Life Analogies

It's All How You Look at It

Category: Silliness

Random Linguistic Notes: American vs. English

Meal Terminology

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the whole lunch, tea, dinner, supper terminology. In my family we also call the largest meal of the day ‘dinner,’ hence ‘Thanksgiving dinner,’ ‘Sunday dinner,’ etc. But for the most part this is in the evening. To label your child’s school meal ‘dinner’ seems quite dismal to me. If those foodstuffs that they glopped onto plastic trays were the grandest meal of my day, I’d have concluded that life is a dreary toil at a much younger age than I did.* This would have been especially disheartening on those dreaded days when I forgot to consult the cafeteria calendar and thus came to the horrifying realization that I should have asked Mum to pack me a lunch because it was…

Fish stick day.

Generally this realisation would descend around ten o’ clock when the stench would waft down the school corridors…

D’oh! Forehead slap!

I had no other choice than to relinquish a yellow ticket from my ration book for…that.

In a land whose seafood knows no comparison, the cafeteria factory still cranked out perfectly rectangular prisms of some unidentifiable white mush wrapped in gritty breading. How could they ruin breading, for heaven’s sakes? A wheat product deep fried. What could possibly go wrong there? And yet it did. And does, for that matter. Those fumes still drift across many a primary school campus even to this day.

It wasn’t as though these putrid fish substitutes were tossed out as a token gesture to any Catholics that might’ve gone to my school. If they had been, then there would have been the hope that the polluting odour would have abated over the weekend, rather than tortured us throughout the rest of the school week. No, fish sticks were not served on Fridays and for a good reason. Friday was pizza day. Should the hair netted ladies have ever attempted to dislodge this tradition, there would have been such mutiny that even the BBC would’ve given a passing mention of ‘The Great Uprising at Gladys Wood Elementary School.’

Now, when I say ‘pizza’ let me be clear that this is a purely euphemistic term for the rectangular, floppy things coated with a ‘tomato’ (and I use that word loosely) sauce that likely came from the same recipe as Spaghetti O’s. These were also liberally sprinkled with pepper flavoured rabbit droppings that I imagine were passed off as ‘sausage’ crumbles.

Let me also add that this was to be accompanied by chocolate milk. The one shining day of something beyond white 1%. Nowadays these little knee biters get a choice of white, chocolate, and strawberry every blasted day. (No wonder we are raising up a generation of unappreciative and entitled twits.) If fate beamed down on us especially brightly, the milk cartons would’ve just come off the trucks on that winter’s day and the milk would still have frozen chunks. Ahh…a frosty, chocolate dream.

But speaking of tinned food substitutes, (Yes, I was speaking of it. It is in the second paragraph just above. Spaghetti O’s. Pay attention.), and also continuing the debate over lunch, dinner, tea, and supper…

I must say I was quite shocked to discover that over there, you all can dump a can of Van Camp’s over a piece of toast and call it a proper meal. Really? And you think we’re classless and tasteless? You don’t get any more white trash than that. If you’re going to descend that far, then you ought to round out that ‘meal’ with a nice dish of green gelatine suspending multi-coloured marshmallows. And also possibly a three bean salad. Or at the very least, coleslaw.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking beans n’ ham, but if you are going to serve them, they must be in the triangular wedge of your paper picnic plates that are precariously balancing fried chicken in the larger and more esteemed section. Mash potatoes are in the other smaller wedge, or at least, they were supposed to be, but as you walk over to a lawn chair, much of everything slides dangerously close to the edge and drips on your shoes (or shirt, depending on your luck and girth) and coats that fresh, crispy triangle of watermelon with warm sludge. @#$!

 

West Coast Dialects of American

 

I was raised in the Pacific Northwest which is completely accent free. Anything else is a deviation from proper (albeit sometimes hick) elocution. (Rather like my house has no smell whatsoever, being a perfectly neutral non-smell, whereas most other homes—yours even—have a decided scent.) Over here, we have no accent. (By which I mean that we speak pure, unadulterated American.) Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this fact, so I was exposed to some ‘correction’ during my school days.

