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Author Topic: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?  (Read 25196 times)

Offline Arry

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Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« on: November 07, 2013, 05:50:56 PM »
OK, I see comments like this often and I have been curious, but honestly afraid to ask, likely because I'm American. Maybe because the posters here are largely from the UK and I'm afraid I'll be showing my cultural naivety (perhaps being very American in the process). But I often see things referred to as very british or very american, and quite honestly I am never real sure what to make of it.

Anyone feel like enlightening me?  :D
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2013, 05:59:01 PM »
I think it's term of words used for example I read a book where the character said bangs ( something to do with hair?) i had no idea what that was first time i read it haha  :) or maybe words used like color/colour honor/honour also got confused with the word fender I worked that one out eventually  :)

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/british-and-american-terms

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« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 06:05:53 PM by Eclipse »
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2013, 06:07:14 PM »
I think it was me who said it - funnily enough, I'm neither by birth, although I do live in the UK and feel british by heart.

Ooooh how can I explain this?
I think the easiest is that when I say something (in this case, a book) is very *insert nationality here*, I mean that it draws on all the wrong stereotypes of that nationality (probably mine!), or relies on something that is very much ingrained in that nationality.

I said 'too american' about American Gods and also about The Long Earth, and for me it was about landscape (long straight roads, desert, large empty spaces), about normal american stuff that I don't get (diners, food, guns), about attitude (I own the place that hasn't been reclaimed).

Don't get me wrong, I work with loads of americans and I think there's hardly any that fall into the stereotype, but it's this idea that I have.
In the future, I will try to be more specific about what I do and don't like about something, without relying on this generalisation.
:)
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Offline Arry

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2013, 06:22:04 PM »
I think it's term of words used for example I read a book where the character said bangs ( something to do with hair?) i had no idea what that was first time i read it haha  :)or maybe words used like color/colour

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/british-and-american-terms

See ... that I get. I have learned many of the differences in words like you said (bangs here is fringe there), and so that doesn't bother me at all.  The spelling differences to me seem trivial, I can't imagine complaining about a book because it.

So, I have gotten the impression that it can also mean more than just cultural differences in spelling or words, like there is a difference in style, tone or humor. (note, my lack of u in humor ;) ). I know when I have not cared for a book (written by a british author) I got a response of "well, it is very british". As if I didn't care for it because, as an Amercian, I am unlikely to get it. I have no idea what to make of that.



I think it was me who said it - funnily enough, I'm neither by birth, although I do live in the UK and feel british by heart.
Ha ... no worries! I have thought of posting something like this so many times since joining the forum. Today, I guess I finally got the nerve to do so. Maybe because you don't seem like the type to flame me for asking :)

Quote
Ooooh how can I explain this?
I think the easiest is that when I say something (in this case, a book) is very *insert nationality here*, I mean that it draws on all the wrong stereotypes of that nationality (probably mine!), or relies on something that is very much ingrained in that nationality.

I said 'too american' about American Gods and also about The Long Earth, and for me it was about landscape (long straight roads, desert, large empty spaces), about normal american stuff that I don't get (diners, food, guns), about attitude (I own the place that hasn't been reclaimed).
American Gods actually got on my nerves with all of the references to specific cultural nuances throughout America. He definitely dropped many regional brands, names, traditions that got a bit tiring.

Quote
In the future, I will try to be more specific about what I do and don't like about something, without relying on this generalisation.
:)


Seriously, no worries about your comments at all. I have just been very curious what people meant by it.
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Offline Arry

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2013, 06:24:14 PM »
Do you know what a zebra crossing is ? hehe

I do now ... thanks to my good pal Google ;)
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2013, 07:55:57 PM »

I said 'too american' about American Gods and also about The Long Earth, and for me it was about landscape (long straight roads, desert, large empty spaces), about normal american stuff that I don't get (diners, food, guns), about attitude (I own the place that hasn't been reclaimed).


That's interesting. The long, straight roads isn't something I would have thought of as more American, but it's very true in some places. (That stretch between Reno, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah comes to mind. No, correction. The entire state of Nevada comes to mind.)

Desert is more a south west thing, and with Westerns being fairly prevalent at different points in time I can see why that would be considered American. The Large Empty spaces is pretty dead on, but is very dependent on the state's population and the type of wilderness. Even in the emptiest places, a state like California doesn't feel near as empty as less populace desert states like Arizona, Nevada, etc.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 08:05:20 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2013, 08:14:43 PM »
Ok, just to stress the stereotype idea (+tv, of course), the only places in America that I've been were New York, San Francisco and Charleston, this last one for work/one afternoon for sightseeing (I'm a city-tourist person).

Arry, definitely not a flamer, me ;D
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2013, 08:52:56 PM »
haha, I don't think what you've said will offend anyone, so I wouldn't worry at all. And I'm not even sure what you said is at all stereotypical. Some examples from the things you mentioned:

American's don't have gun control (in most/many places), the UK does, so that's not at all offensive to talk about the difference in perception.

Diners aren't all that common, except when traveling, so its probably an overblown thematic/scenery device that's held on from a time when they were more common. The traditional diner (Burgers, fries, etc.) has pretty much been replaced by fast food, bars, and restaurants. Even in America, they're seen as more of a fifties/sixties thing.

Food is too general of a topic, so I dunno what you mean by it specifically. If you mean the type of food we consume, it's dependent on region and heritage. This is something a friend of mine and I talk about on occasion. His family is from Hong Kong so he eats primarily traditional chinese dishes at home (his parents home), while my family is about 5th or sixth generation from Europe, and we eat mostly meat and potato dishes, pastas, hamburgers, etc. These things would probably be considered more stereotypical American food, but again I don't see why that'd be taken offensively at all.

