Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two Nations

I was watching an English tv show about the restoration of neo gothic house. The presenter was Caroline Quentin, a great English actor and she does a fair job of hosting of the show. It struck me how different England is to America. The clothes, the hair, the teeth, the makeup, obviously the accents but even the body language and the way people move. Interestingly, the male house owner on the show had no discernible accent. He did not pronounce cooker in that certain English way. He sounded like a perfect English speaker to my ears. There used to be a quite neutral accent that was described as mid Atlantic. I am not really sure what it sounded like, but perhaps that was his accent.

Australia sits somewhere in between the two, taking the best and worst from both but also adding our own touch with what has been described as larrikinsism and a sense of a fair go for all. We accuse ourselves of becoming more selfish, and we probably are. Our integration of migrants has been exceptionally successful, but I am not sure that is happening now. Our most recent African and Middle Eastern immigrants over the last decade seem not to be fitting into Australia well, which is unusual for this country of predominantly immigrants.

But back to Great Britain and America, I heard the most wonderful quote comparing the two and I can't recall where, but it was along these lines, 'two nations divided by a common language'. Yes, the language is vaguely similar, but almost everything within the two countries is different.

18 comments:

  1. English people are different from others European nations probably because for centuries the live on the island and their contact with Europe in the past was limited.In America the culture is different, customs and habits. But definitely the language is the same.Andrew, So you are right.

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    1. Gosia, there was also the English feeling of superiority over Euro nations, and it is still there, although I don't think they have any reason to feel superior to some Euro nations.

      Some of the differences between English English and American English can be because Americans are still using some English from when they first arrived from England and it has never changed.

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  2. Divided by a puportedly common language anyway. And yes, I believe it is true.

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    1. EC, it is a good line though, hey.

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  3. You can't compare Americans to British people their culture is completely different and the American accents are so different from State to State. The best American English is spoken in Boston, when you come to Texas they are hard to understand. Australian English sounds very much to the English/English in my ears ! I have no problem with understanding.

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    1. Gattina, funnily I was telling R about Boston English yesterday. Americans certainly seem to think we sound English, but they generally only meet people who speak reasonably well. Broad Australian puzzles them.

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  4. The waiter asked me today if I wanted ketch-up with dinner. I was beyond annoyed :(

    I said first of all I don't know what ketch-up is. And even if I did know what it was, I would still not want an ugly plastic bottle on my white linen table cloth THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

    *sigh* we must fight to retain our British heritage. Otherwise we will have soon bad language, plastic bottles on our linen tableclothes and then guns :(

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    1. Hels, I am with you. I don't actually know what ketchup is, apart from it being similar to tomato sauce, but not the same, or maybe it is. Surely a plastic bottle would not have been brought to your table.

      I think we failed on the bad language front before we even noticed.

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  5. Hello Andrew,

    Divided by a common language most certainly.

    We have generally found groups of Americans beyond tricky to deal with whereas individually they have proved to be charming. Perhaps this can be said for all nations?

    As a very general rule if one places an 'r' in words where it does not exist, it does manage to produce something close to the Queen's English. Nancy Mitford's 'Noblesse Oblige' is the perfect guide to understanding the English we believe!

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    1. JayLa, I recall an instance in Japan where a group of Americans completely spoiled nature. But then I also recall some Germans in Thailand who behaved very badly. Australians have a reputation as being obnoxious travellers, but I have not seen that myself.

      I once saw a You Tube video explaining the difference in the way Americans say words, compared to English pronunciations and that very point about the r was made.

      I was a huge Mitford sisters fan in the eighties but I have not read Noblesse Oblige. The last book read by me was the disturbing one by Jessica about the American funeral industry. I forget her title, but I wonder if Deb is still alive in that beautiful English house that at times is open to the public. Duchess of Devonshire was she? I can't remember now.

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  6. In the words of Professor Henry Higgins, 'the Americans haven't spoken English for years'

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    1. Well recalled, Victor.

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  7. I speak the sort of Australian a half deaf person learns. If you can't understand me I'll be happy to write it down for you.
    English is a weird language anyway, not at all straightforward.

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    1. I don't understand River. Yes, English is a very weird language.

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  8. I love the quote about two nations divided by a common language. The English-speakers where we now live don't speak our English. As a matter of fact, they don't think we speak English at all (and they may be right). Makes for some entertaining confusion.

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  9. Mitchell, I suppose they speak a more English English than you were brought up with. But I am sure you are quite good at tuning into English of many countries. Strangely to me, the brevity and repetition of simple foreign English seems to work well. It is all about the repetition of a phrase.

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  10. Ha ha, that show - Brits with far too much money and not a lot of sense!!

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    1. That's the one Fen. Who knows where their money comes from.

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