A foreign language

Americans! They’re a weird mob, right? I watched a US shopping program about some “total floor sanitising technology” which apparently meant “mop”. The presenters with verb names (Buzz, Chase and Wade) were demonstrating the mop before a live audience who kept breaking into applause and whooping with excitement.

It was behavior that would get you certified as mad in any other country.

The mop was a “bulletproof” solution to grubby floors, an example of how gun culture permeates US speech. In Australia we have Covid jabs. In the US they have shots. Photographers don’t go on an assignment, they go on a shoot.

But US culture leaks into the world via the media, so even here we’re “under the gun”, we “sweat bullets”, we take a “shot in the dark”, tell jokes that “misfire”, and when we have ideas that are “shot down” we “stick to our guns”.

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw pointed out that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language!”

In fact there’s a bunch of words and phrases which are particularly American: “bunch” is one of them.
The very English John Cleese struggled to keep a stiff upper lip when his American Python colleague, Terry Gilliam, suggested boiling up a “bunch of water” to make tea.

But aside from their bellicose gun-centric phraseology (and despite their vaunted ‘free speech’) it’s what Americans don’t say that is equally fascinating. “Merry Christmas” becomes “Happy Holidays” to assuage the various faith diaspora. They use bathrooms to avoid the shame of having to refer to a toilet. On a related note, politicians and other grifters are accused of talking a load of “BS”.

Comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have complained that the PC brigade in the US had made it impossible to tell edgy jokes, particularly on college campuses, lest anyone be offended.

A surplus of wokeness and a fear of cancel culture has caused a nebulous anxiety, as well as many “unfunny TV shows”, says Rock. “Everybody’s scared to make a move”.

Or maybe someone just shouted “Freeze!”.