in cultures.

Congratulations on being featured!

Apr 17, 2012 12:35am
Thanks for the insights, Ddraig.
Apr 17, 2012 10:21am
Congrats on your front page feature! My late mother-in-law was a war bride, and so half of my in-laws are English. I did not know all of these differences!
Apr 17, 2012 4:18pm
Thanks for reading mmm.
Apr 18, 2012 1:15pm
The silent competition between these two nations is always interesting. Like America's Next Top Models latest season - British Invasion!
May 11, 2012 10:10am
I believe if you enquire into the driving phenomenon you will find that it stems from the railways (French Trains are on the left because the British built the original network) and, incidentally many other "small countries" like Japan and Thailand also use the English system.
Fun read though.
May 11, 2012 10:11am
I believe if you enquire into the driving phenomenon you will find that it stems from the railways (French Trains are on the left because the British built the original network) and, incidentally many other "small countries" like Japan and Thailand also use the English system.
Fun read though.
May 11, 2012 10:11am
I believe if you enquire into the driving phenomenon you will find that it stems from the railways (French Trains are on the left because the British built the original network) and, incidentally many other "small countries" like Japan and Thailand also use the English system.
Fun read though.
May 26, 2012 2:42pm
Shouldn't that be "Period. Amen." ...? Don't get me started on punctuation - how long do you have?
I seem to remember that the monkeys eventually came up with "To be, or not to be, that is the gazornenplatt." Another American euphemism, no doubt.
Brilliant feature and one that presents endless opportunities for debate! I love it.
May 26, 2012 7:20pm
Isn't "Period." redundant and also ungrammatical?

Next,correct me if I'm wrong but don't the Brits say "full stop" instead of "period." In any case, I will answer with your own words, "Das ist mir ganz Würst." Cheers!
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