I remember the first episode quite clearly that came upon me in kindergarten. My aunt had visited for the week and then flew back to Seattle so I confided in my tablemate that ‘I miss my aunt.’ As I’m sure you have ascertained by now, I did not pronounce this word as you would. Apparently my ‘friend’ (I did rethink this category later), was from another region ‘outside.’ So his reply, rather than being sympathetic, was:

“Oh, you miss your ant? What happened? Did you step on her?”

Mortified, I fell silent and slapped my paper with more of that cold, lumpy, mint scented paste and vowed to never, ever refer to my mother’s sister as an  /ă/nt. No, I now and forever will say /ah/nt, even though the rest of my family considers me affected for doing so.

Others seem to find my pronunciation of ‘route’ as affected and amusing as well. However, I remain firm that it is spoken as ‘root’ like ‘shoot.’ One only has to listen to the extended dance mix of Depeche Mode’s ‘You’re Behind the Wheel’ to know this.**

I was very lovingly corrected in my vocabulary for carbonated beverages and so still call them ‘soda’ despite having returned to the land where these are referred to as ‘pop.’

Did these snobby, Eastern ‘American’ classmates never see the Shasta commercial?

“Don’t give me that so-so-soda, that same old cola!

I wanna a rock and rolla’!

I want a POP!

I wanna…

Shasta!”

I was again mocked by an Eastern transplant. (Remember, when I say ‘Eastern’ I am referring in a blanketed generalization to anyone east of the Mississippi, be it Wisconsin, Chicago, New York, whatever. They’re all the same to me. Judgmental outsiders. With an accent.)

My best friend burst out laughing when he heard my pronunciation of an ‘ag’ word. According to him, ‘bag’ should be pronounced ‘Baa-ug.’ Or something like that. I never could quite replicate it so even to this day I tend to skirt around the whole issue by referring to grocery receptacles as ‘sacks.’ Although this alternative has its risks as well. This was brought to my attention by a colleague who was teaching in a bilingual classroom. He spoke English fluently but he did have a trace of an accent, so one day he appealed to me.

“I was trying to teach my students plural forms of nouns. Could you please tell me…what is the proper way to say the plural form of ‘sack?’  Because whenever I try to say it, to me it sounds too much like…”

I had to admit that if the word was spoken quickly and out of context, it did rather sound like…

As an aside, the aforementioned dilemma was not, in fact, brought to light with the word ‘bag’. It was an entirely different word that began with another consonant and no, I was not asking for a cigarette.

Speaking of which, if an American wishes to sponge off of someone he/she would ‘bum a cigarette’ from a smoker. Yes, yes, stop tittering like a thirteen year old. Although, it would be rather amusing if some Yank decided to be cute and mix his slang.

Ah. So what you’re saying is, you want to ___ a ___?”***

His English companion would choke and splutter.

“Good Heavens! What are you talking about?? Let me make myself clear. I have an intense need for nicotine and I was wondering if you could perhaps help me out.”

 

 

 

 

*Because it is a dreary toil, but children should have the brief illusion that it is otherwise until reality inescapably descends, at say the ripe old age of fifteen.

**English chaps singing, ‘Get your kicks, on route sixty-six.’

***Think about it.

 

Just a Little OCD

*Note: By no means am I attempting to trivialize those who truly suffer from OCD. My tendencies are not incapacitating, they are just…twitchy.

I find the need to buy things in even numbers. I really can buy things in odd numbers, I just prefer not to. Sometimes I grab an odd number of items just to make a point. For example, when stocking up on my weekly supply of Wet Wipes, (I go through almost as many as Monk), I’ll blithely toss a handful of packets into my basket and go strolling along…and feel my feet sliding to a stop.

Well, really, seven is such an untidy number. Let’s make it eight. Oh, what the heck, we may as well make in an even ten.

            That’s not to say that if a store was running low on an item, like say, bottles of Goo Gone, I would look at the three remaining, panic, and drop my basket and drive twenty miles to another store. I would buy the three, but it would bother me. I know. You’d expect me to buy two in that situation, but you see there are so many sticky labels to peel off of all those plastic storage containers. Why do so few manufacturers have those lovely labels that peel off smoothly? Why must so many of them use the sort that deceive you into thinking they’ll peel off cleanly and then halfway through start shredding into annoyingly triangular pieces? Where do they get this adhesive, anyway? If dentists used this substance instead of cement, no one would ever lose a crown.

