Friday, August 02, 2013

The common does not unite us

While it is not the Americans I know, Americans' knowledge of world geography is legendarily bad. I heard one explanation being that Americans only get two weeks of holidays each year and so don't travel much. Nonsense. You learn geography and about the world at school. Well we do, or used to at least. As an adult, you want to learn a bit about the world, and if you are fighting to impose your form of democracy in a foreign country, surely you want to know where it is located.

I got lost in the world of You Tube once again and I looked at a video of an American guy talking in different American accents. There are some 30 named accents, it would seem. We Australians could not distinguish too many. But when I heard the Californian accent, I immediately thought that is how private school girls on the tram talk. Not so much the sounds, but the words and expressions.

I rather like the Southern States drawl and the Brooklyn Jewish accent.

Then I saw the hottest guy discussing the different words for the same thing that Australians and Americans use.

Eventually I ended my You Tube American v England viewing back in Australia with a clip from an old Chaser episode. It is only slightly amusing, rather than hilarious, and mercifully brief.


31 comments:

  1. That was cringe worthy Andrew. Amusing but too close to the truth! I remember my first day at work in the US and a lady asked me where I was from. I told her I was from Scotland and she had no clue. After about 10 minutes with visual aids she yelled "oh I've got it, you're English"!
    I rest my case.

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    1. Craig, The Chaser team specialise in cringe. How could anyone not know where Scotland is, even roughly where it is?

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  2. My oldest grandchildren were in Grades 5 and 3 in Melbourne, before leaving for California for two years. Their school over there is a good one, and their English and especially maths are at the same level as our school children are at. But they do NO world history and NO world geography!

    Re travelling, you are so right. 80% of Australians have passports while 15% of Americans have passports. But it not be just because of their short holidays. It may be because they can see everything they want to see _inside the USA_ and don't see any need to go to other countries.

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    1. No world history and no geography, Hels. Disturbing. So there will be another generation at least. Lucky they have you to give them some world education.

      That point about the US travel is often made and for scenery it certainly rings true. Even though there are cultural and ethnic enclaves in the US, there is nothing like actually visiting a country.

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  3. "Glow Caster Road" is only funny if you have not heard a Sydney person cope with 'Prahran'.
    I can never understand how the dopey people have not picked up all the massive information of TV and movies.
    "oh you're from AWStralia - do they speak Spanish down there?"
    I do enjoy The Closer on TV and watched it at least 5 times before I understood a word of Miz Brenda-Lees' accent. In the movie Mickey Blue eyes there is a scene where James Caan teaches Hugh Grant to speak like a gangster (it's the only part I've seen actually).

    David Tennants Scots accent is not like Billy Connollys Glasgow one, and rich Scots don't sound Scottish at all.
    The POMs refer to received pronunciation or 'RP' which is nothing like anyone in Shameless.
    Back here though, I am sorry to say there is a distinct Adelaide accent, and a Queensland accent too, and I don't sound a bit like a bogan or like a Summer Heights J'amee, and Andrew you don't sound like Chopper*Read or like Eddie McGuire either.

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    1. Ann, they missed the children's poem, Doctor Foster went to Gloucester...

      I forgive any overseas mispronunciation of Australia when so many Australians say Austraya.

      We had an educated Scottish female friend who had very little and never had much of a Scottish accent. She was a delight to listen to. She had a male Scottish friend who we met a couple of times who was unintelligible to me and pretty much even to R. I think Glaswegian is pretty full on. Craig?

      I wonder if our state accents will disappear in time?

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    2. Yes Andrew, Glaswegian is very full on. It's harsh and I struggle with it. But then you already know that I'm a fake Scot as I have an English accent! Edinburgh is much easier with a gentler lilting tone. Don't get me going on your ex PM's accent. Julia could clear a room at 30 paces in my opinion!

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    3. Craig, perhaps pleased we are visiting Edinburgh then. Gillard has a very odd voice/accent and it is not pleasant to the ears at all.

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  4. I been to America and while I really enjoyed my time there, I found what you say is true they are sure they are the centre of the world and knowledge of the rest of the world is not needed.
    They do have less holidays, we have a friend that comes to visit us but has to save two years holidays to made it worthwhile.
    Merle...........

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    1. Merle, I cannot bear to think of only two weeks holiday a year. What sort of life is that. I suppose if you can save it up, that helps for travelling, but such long periods without a break.

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  5. General knowledge has nothing to do with payed holidays ! The worst I ever heard was a guy who asked me what language is spoken in London !!! Fortunately there are also exceptions there are also very cultivated Americans, except the previous G.W. Bush who was a specialist in Geography ! He mixed all countries up and often didn't know where he actually was, only that it wasn't in Texas !

