American, English

American, English

Something I have often experienced with a few people in the UK is that they can become a bit tetchy when it comes to the “Americanisation” of the English language. Yes Americans believe it or not, it really does bother some people that much. I may be simplifying the problem, but I think according to them troubled Brits, your exportation of TV, music and movies (or films in British) to us quaint folk is the reason that we do not speak like we belong in a Shakespeare play anymore. Hang your heads in shame, “more of your conversation would infect my brain.” (A bit of Will for you there).

Well for the sake of Anglo-English relations, I thought I should weigh in with my own experiences while in the US. Here are my results;

The Americanisation of Road Safety

Obviously driving is an important thing to get right. Just when I panic and shout “oh my God, we are on the wrong side of the road, I’m going to crash and die!,” I must remember that it is ok, they have chosen to drive on this side. As long as your steering wheel is not closer to the pavement than the road then I am ok.

But wait, an important lingo thing to get right here is what is meant by the words ‘pavement’ and ‘road.’ It seems that these words do not necessarily mean the same thing to our two countries, as I found out when Todd told me “to just drive along the pavement until you get to the traffic lights.” Yikes, I thought, you seem to be instructing me to cause carnage in your own neighbourhood. Well to my relief he actually he wasn’t. To him a ‘pavement’ is the ‘road,’ whereas I understood a ‘pavement’ to be what he calls a ‘sidewalk.’ I don’t think the word ‘road’ has become obsolete though.

Another word issue arose when I was asked to go and fill up the vehicle with “gas.” I believe this to be a sophisticated level of mind games by the Americans here, for in fact it is the liquid which we pour into our cars (sorry, automobiles) which they call ‘gas.’ Try to work that one out.

The Americanisation of Cuisine

Misunderstandings when it comes to food is a constant hazard where I must remain vigilant. I say this because today I was offered biscuits and gravy. Apparently this is a real American treat. However to my british mind this does not sound like a treat, it sounds pretty disgusting, and all my imagination can conjure is an image of digestives covered in bisto.

For info, digestives are a sweet-meal biscuit, I do not believe they aid digestion any more than any other normal cookie, but I stand to be corrected. While Bisto is a type of gravy to have with meat and vegetables, it is very tasty, but does not belong on biscuits or cookies. The problem for me here is us British people think a biscuit is what an American would call a cookie and a cookie in the UK is called….well that is still called a cookie too. In truth I really do not know how we Brits differentiate between a biscuit and a cookie. If anybody does know please feel free to fill me in. The American biscuit that was offered to me was actually made with soft dough and the gravy is a white flour gravy.

I have also found that croissants in the local supermarket do not come served as I have been used to. Over here they can be found in the refrigerator section prepared with sausage, egg and cheese awaiting to be heated and served. To be honest I think it is best we do not tell the French about this, I don’t think we want them to feel any distain for the US.

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nom nom nom

Shopping for vegetables also require some tricky word substitutions to avoid blank looks and confused stares;

  • Coriander is called cilantro, this sounds quite agreeable.
  • A courgette is called a zucchini, this perhaps sounds preferable.
  • An aubergine however is called an eggplant, this sounds repulsive.

So Should People Worry About Americanisation?

Well in my opinion the short answer for this is no. This is because life is too short, and you can do nothing about it anyway, even if you do care. But it can be a source of great amusement, to compare our differences. So that is that.

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Hello Seattle, I’m Listening

Well, if you have not worked it out from my title, I am a big fan of Frasier. Not a crazy obsessive fan I hasten to add, but myself and Sacha do have the box sets and each episode has been viewed on more than one occasion.

So for the unacquainted, what is it about? In a nutshell Frasier is a US sitcom set in the city of Seattle which is based around the escapades of two pretentious yet well meaning brothers, Frasier and Niles Crane, their down to earth father, Marty, plus several other cast members including a dog named Eddie. Most evenings before bed I enjoy tuning in to an episode or two, where their peculiar and competitive obsessions for status recognition  lead to shenanigans with hilarity and a hint of mirth. So now that we are in Washington it would seem to be a missed opportunity if we did not go and explore the Emerald City for ourselves and discover Frasier’s territory.

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This is Frasier’s Territory Isn’t It?

OK well I suppose it is time to break the news. Stop reading this post if you wish to continue viewing the show in blissful ignorance, but the truth is Frasier was not filmed in Seattle. In fact there was only one episode which was filmed in Seattle, which was called ‘The 1000th Show.’ Even on this show the only location I could really pinpoint would be the Space Needle. So facing facts this means;

  • There is no Cafe Nervosa
  • KACL is not a radio station in Seattle
  • There is no Elliot Bay Towers where Fraiser’s apartment was based
  • And all the people in the show are actors pretending to be real people, I want to cry.

Actually when you come to think about it, there are very few Seattle locations referenced throughout the eleven seasons. There is in fact very little time that the show is not set in an indoor location, and when there was an outdoor location it was always in a nondescript location generally filmed in Los Angeles, not as I had believed, Seattle. I truly hope I can watch the show again and not feel that the lies taint my enjoyment.

So, what does Seattle have then? “An excellent symphony and world-class dining” and oh my god I am quoting Niles Crane, enough already.