Of course, odd numbers do have their place, such as in the case of time, which must be measured in increments of five, (obviously ten is preferable.) In such cases, ending a session on a torture device, (otherwise known as an aerobic machine), with fourteen or sixteen minutes would just be unseemly. Much better to end at fifteen if the flesh was too weak to make it to twenty. However, once one steps away from self-flagellation and proceeds to weight machines, then it’s right back to even numbers again. Nothing is quite so galling as making it to the eleventh repetition and then having the muscles start to quiver and

Just a little more…push…almost…there…%$#! I can’t make it to twelve. And there’s certainly no way I can write 11.5 in my workout journal. Argh! I knew I should have ended at ten.

For that matter, the moment one walks through the gym doors numbers become an issue. Mathematical contortions are required in the “simple” act of choosing a mini locker to place ones keys and cellphone. In my case, thirteen is the only correct number. True, thirteen is an exasperating number because not only is it odd, it also has no tidy divisor. However, 13 is my birthday and therefore my “lucky” number. Not that my sort of people ever put anything to luck. No, everything requires careful analysis with pro’s and con’s columns or X vs. Y. When comparing options, it’s best to weight items in importance so that one may total up the columns and see that by 18 to 12, the grey pullover shirt is vastly superior to the navy button down. Success is also gained by making careful to-do lists. Often I’ll realize that I’ve already done something useful and will gleefully write it down just so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. But I digress.

 

Where was I? Oh, right. Lockers. Choosing locker number thirteen isn’t always possible. Occasionally I’m quite affronted to see that someone else has taken my locker.* The only way to remedy this conundrum is of course to use locker 12 or 14, but if hard pressed, 9 is acceptable because 13 has a three in it and 9 is a multiple of three and…Yes. This does actually go through my head every morning and yes, I do realize how completely ridiculous it is.

 

Another exception to the even numbers rule seems to be when checking things, such as how many times one must press the “lock” button on car keys. Answer: Three. One must push the button twice, walk away, doubt oneself and then push the button once more. I’m not sure why. Thrice is odd, but perhaps even I have to admit that pushing it a fourth time would be a bit excessive. When it comes to checking anything typewritten, the answer is: bare minimum, at least five times. In truth, I don’t actually count the number of times I scour every text, email, letter or essay with fine grit sandpaper until I feel fairly sure that there are no splintery to/too/two mix-ups or incorrect there/their/they’re foibles, misspelt words, poor grammar, missing punctuation or missing capitalization. It’s probably much more than five. Yes, I did say texts. I insist that any text I send adhere to all writing conventions. Never fear, I understand that this is not the standard by which you have chosen to live. If you send me a text with the first person typed ‘i’ somehow I will find it in my heart to forgive you, (and politely reply), but I would never, ever dream of committing the same crime myself. For this reason, even if I loved French fries above all else and/or was starving to death, I would never, ever darken the door to McDonald’s. Ronald McDonald’s creepiness was enough to scare me away but the “i’m lovin’ it” ad campaign, to me, signaled the death of our Mother Tongue. And yes, we’re Americans, so we’d already made great headway in brutally massacring the English language. However, the culture of texting ushered in a whole other realm of linguistic atrocities. Still, why bother to email or call when you can text? What, meet up with the person face-to-face? Exhausting. No, much better to type a two paragraph text and edit it five times (or more) to make sure that I won’t wake up at 3 o’ clock in the morning and suddenly realize that I used “further” when I ought to have used “farther.” ((Shudder))

 

But wait, there’s more! Buy this micro-OCD unit now for only $19.99 and free of charge we will throw in sample sized germaphobia! Just call 1-800-248-1632. Hurry, folks! This is a limited time offer!

