British American

It did not cause me any trouble to become an Italian, but my becoming an American is my own work.

Max Ascoli

When asked where I come from by people here I often reply, somewhat fraudiently, ‘America’, in homage to the government that is paying for me to be here. My accent betrays my heritage and when pointed out by anybody I explain that I am half American, Half English, that my father is English and my mother was American. It seems a muddled way of explaining myself.

I find it strange that one can be an Italian-American, a Greek-American, an Irish-American, an African-American and so forth (for some reason it is the other way around for Jews, as in the “American Jewish Congress” or “American Jewish Committee”) but there is no such thing as an English-American let alone a British-American. There are many things which tie me to America – my family, blood, passport, work, ideals, aspirations – but I am unable to entwine my nationalities together with a hyphen (having a double barreled name probably amplifies my annoyance at this).

One can, though, be an Englishman in America, and I had no confusion about being an Englishman in New York (my thanks to Sting for a theme song). It’s strange to say but I have learned more about America living in The Gambia than I ever did living in New York. Manhattan is a global bubble, a cauldron of America that is still somehow insulated from the breadth and depth of the country as a whole. I’ve met a much wider variety of Americans in the Peace Corps from hippies to marines, from right across the states, from Oregon to South Carolina, which has fostered in me a deep respect for how these disparate elements remain united, whilst encouraging me to add myself to the pot.

n.b.

two things which will forever infuriate me about America

1) Gas – as in gas station. Is it a gas? No. Is it a liquid? Yes. Why call it gas? Petrol is a much better word.

2) Cups – as in measuring things in cups. Why would you measure any solid by mass? Is weight such an intimidating subject? Is it too much to expect people to have some form of scales if they want to bake? Is one cup of well sifted flour the same weight as one cup of unsifted flour? No. So don’t measure in cups.

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