English to English

Americans love loving America. So why does Independence Day feel ... British?

The loneliest fan


Meet David Grey, a 58 Englishman who has taken the bold stand of rooting for Uruguay against England in today’s World Cup match. 

"I have been joking on Facebook that I support Uruguay, and I’ve taken on a kind of alternative identity – so when England and Uruguay were drawn in the same World Cup I decided to put my money where my mouth is and declare myself as an out-and-out fan, wanting them to win rather than England," he said.

He is, you might imagine, very lonely.


Erin McCann

Can you hear that sound? It’s the buzzing of World Cup fans around the globe gearing up for their annual ahhhhhOHGMYGODIT’S ALMOST HERE ARE YOU EXCITEDYET?? 

Sorry, what? 


The Guardian, of course, has you covered with the actual sport section right here

But what about the casual fan? For the one who lumbers along for three years and eleven months, happily ignoring soccer – sorry, “football” as everyone but America calls it – we have sent Hadley Freeman to Brazil to serve as a guide:

At least two journalists had money stolen out of their bags, which seemed outrageous to me, especially because one of those journalists was me.

“Someone has stolen my money!” I complained to someone vaguely official-looking.

“It happens,” he shrugged. Someone later swore they saw Sepp Blatter running out of the stadium, cackling maniacally, clutching various wallets to his chest.

Are these the most endangered accents of English?

On a predictable misunderstanding

Martin Pengelly

The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names this week decided not to proceed with a plan to name a cove on Lake Tahoe after Mark Twain. It did this because of the great American author’s supposed racism, which prompted complaints from local tribal representatives.

This, though it raised amusing/infuriating memories of a 2011 controversy over an expurgated version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, isn’t the predictable misunderstanding I’m talking about.

What is, is that reports of the board’s decision said it had ‘tabled’ the matter.

And lo, UK readers of the story on the Guardian website got cross, because to them ‘to table’ something means to put that something up for discussion.

And also lo, US readers got cross with said UK readers, because to them ‘to table’ something means to put that something down, specifically not for further discussion.

And finally lo, nobody won. Particularly not poor old Mark Twain.

Advantage: non-English speakers everywhere

(Picture: Corbis)

How the British brag

One of our British opinion writers explains how applying for an “extraordinary alien” visa makes her uncomfortable because British people don’t know how to properly celebrate accomplishments like choosing a salad for lunch:

The UK has exceptional qualities – the National Health Service, pubs, comedy panel shows – but being self-congratulatory is not an ingrained part of growing up in Britain; humility is. “American exceptionalism” is a stock phrase here, but British exceptionalism? We don’t like the fuss; we’re fine, thank you. In order to stay, I have to relinquish the cherished grumpy cynicism at the heart of British culture and accept that in America, it’s OK to say you’re extraordinary.

On Michael Sam and US-UK spellings – a terrible warning from history


Martin Pengelly

This – in heavily edited form – is what happens in the Guardian US comments section when a British reporter writes about Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, and in noting the splendid precedent set by Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, unthinkingly spells Collins’ position in the British manner…

Commenter 1: “Centre is not a position in the NBA.”

Commenter 2: “You ever hear of players named Shaquille O’Neal? Dwight Howard? Bill Russell? Kareem-Abdul Jabar? Chris Bosh?”

Commenter 3: “I can only assume he’s jumped on the spelling.”

Commenter 4: “He’s joking that there is no ‘centre’ in the NBA because it’s an American league and thus spelled ‘center’. Always sucks when you have to explain a joke.”

Commenter 1: “Intention was to demonstrate the most authentic word. There is one centre in the NBA, Air Canada Centre in Toronto. That’s it.”

Commenter 5: “But you’ve just undermined your own position by noting that the Raptors play in the NBA, and the Raptors have people play at centre, eg: Valanciunas. (Read any Canadian article on the NBA, as here.) Americans don’t have a monopoly on the spelling of technical terms in the game (especially as the game was invented by a Canadian).”

Commenter 6: “How do Americans spell wazzock?*”

And so on and so forth until the end of time or a merciful death, whichever would be so good as to come first.

Advantage, as so often in these sorts of situations: Canada.

(*wazzock: noun, British, informal: a stupid or annoying person)

(Picture: AP)

On being mercilessly stereotyped

- Martin Pengelly

The last two comment pieces Guardian US has asked me to write have been about cricket and tea.

Notwithstanding the fact that my next three will consider bowler hats, reticence and the social perils of a creeping fondness for corporal punishment, I find this disturbing.

Does such blatant pandering to stereotype – by American editors, I might add – qualify as discrimination? Are Brits in America a persecuted minority?

No. But it does make you think… of a nice cup of tea while watching the cricket.