 

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that I am also a semi-germaphobe. I say “semi” because no true germaphobe would be able to stay in my profession for more than five minutes altogether before having a mental collapse. (Monk would have a panic attack in less than two minutes if he could even see my workplace.) Until I can change to my fantasy career**, I must go through hundreds and hundreds of Wet Wipes. I am most certainly not the sort that takes stock in hand sanitizer. I still cannot fathom why a true purist would find any consolation in this method. Certainly, manufacturers claim that their product kills 99.9% of germs but then you are walking around with germ corpses all over your hands until you can reach the safety of soap and water. And what of the 0.1% surviving? I just know that one of them is rousing the other wounded and battered with the rallying cry, “We shall not admit defeat until we see the suds of doom! Attack!”

Recently, I’ve discovered that I now have to wash my hands before I use the toilet, not only after. Like you, I was once blissfully naïve, but now I cannot escape the thought that I’ve touched many unclean surfaces just on the way to the bathroom and then if I didn’t wash my hands first those evil germs would be all over the no longer hygienic bathroom tissue. Furthermore, one stall bathrooms are to be sought out because then one can also wash one’s hands immediately after flushing and before touching ones trouser buttons or zipper. Do you see what kind of world I live in?

 

Footnotes

 

*Some people even have the audacity to take my parking space, but usually that is the consequence of only being early to work by twenty minutes instead of thirty. It’s very unsettling to not arrive at work an hour early but the gym doesn’t open until five. I cringe at the thought of appearing to be such a slacker and feel the need to explain to my boss that he shouldn’t be proud of me because, no, I haven’t really begun to “lighten up” I’ve just rearranged my schedule.

 

**What’s my dream career? I thought you’d never ask! It’s so obvious that I can’t believe you haven’t already guessed it by now. OF COURSE God really designed me to be one of those personal organizers that swoop into your food pantry and attack it like ravenous pterodactyls, madly ripping away the fat free Ranch dressing you bought three years ago with a 2 for 1 coupon, (upon which you discovered that fat free anything is simply revolting), the cracker (biscuit) box with five semi-crumbled crackers that have been sitting getting stale since some time last Christmas, the instant oatmeal that yes, here I must cover my mouth in horror actually has…well, you know…the gruesome things that find the cereal when they’ve concluded that you are never going to eat it so why should they let it go to waste? After filling several thrilling trash bags, (yes, I did say several—have you looked at your pantry lately?) I would of course proceed to your refrigerator where to my shock/delight I discover an entire shelf of condiments that either have that much left or are beginning to grow fur and/or sinister black spots. There is also the cream that has long since become a solid and orange juice that is now alcoholic. Meanwhile, you are watching me with a mixture of mortification, (you knew it was bad, just not this bad) and growing unease because you’ve never seen me act like this. My eyes are much too dilated and my smile and cries of satisfaction with each item thrown in the trash begin to border on hysterical. But that is because you could never understand how throwing things away is the most exhilarating experience on planet Earth. Forget drugs. Filling garbage bag after garbage bag fills me with such ecstasy that I’m almost pleased that you are such a complete pig. As I haul out the last Hefty you feel a sense of relief, but, my friend, that relief will be quite short-lived.

 

Because we have only begun! Your kitchen has been merely purified of all that is gross and outdated. We haven’t even touched your spice rack! I pause because logically, they ought to be lined up in alphabetical order, but you just couldn’t do anything methodically, could you? Here we have a teeny tiny container of aniseed (who uses that anyway?) and a gargantuan bottle of cinnamon. I could alphabetize them but then I am faced with the dispiriting sight of tall, short, really short, tall, tall, short, short, really short—you couldn’t even manage a pattern, could you? Yet if I place them by height, (Hmm…ought that to be ascending or descending?) you would then have Parsley cheek to jowl with Garlic Salt. P with G? Never! (By the way, do you really need that much garlic salt? I mean weren’t you just complaining last week about your lack of success in the dating arena? Need I point out that there is at least a correlation if not a cause and effect?)

 

You hold your breath (not much of a loss, really, see above) filled with anticipation because you think that faced with this impasse, I’ll either implode on the spot or give up and leave you alone. What? And not earn the exorbitant fee I’m charging you? Yes, I said fee. Yes, I know I’m your friend but this is a business, not a charity. Do you want me to continue or leave your spices in this haphazard disaster? No, of course Parsley and Garlic haven’t defeated me (cough, cough), I have the perfect solution: You must now go out and buy those little stainless steel spice containers that come in, and this is the key here Mr./Ms. Erratic Shopper, uniform shapes and sizes. I think we’d better move on now, or I shall begin to obsess about the need for total uniformity and be tempted to buy containers for everything. Even I can see that would be overkill.