 

The World-Class Dining

Actually I cannot vouch for the symphony but our experience of the cuisine was indeed first Class. We started our culinary adventure on 4th Avenue at a mediterranean restaurant called Lola, where we stopped for brunch. The food was great. Sacha ordered lamb kebabs and I beef kebabs. There could not have been a better start to our visit.

Later that day we booked ourselves into a seaside restaurant set on pier 56 called Elliot’s Oyster Bar. Sacha, who is crazy about Oysters, was in her element as she ordered six oysters for us to share, and then proceeded to order another six from the amused waiter. For me, however, the highlight was the main courses. Sacha had crab marinated in sweet chilli sauce and I had blackened rockfish cooked in creamed beluga lentils. It may be some of the best food I have ever tasted. Definitely put this place in your itinerary for a visit to Seattle.

 

Pike Place Market

When most people think about this place they probably imagine the fish sellers flinging the customers orders to each other across the market place. I didn’t in fact see this, I think  to initiate the process people have to actually buy the fish rather then stand around with cameras just waiting for the action to unfold. I wasn’t willing to purchase or wait, but the sellers chanting to the customers was entertaining and gave the market a great atmosphere.

There are in fact a lot of stalls at the market place and you can easily pass a couple of hours wondering these. Most entertaining to us was a man who was charging $1 to sit with people’s dogs while they entered some of the shops and stalls. The man, who I may be unfairly guessing was out of employment but was at least was showing some slight entrepreneurship to get his dollar, had the dog on his lap, and it couldn’t have looked any happier to have a new friend.

 

The Space Needle

Pictures describe the views from this much better than words. We went up at about 4pm and it was not at all crowded with tourists. At the top you could take in the view from inside the observation deck or walk on the platform outside to get a better picture. The platform gives you a chance to see the city from all angles, as you see the yachts at the Elliot Bay harbour, downtown Seattle and I could just make the outline of Mount Rainer which stands large over the city.

 

 Good Night Seattle…

So obviously we didn’t go and discover Fraiser and Niles’ haunts, but what we did discover Seattle. We saw the markets, the views and the homeless and the wealthy. It is a great city to visit and as Fraisier says, ” we love ya.”

 

 

 

 

Into Washington State

So my immigration papers are in order now and we are on our way from Vancouver to the American border to enter Washington. We had little problems at the border, I just had to buy a piece of green paper for $6.50, get a nice stamp in my passport and we were allowed into the USA. The landscape was quite flat and very rural, with many of the local enterprises geared towards farmers. In particular there is an abundance of cherry farms and vineyards and the farmers often come in the form of tobacco chewing, gun belt wearing, rootin’ and/or tootin’ cowboys.

Windmill Town

Within half an hour we arrived at our destination, Lynden. This is a town originally founded by Dutch settlers. To prove this is so, they have built windmills and placed windmill iconography all around the town.

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Downtown Lynden

The community which Anna and Todd reside in sits on the outskirts of town, nearby fields and surrounded by spectacular snowcapped mountains which cover the horizon. Interestingly the estate only allows the residents to be over the age of 50. There is also a club house with facilities such as widescreen TV, kitchen, pool table, exercise bike, treadmill and much more.

This got Sacha thinking and she enquired, “is this place assisted living?”

“No we don’t live in assisted living” replied Todd and Anna in tandem.

“Really? it sounds like assisted living to me” continued Sacha.

“No, don’t be crazy we are not old people, we do not need to be assisted to live.”

“Why do you live in an old peoples’ place then?”

They are not all that old, and they live by themselves, the cleaner only comes around once every fortnight”

“You have a cleaner?!”

Pancakes and Crunchy Ravioli

The food I have had here so far has been amazing…wait…let me qualify that,… I am amazed at the food I have had here so far.

The first morning Sacha told me that we must go have breakfast at IHOP (International House Of Pancakes), as they do on TV, apparently. Well on route to Bellingham to have our first American breakfast Sacha was listing to me all the possibilities of toppings for pancakes and the array of sauces that I was about to enjoy. However, once we reached the establishment and were seated, we peered at the menu, (which had nice pictures of all their delicacies I may add), we saw that each option had a calorie count. We stared blankly at the menu looking through each option one by one, then around the room to look at what the locals were eating.

From what I could tell the calorie count is used by locals as a sort of point scoring system. Possibly the more points that a person gets, the more local they are? Well if that was the case the old man to our right eating a comedy styled cream pie was the clear winner, and most local by far with 2000+ points. I doff my cap sir.

For our next experience of dinning out, we decided to go european and elected for some Italian fare. So back to Bellingham we went to the local Italian restaurant.

Again we had a calorie count on the menu, and again we proved we were not locals by any means. However this is not what stuck out in my mind. What clings to my memory (and probably my colon) was our starter.

We went with the ravioli and calamari option. It seemed an unconventional combo, but I am no food snob. Having said that I was not prepared for the deep-fried food that was landed on our table. Yes, OK , calamari should be deep-fried, this is correct, this is good, just how all squid should be served in my opinion. Deep-fried ravioli however,…well I’m guessing that this delicacy was not inspired from mama’s kitchen in some quaint sun-drenched village sat on the outskirts of Bologna, brought over to America perhaps by an immigrant farmer who dreamt of introducing his Italian culture to the States where he could make a big buck. This does seem unlikely.

So as I crunched on my ravioli I sat wondering how my spaghetti Bolognese was going to be presented.

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Crunchy ravioli, mama mia!