Monday, April 19, 2010

Today's "English" lesson

Every gym has one (or a few)- the know-it-all, middle-aged guy who yells every conversation across the room. The kind of guy who remembers small details about people's lives ("how's that tomato plant doing, Tom?") in order to demonstrate how "popular" he is, uses sports trivia as a conversation starter ("Hey, Tom, how about those Patriots? Did you see Tom Brady's pass? Reminded me of Steve Grogan in 1978!") and the one who talks smack about his physical fitness while simultaneously yanking the crap out of his back on the rowing machine. Yup, that guy.

I usually put on my headphones and drown him out with NPR but today, for some reason, I just wasn't in the NPR "zone" so my ears were open for business.

Today's topic of conversation for Mr. Middle-Aged-Know-It-All, was his daughter's trip to England which she cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud.

He said (loudly, of course), and I quote: "She was supposed to go to England but she made a change at the last minute and ended up in Mexico instead. The funny thing was that her flight actually managed to land in 'Gul-asa-COW. But 'Gul-asa-COW' was a few hours north of London, so she would have had a three hour drive when she landed anyway."

I was busy doing crunches on my ball but I had to stop for a second to process. What did he say? "GulasaCOW?" What the hell town is he butchering?

It really took me thirty seconds or so to process, going through the list of English airports where I know international flights land (Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester), and then finally heading up north to realize that the jackass meant GLASGOW. Ya know, that po-dunk place, population 700,000, that is the largest city in SCOTLAND?

Um... wow. The guy actually made it sound like it belonged in Eastern Europe, adding a "u" out of nowhere and rhyming it with Krakow or Moscow (at least the U.S. pronounciation of Moscow, with "cow" at the end, as opposed to "coe", which is how they say it in England.)

And that's just the pronounciation faux pas. There's the country faux-pas and the geographical faux-pas to also address.

For those Americans who haven't taken the time to study it, here is a quick nationality lesson about my home country.

1) England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland are separate countries. Scotland is not a part of England. Wales is not a part of England. Northern Ireland is not a part of England.

2) "Britain" or "Great Britain" refers to England, Wales, and Scotland together.

3) The "United Kingdom" refers to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland together. The official term (and what is written on my passport) is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

4) Further, there is also the geographical term "The British Isles", which includes everything in #3 but also 500 surrounding islands, that include The Isle of Man, which has its own laws and parliament.

Ok, I realize this can be confusing but at least grasping #1 and #2 should be standard. Although I lived in England for 21 years before I moved here, I at least understood that, while America was interchangeably called "America", the "U.S." and "USA", that there was a continent called America, that there was a North and South to it, and that the USA didn't refer to Mexico and Canada. You see my point, I hope.

We also have to add to this the geographical obliviousness. Glasgow is about 400 miles from London or a 7 hour drive. Saying that you're going to "England" and flying into Glasgow is like saying you're going to Mexico then flying into Santa Barbara. I'm not sure whether this guy's daughter was equally as ignorant but, if she was, I would have pitied her arriving in Glasgow only to have to drive 7 hours go get to her final destination.

Of course, I was tempted to assert my own superiority in this particular area of knowledge but I don't talk to people at the gym, whenever possible. First of all, it's 5am and my social skills don't activate for at least another two hours and secondly, I didn't want to get friendly with this guy because then I'm stuck with sharing banalities with him every morning from hereon out.

1 comment:

Mala said...

Why am I not surprised?

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