 

Moving on to the rest of your house…

 

Don’t worry too much as we approach your wardrobe. I’m not qualified to be the fashion police. (Hey now, that little comment was uncalled for. Are you really still upset about how much you had to spend at Crate & Barrel?) Call in Stacy London or Clinton Kelly if you are a complete masochist or just stick with me and edit your closet based on how long it’s been since you wore it last. Anything over a year and you’d better have a pretty good explanation my friend. Otherwise, it’s Goodwill City or Bust. (Yes, of course you may keep those relaxed fit jeans. I know it’s been two years since you were last seen in public wearing them. Nevertheless, we must all cling to the dying hope that someday this hideous blight called “skinny jeans” will have ended. Pray.) Once we have pared it down it will be a snap for me to classify each article. For example: Kingdom: Clothing, Phylum: Tops, Class: Shirts, Order: Summer Wear, Family: Short Sleeves with Collars, Genus: Polo shirts, Species: Navy Blue. I know it looks a bit daunting at first, but I will tack this Clothing Taxonomy Table to the door of your closet/wardrobe for reference. I’m sure you will soon find getting dressed for work or pleasure an efficient and effective process. (What? Ha! No, I’m not going to iron them for you! I don’t care about perfection that much.)

 

Hurry up, because it’s nearly four and we haven’t even touched your office ye…Oh, my goodness. I will have to cancel my appointment with tomorrow’s client. And perhaps the day after. Good thing you just got paid, eh?

 

Further Reading and Viewing

(Yes, “further” not “farther.” I checked.)

 

26 Struggles That All Germaphobes Will Understand

Because the world is a filthy, filthy place.

By Adam Davis Buzzfeed Staff

 

Monk, the Television Series

 

“My OCD” Song, by Rhett and Link (Youtube it. Hilarious.)

 

The British Guide to Understanding the Western American

*Note: I wrote the following in response to the general consensus one finds out there in cyberspace: Other People Hate Americans.

I found this out (well, all of us know it already, but more details were brought to home), when I was double checking certain slang terms or alternate words that the Brits use. (More specifically the English.) Of course this was all due to “research/fact checking” for the story I was writing. They say you’re supposed to write about what you know and the setting (that ghastly post-Communistic country I referred to before) is well known to me as are the particular quirks of the American main character, (Yes, yes, all right. It is me, but a much better me who didn’t screw up her life.) However, other things are somewhat out of my sphere of experiential knowledge. I don’t think it really counts to have read every Angela Thirkell, D.E. Stevenson, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Paddington…All right, all right. Stop sighing and rolling your eyes. I really wasn’t trying to show off.

ANYWAY the other main character is English. He just is. If you insist on asking me why, I would give you this vague “bleh” response about an alternative sort of person and wistful thinking that living with a slightly emotionally repressed person from a culture that has a distaste for dramatic scenes sounds…refreshing. Peaceful.

Since this person is so dear to me, it stung a little bit to read the nearly infinite amount of vitriol about all the annoying things we do, including talking too loudly, being nosey, being “too polite” (?) to customers and pronouncing all the rrrrrrrrrrrr’s in words, etc.

Yes, all right, it hurt my pathetic little feelings. There, I admitted it. Are you happy now? Like everything else that hurts or angers me, it festers for a little while and then my mind turns it into an analogy (well obviously), sort of like an oyster makes smooth layers over an uncomfortable grain of sand. Sorry, I wasn’t meaning to imply that my blather is as precious as a pearl. However, it does set it up in case you decide to make fun of me because then I can say, “Well, then I suppose I shouldn’t cast my pearls before swine, should I? And now I am going to take all of my toys and go home. So there.”