TBH, I'm sure you're probably aware of this kind of stuff already and can think of corollaries to it in the UK, because honestly, life is pretty much the same everywhere  and some things (specifically thinking of the food stuff) are stereotypes not to make caricatures, but because they're the most common standard in the culture.
(or in the case of the diners, were common at some point in time)

Of course, there are some stereotypes/motifs that are completely fictional. I had a literature class in college that was making that exact point about Westerns and the Western Frontier. The 'feel' of Westerns, (cowboys vs. indians etc.), is largely made up. There were only a few years and rare locations with the isolated desert town with bandits etc. that are at all accurate, and more often that sort of event is just b.s. For example, the truth of the cowboy vs. indians motif is more like Blood Meridian where American/Mexican local governments were issuing bounties for Native American scalps than it is the idea that Native Americans were raiding and burning villages just for the sake of it. (I mean I'm sure there are historical events where villages were burned, etc, but they're not common and most of the actual wars that were fought were the American Gov't. against tribes from the Dakota regions after the Black Hills were annexed by the US, and not in a desert region at all.)

Edit: sorry, I had a lot to say and kept editing it XD

Sorry, another correction. Blood Meridian is also very fictional, and while based on real laws and a real gang that did that sort of thing, it is still a pretty isolated event and not very representative of what really happened at the time.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 09:27:50 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline Arry

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2013, 09:06:06 PM »
haha, I don't think what you've said will offend anyone, so I wouldn't worry at all. And I'm not even sure what you said is at all stereotypical. Some examples from the things you mentioned:

I agree. It's part of the reason I figured this was a good opportunity to bring up my question, because I didn't think it came across as offensive at all,  just served as a reminder that I do wonder about this.

Quote
American's don't have gun control (in most/many places), the UK does, so that's not at all offensive to talk about the difference in perception.
Agreed. Where I live it is now illegal for public parks and playgrounds to prohibit concealed weapons. Meaning that towns, even if they want to say "Dont bring guns here!", can't.  :'( My sad face gives away where I stand on this, but regardless, all Americans are used to guns being a topic.

Quote
Diners aren't all that common, except when traveling, so its probably an overblown thematic/scenery device that's held on from a time when they were more common. The traditional diner (Burgers, fries, etc.) has pretty much been replaced by fast food, bars, and restaurants. Even in America, they're seen as more of a fifties/sixties thing.
I associate them as retro or as rural. I feel like there's likely still diners in rural areas, but ... since I've never lived anywhere rural, I don't really know.

Quote
TBH, I'm sure you're probably aware of this kind of stuff already and can think of corollaries to it in the UK, because as much as we pretend, life is pretty much the same everywhere.
Yep. This. Think it is part of the reason I posted the question in the first place.
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2013, 09:13:16 PM »

I associate them as retro or as rural. I feel like there's likely still diners in rural areas, but ... since I've never lived anywhere rural, I don't really know.


Exactly, the only place I've ever seen real diners are small towns in the middle of no where.

Although, there are chains that try to mimic the feel, like Mel's, that are common in some places. (but not very good)
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 09:19:19 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline DBASKLS

Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2013, 09:59:08 PM »
Interesting question!

Well I'm a full blood Brit so here are my thoughts. Now please no one be offended.

1) And I am sure this works both ways but if a [fantasy/other world] book is written in American e.g. uses words like gotten or phrases that are "American" culturally it does annoy me because it's a fantasy book not American. As I said I'm sure non-Brits will spot "Brit-isms" that I don't notice.

2) Another sweeping generalisation here but on the whole non-Americans understand more about American culture due to so much American TV than the other way round. So maybe some underlying non-American cultural references are not understood by Americans?

You say tomayto and I say tomahto!

You ask any Brit how they've got on asking for a banana in America! Impossible I tell ya! And American voice recognition doesn't recognise Mancunian with some West Midlands thrown in as an accent either!
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2013, 10:03:46 PM »
I wonder if Australians fit in anywhere there?

Offline DBASKLS

Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2013, 10:09:35 PM »
I wonder if Australians fit in anywhere there?

Nah! Unless we start talking about cricket - which will really confuse the Americans!  ;)
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Offline EricaDakin

Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2013, 10:12:14 PM »
I think in some cases it's not even a cultural or word-choice thing, it's the entire feel of a book. The broad cliches there are that if the whole feel of a book is very dry and self-deprecating, maybe with some sarcasm thrown in, it will feel British, whereas if it's more grand and a little over-the-top it'll feel more American. Terry Pratchett is very British not just because of the cultural references, but because the humour is very British. Please note that these are very broad generalisations!

Plus there's also the simple fact that things that are completely everyday to Americans will seem odd or unusual to Brits, and vice versa. I read a Nora Roberts novel which had the characters constantly grabbing bottled water out of their fridges, while I don't know a single person here in Britain who stocks bottled water in their fridge as a matter of course. Simple things like that can make a novel feel British or American to a reader. I'll also say that I tend to pay attention to that kind of stuff since I'm a Dutch person living in Britain, and even with two countries so close together there are quite big cultural differences that took some getting used to.
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Very British or Very American.... what do these even mean?
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2013, 10:15:13 PM »
My town has like three (not retro) diners. Small little home grown restaurants that house about ten people. Does that count?
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