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    1. Gattina, GWB was indeed hopeless. How he was president for two terms, I do not know. In my experience, the language spoken in London is Polish, haha.

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  6. One of the most tragic moments on film after 9/11 was a woman in tears running for her life and asking "why us? what have we done to them?"

    Not that we can claim any kind of moral high ground - but at least we have no excuse for not knowing we are part of a military machine happy to kill innocent civilians with drones etc etc.

    On a brighter note, one of the funniest nights of my life was listening to a Billy Connelly record, half a dozen of us staring hopefully at the Glaswegian in the room ... but she couldn't understand a word he was saying either.

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    1. FC, indeed. We went all the way with LBJ and have continued to do so, against the interests of our country.

      Given you say record, it must have a long time ago. Connelly must have modified his accent as I can understand him well enough. In fact, his diction is quite good. Funny story though.

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  7. I'm terrible at picking accents. All I really know is what I hear on TV, English is English American could be from any one of the states, French I can sometimes pick and Scottish too, but not always. I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as I can understand them and they can understand me.

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    1. River, what about New Zealand? An person not born in Australia at work asked me about the difference as they sounded like Australians to him. I mentioned a couple of give away words. Apparently the word about when said by Canadians is very different to the way Americans say, but I have not picked that up and I can't tell between the two.

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    2. I have mistakenly asked a Kiwi if they were Australian before which horrified both me and them. I'm usually OK at picking out their flat vowels. I can usually tell a Canadian from an American except if the US person is from say one of the Dakotas or Minnesota in which case they almost sound Canadian.

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    3. Craig, fish and chips are the give away words for New Zealanders, which rather relates back to your previous post. I tried to type it phonetically but I can't.

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    4. fush and chups surely? :)

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    5. Andrew - you haven't mentioned sex; or should I say six?

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    6. Near enough Craig.

      Victor, sucks?

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  8. I agree with you and Hels, that not learning any world history or geography is disturbing. I always said I didn't know much geography and that didn't matter because I was never going anywhere outside of Australia, but at least I know where most other countries are, and even though I repeatedly say I don't need to see the rest of the world, we all know I'm lying, because if I had the means (lotto win, cross fingers) I'd be all over the world, to wherever English is spoken. But maybe not Bali.

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    1. River, being able to nearly get it right is good enough. Just the general area is not asking too much. Good luck with Lotto. I've heard Balinese men can do excellent massages on older and aching bones.

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  9. I'll avoid Bali in case they discover my aspirin or panadol and lock me away for the rest of my natural life.

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  10. Ah, that video made me laugh - welcome to my world. Many Japanese people panic when a foreigner speaks to them and they'll say over and over 'I don't speak English'. They say this even when you're speaking in Japanese! I don't know how they manage to miss what language is being spoken - I guess in their mind, a foreigner only speaks a foreign language.

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    1. That's really funny Wombat. Do you have the Japanese phrase perfect, I am speaking Japanese you stupid.....

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  11. OMG that was totally hilarious! I have met a few American couples on holiday in Egypt and Europe and they've been very well traveled and knowledgable so I guess there are exceptions Andrew..I'm just off to show Aimee this video, she needs cheering up tonight !!

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    1. Grace, one's I know mainly from the net certainly have a world outlook, but they do seem to be exception. Poor Aimee. Hope everything will be ok.

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  12. Ah yes. But it's worse than that. Many Merkins don't know their own country very well either. When I worked in the US I spent roughly equal time in Boston and San Francisco. The Californians I met were pretty insular, even with "college degrees" they seemed to have limited general knowledge. On several occasions I found I knew more about the States than my interlocutor did. Boston however was more cosmopolitan, and eclectic.

    That said, I was once enjoying the spa at a favourite resort north of Cairns, chatting with the other spa-tans. One chap kept himself to himself and only joined the conversation when addressed directly. He opened up and launched into "Henry Higgins" mode! He was from New York and a professor of linguistics. He proceded to tell each of the people in the spa their own history. Everyone was slightly amazed. But I was gobsmacked. He picked the fact that I had lived in SA, NSW and Victoria, and was no longer living in Adelaide - all from accent and word usage - not from the conversations.

    Spooky.

    Cheers, Polomint

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    1. Polo, maybe Australian's are less knowledgeable than I think they are. I have heard Bostonians are very outward looking. It always sounded like a very civilised place to me.

      Your Professor Higgins sounds amazing and it is interesting that you picked up language nuances in each place you lived.

      We too have stayed at a resort north of Cairns a couple of times. I don't recall much conversation in the spa.

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