Speaking of pathetic feelings, that is a perfect segue into my piece…

 

 

 

The British Guide to Understanding the Western American

 

As you’ve often suspected, the key to unraveling our makeup (assuming you actually want to), is to know this: We have an incessant need to be liked. Yes, I admit it. It’s pathetic, but it’s there. Sure, in 1776 we told Mom to step off, declared, “I am SO outta here!” and stomped out the door. We’re rather proud that we made something of ourselves. We should be. It didn’t come easily. There were quite a few years of living in crappy apartments (yes, flats) and slurping Ramen Noodles, but we worked our way up the ladder to being a World Power with that good ol’ American grit and spirit. And yet…

 

Like every child we still keep sneaking looks over our shoulders hoping we will get a glimpse of Mom’s approval. We can’t help it. It would be so much simpler if our parental unit had been, say, France. I mean, who would care about rejection from those snooty snail-eating Frogs that produced the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and yet still can’t seem to discover the wonders of daily showering and deodorant? It would almost be too easy.

 

What stings is the rejection of our siblings. Now we realize Canada thinks he’s better than us. Really? Our little brother—that vinegar on chips eating squirt that says “eh?” almost as much as we say “like”—looks down on us? He probably just wants to rub it in our faces that Mom likes him better. Still, her favoritism may be because his departure wasn’t so “in your face.” He just quietly moved out and went away to college, (Yes, university. You know what we mean.)

 

But what really wounds us is Australia. “B-but you’re the same as us! You were also just boatloads of ‘dregs’ from other countries that conquered an untamed continent. You even have cowboys and speak with a drawl and everything! Fine then. Who cares what you think? You have animals that can’t make up their minds if they’re proper mammals or not. Besides, you celebrate Christmas in summer and that’s just stupid.”

 

To ourselves: “Dagnabbit! That was a lame comeback. We won’t think of a better one until 3 o’ clock in the morning. Screw it. We’re gonna go hang out with Mexico. He still thinks we’re cool. In fact, he wants to be just like us.”

 

Our desperate need for approval leads to our inability to fathom the British love for self-deprecating humor. Sure, we get it. Some of us even do it—but not for very long. We’re so busy protecting our fragile self-esteems that whenever anyone within earshot diss’es him/herself, we feel obligated to say something nice. (*Lying is honorable in this context.) So after a while of listening to you rip yourselves up one side and down the other, it gets a bit tiresome. To us, it sounds like fishing for compliments. You begin to resemble that insecure girlfriend that pesters her boyfriend incessantly for reassurances that he loves her, she doesn’t look fat in that outfit, if she should get in an accident and be horribly disfigured she would still be the most beautiful woman on Earth, etc.

 

What surprises us is your inability to believe that our friendliness is genuine. You’re so busy being cleverly ironic that when we say please and thank you and sir and ma’am you think we’re being snotty. Aw, shucks. Y’all are so cynical. We generally save our sarcasm as a defense mechanism for rejection so outwardly we look cool while our inner child curls up in the fetal position.

 

Example:

 

“Well that’s a pile of crap.”

“Hmm…I’m sorry. You seem to have mistaken me for someone who gives a rodent’s rear end what you think.”

 

Or

 

“Way to go there, Sparky.”

“Yeah, well, if I wanted your opinion I’d have beaten it out of you.”

 

That’s how we are in the West, anyway. I suppose out East they are generally sarcastic and rude all the time. And when I say “East” I mean New York, Boston, Chicago, basically anything east of the Mississippi. (Skipping over that boring bit in the middle, of course. We always do. I mean, thanks for the breakfast cereal and all that, but actually visit those salt-of-the-earth people? Nooo.)

 

Not having lived in that urban blighted sector of my country I can’t really speak for those easterners. However, I’m going to go ahead and make a sweeping generalization about them anyway based on those that unfortunately find their way out here only to inflict their loud, rude and argumentative personalities upon us and to drone on and on about how everything back East is better.

 

Them: “Blah, blah, blah, pizza, blah, blah, blah, hotdogs, blah, blah, blah baseball.”

Us: “Really? Now that IS interesting. You know, out here we have these nifty things called airports. Perhaps I could point you in the way of the nearest one?”

 

Now THAT my friend, is Western sarcasm.

 

 

 

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