Advantage, evidently: US


US vs UK English



US vs UK English

(via timmytumt)

Jack Bauer in London

Oh Jack Bauer, if only you’d read English 2 English before filming your latest episodes… 

The London season of 24 does flirt with tea-towel cliches. “I just love this city. You can feel the history,” says the US president, whose presence in the city for a treaty signing provides the plot. And, while there are the inevitable sky-line shots of St Paul’s and the gherkin, the producers seem to have overcome the amazement of so many film-makers that public transport is double-decked and brightly coloured.

So we can at least be grateful to the London season of 24 for introducing a fresh set of cliches about the city. If there isn’t a red bus on every corner, there is a red under every bed. The scriptwriters take the “Londonistan” view of the Queen’s hometown. From the presumably ominous opening shot of a mosque, London is presented as a hot-bed of potential subversion, with gangs working on a cyber-terrorism “devices” in tower blocks and a Julian Assange-type and his disciples plotting to expose state secrets.

Martin Pengelly

Ladies and gentlemen we give you, apropos of nothing in particular, the greatest cinematic exposition of the pitfalls of cross-cultural conversation, like, ever:

The year, 1973. The location, deepest Harlem (well, Pinewood). The occasion: the debut of the greatest James Bond of them all. The dress code: slacks, blazer and club tie, or crushed-velour pimp coat, massive jewellery and lethal metal hand. 

Skipping for now the question of how they knew he’d sit in that chair – unless every booth in the place swivels into a back room, either the same back room or one of a number of back rooms, which would get quite complicated if you think about it – repeat after me:

Mr Big (for it is he): “Is this the stupid mutha that tailed you uptown?”

Sir Roger Moore (for it is undoubtedly he): “There seems to have been some mistake. My name is…”

Mr Big: “Names is for tombstones, baby. Y’all take this honky out and waste him, now!”

Sir Roger [pauses, turns to Jane Seymour, raises eyebrow]: “’Waste him’. Is that a good thing?”

English to English exists so that such tragic misunderstandings may be avoided or ameliorated – or at least viewed repeatedly to the accompaniment of childish giggling – for ever more.

Advantage – at least temporarily, in this instance: US

Bonus question for E2E readers: if for some unearthly reason you don’t agree that Sir Roger is the best Bond, who is? Bonus points for answering Barry Nelson, who as we all know is the only American actor to have played the part.

What it’s like as an American working with Brits.

What it’s like as an American working with Brits.

On Oprah Winfrey’s new tea


– Martin Pengelly

Today, in Starbucks and Teavana stores across the US, a truly momentous thing is happening: Oprah Winfrey’s personalised “handcrafted beverage”, Teavana Oprah Chai Tea, is going on sale.

In short, given that I’m a tea-loving Brit, Guardian US sent me across Spring Street to buy a cup and review it. In shorter, this seemed a particularly English to English idea.

In sum, here are a few choice words, lovingly selected from my review:



“folksy megalomania”

“churning homesickness”

“whale vomit”

And here’s the link to the whole thing.

Advantage: UK, because I didn’t even get into the horrors of this: steepyoursoul.com, within the steadily diminishing Dantean circles of which “Teavana and Oprah invite you to take a few moments to pause and reflect each day [in] your own personal steep time.”

On British men who cross their legs when sitting down

My sister-in-law, who lives and works in Washington DC, says the heterosexual women of the city are extremely confused by British men.

This is apparently because if a man in DC crosses his legs when he sits down, he is thought to be gay (read also “European” and/or/thus “sophisticated”), and therefore undatable. But it seems that British men, at least in DC, all cross their legs when they sit down.  

Statistically (if not anecdotally) British men can’t all be gay – in my science-teacher dad’s totally inappropriate yet oddly appropriate term, “a bit more DC than AC”.

So what’s a girl to do? I don’t know. But I do know I’m a Brit, I’ve been to DC, and I often cross my legs when I sit down.

I suppose any particularly Sherlockian DC lady, on the lookout for clues, might be alert to the colour of sock revealed by any Brit bloke seen to cross his legs and thus elevate the bottom of his trouser. (‘Sock’ and ‘trouser’ both singular not plural, yes. At least, in 1930s Britain they were.) 

If it’s mauve, in the words of Withnail’s Uncle Monty, we may not know “what he’s planning”. If it’s red, he may be the former British ambassador to DC Sir Christopher Meyer, who was famous for sporting such crimson hosiery and who once mused publicly and controversially on Tony Blair’s fondness for a “ball-crushingly tight trousers”.

Not that any of that would tell us anything about anything either.

Advantage: Um… UK chaps what live in DC?

Martin Pengelly

(Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)