Monday Muse: Betraying Your Nationality

Hey, Nerd Cactus fans out there and welcome to another edition of the Monday Muse! No…don’t worry. I’m not going on a rampage of actual betrayals or tin hat conspiracies. So far as I know, it’s been a while since someone has betrayed the United States…and I mean a real betrayal involving the selling of military secrets to the enemy for large amounts of cash. Not “the libtards are betraying everything America holds dear” forms of betrayal, which ultimately come down to opinion and just how elastic the Constitution really is…and these aren’t really the topics we want to delve into here at Nerd Cactus. Now, I’d be happy to write a blog on what the philosophy of the Enlightenment would indicate is the answer to the elasticity question (not to mention actions taken throughout American History), but as I am about to sit down to a delicious cheeseburger and finish watching Daredevil, I am not in the mood for that right now.

No…the betrayal I mean is much less traitorous. And to begin, let me tell you a story I remembered as I was preparing these delicious cheeseburgers (they involve bacon, grilled pineapple, and sweet rolls instead of buns, so…obviously they’re delicious). A few years ago, there was a girl in my neighborhood who was here as an exchange student, hailing all the way from the Great and Mighty Leeds, England. Now, we became friendly and, together with a group of friends (a small group mind…let’s not get it twisted and go around thinking I am anything other than a socially awkward bluestocking), we decided to go out to breakfast. Now, as anyone can tell you, there is a bit of a language difference between we here in the States and our counterparts across the ocean. Two nations, as they say, separated by a common tongue. I, being a lover of Southern food, decided upon the Biscuits and Gravy because…well…Biscuits and Gravy.

You probably know where I’m going with this. My dear, little exchange student acquaintance was shocked that such a thing was considered such a fine meal on this side of the Pond. Americans….apparently everyone thinks we’re weird. Well, she’d apparently been operating under the delusion that I was essentially eating a cookie topped with brown gravy, like the kind you put on mashed potatoes. Imagine it now, if you will…sweet, gooey, warm cookie goodness…slathered with a meaty, salty pan gravy. OK, I should stop now before even the deliciousness of the burger scent in this house isn’t enough to keep me from being sick. Moving on. Imagine my friend’s surprise when what came out was a flaky, buttery, steaming roll piled with a sausage-filled white gravy, creamy and salty…OK, I’m ready to eat that burger now. And maybe make biscuits and gravy at some point this week.

Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with betraying one’s nationality? Well…imagine an English writer writing about an American preparing a cookie covered in brown gravy and delivering it to the table, all the while calling it biscuits and gravy. This is obviously a ridiculous and somewhat far-fetched example, but go with me. Any American would know that this was simply not right. A sacrilege even, because believe me when I say Southerners take their food very seriously. It’s the same with calling an apartment a flat or a trash can a bin, all the way down to spelling color with no ‘u’ and socialize with a z. In the show Sleepy Hollow (shut up, don’t judge me! It combines American History, folklore, and fantasy into one show. If you knew me at all, you’d know that those subjects are basically my catnip…I can’t resist), the female protagonist, Abbie Mills, knows when a demon is pretending to be her partner, man-out-of-time-and-still-possessing-a-head Ichabod Crane, because the demon pronounces lieutenant the American way (loo-tenant) instead of the English (lef-tenant). And there’s more. Is it soda, pop, or Coke? All three could mean the same thing.

The way characters speak and spell (anyone have flashbacks to a really creepy kids’ toy), even when using the same language, will betray where they are from. If you have a character from the Eastern and Southern portions of the United States, they’d probably say lightning bug instead of firefly. Pop is mostly a Midwest thing, and there’s some people in the South who use Coke to mean any and all sweetened, carbonated beverages. Is it y’all, yinz, you guys? Take-out or take-away? Are chips those crunchy things that come in bags or are those crisps that come in packets? The answer to those questions all lies in your character’s identity, not just on national level, but sometimes down to the very neighborhood from whence they hail. And if you’re a good writer, you’ll know exactly what your character is supposed to say.

Now…I have been informed that my burgers are complete and ready for plating. Time to nom! Up next is Boozy Books, wherein we’ll all have a little tipple while we peruse literature of the finest (or just most entertaining) order. See you then!

-C

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