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just a little different

talking about his recent three-year stint in amsterdam...

vincent: "i mean they've got the same [stuff] over there as we have here, it's just a little different."
julius: "example."
vincent: "okay. in amsterdam you can buy a beer at the movies. and i don't mean a paper cup i mean a glass of beer. and in paris, you can buy a beer at mcdonald's. you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in paris?"
julius: "they don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?"
vincent: "no, they've got the metric system-- they wouldn't know what a quarter pound is."
julius: "so what do they call it?"
vincent: "they call it a royale with cheese."

classic words from 1994's classic pulp fiction (i knew you recognized it!). christy and i are into our fifth day "across the pond," arriving today at our friends' home near wolverhampton (where we served three churches over a year). this is the heart of the "black country," called that because the industrial revolution was particularly brutal in this area 150 years ago. today it is peaceful and green.

i am thinking of that great conversation between jules and vincent because everywhere i see and hear slight differences between the english used here and that at home. for example, the brits include u's in words where they are not necessary: colour, honour, etc. or driving around today we passed a tire shop and it was spelled "tyres." the other night christy and ruth were talking about girls' hair and she mentioned "bangs" and got the most confused look from ruth-- then the translator in her mind kicked in and she said, "fringe."

or the keyboard on this computer: obviously it has a pound sign £-- but can someone explain to me why the @ sign and quotation marks are reversed? and why have a $ sign at all? there's also a euro € sign, in case britain ever wakes up to the fact it is in the european union and starts using a common currency! in fact, couldn't they have switched over on a trial basis just for the 9 days we are here? the exchange rate between $ and € is much healthier for us!

personally i like the unncessary u's in the british vocabulary-- it is one of those tiny aspects of culture that make the english distinct. i'll discuss another tomorrow, after the lathams and drenners have lunch at a traditional english pub in the area.

the fight over culture is a constant one, always under threat to be lost. this is one reason why i disagree so adamantly with those who insist the u.s. should make english its official language. why? why is it so necessary to make everyone speak the same? i suppose it feeds into the whole "melting pot" myth, and that makes folk feel nostalgic. or how some people say, "when i look at people i don't see their color i see a person just like me." the thought process is to avoid racism through stereotyping. but actually what happens is racism is given more power when we stop seeing the distinctiveness of others. america is not a melting pot of cultures-- never has been and never will. different people need to claim and celebrate their heritage, and that includes language. when everyone thinks and speaks and spells the same things get very boring, don't they?


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