Friday, September 21, 2007

And this is what Americans think a Scotsman looks like...?

I have just read this interesting post in the Guardian's blog Comment is Free. Apparently new research shows that most Americans associate Scotland with Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons (which is, of course, an American creation with a voice created by an American!). Sean Connery has lost out to this guy???

It doesn't come as a surprise to me as I have had way too many incidents with the American public where they reveal their unbelievable ignorance about Scotland.

I had an instance in Cleveland when I was working in a national bookstore chain as a cashier and a woman asked where I was from (they ALL do...) and proceeded to tell me to have a nice vacation!! - I was working for $6.25 an hour and I was in Cleveland Ohio!!!! I have also been told more times than I can count that my English is very good - to which, if I'm in a testy mood, I often reply "Thanks, so is yours!!". Darren's Grandma has told me (in a very thick Virginia accent) how my English is better than the Chinese girl that works at her old folks' home!!

The one that took the biscuit was lately when again I was working as a cashier. A woman asked where I was from (they still ALL ask) and she proceeded to tell me she was a high school teacher. I asked what she taught and she said English as a Second Language. She described her job and how challenging it is for her poor Mexican students to learn English - then she added - "of course, you'd know how difficult that it is" - I said "excuse me?" and she clarified - "you know how difficult it is to learn English from when you had to". My jaw slammed onto the floor and I picked it up informing her that I can't speak any other language - just English!! I guess my argument was too complex for her to grasp because she left the store still going on about how well I spoke English!!!!

From this vast mountain of experience I read the Guardian article a little puzzled. The subtitle is :
Americans don't know much about Scotland and what they do know is mainly bad. Should the Scots be worried?

The thoughts of the Scots being worried about this makes me roll around on the ground laughing. Americans still tell me (incessantly) how they want to visit Scotland (and often assume I'll plan their trip for them) and tell me (again incessantly) that they consider themselves Scottish. I have over time developed the guts to reply to this statement thus:

You are not Scottish, you are American!! To qualify as Scottish you have to be brought up there and have the prerequisite accent (or to Americans - bad English). The man who was born in India and his parents moved to Scotland when he was 1yr old is Scottish of Indian parentage. If you've endured the biting cold horizontal rain walking home from school in the dark of 3.30pm for your entire school career, then you are Scottish!! My kids will be American if they live here - American with a Scottish mother.

The classic example of all of this was when I was at the St Patrick's day parade here in New Orleans and I wore a sign saying "I'm Scottish throw me something". I had several "Irish" men shout "The Irish hate the Scots!" - and I'd laugh to myself - the Irish love the Scots - so all these men claiming to be Irish did was reveal how un-Irish they truly are!!

I take no responsibility for my grammar or spelling or vocabulary - I can't be held accountable I'm only ScAttish!!
(I'd also like to stress some Americans are very knowledgeable and treated me very well .... its just some ... well ... don't - so if you are one of the former please know I do not mean you - and if you are one of the latter ... you read my blog?? ... wow your English is better than I thought!!!)


Annie said...

I love this - I could replace every 'Scottish' with 'Irish' and that would pretty much sum up my experience in the US also!

I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they're Irish - then proceed to explain that they are Irish because their next door neighbour's great, great grandma's dog came over from Ireland to escape the Famine. HA!

And yes, the Irish love the Scottish, and in my experience of living in Glasgow, the feeling is generally mutual, unless you reveal that you support the wrong football team! ;)

ashley said...

Personally, the day I could understand every Hamish Macbeth episode without captions stands as a milestone in my understanding of "English".

Annie said...

Just popping back here to say thank you for your comment on my blog (can't find an email address for you). I promise, it's not usually that depressing at Blooming Marvelous. I'm also sorry to hear that you have personal experience of that type of loss. I feel like mine is 'second hand' experience, and I'm sometimes at a loss at this time of year on what to do or say around my husband, I'm acutely aware that there's likely nothing I can do to make him feel better.

lady macleod said...

LOL Oh I love this! This is not an attitude I run into in Morocco. Here they all think we are football heros! Can you believe that. Apparently we beat them some years ago in a big match, and they remember! I love it. In America what I get, is questions about Braveheart! Hence the title of my blog..

Very nice blog. I enjoyed my visit. Nice to know your English is improving... ;-)

Cait said...

Erm...well, I know who Rabbie Burns and William Wallace were.

Oh! And Graeme Obree. Does he count? :)

Katie said...

When I first decided to come to Scotland to study English literature, I can't tell you how many people asked me, "How can you study English in Scotland? Do they speak English?" Sigh.

And yes, in my experience Irish people like Scottish people - it's the English that they have a problem with!

Gwen said...

I remember my mum telling me a story about an American visiting Scotland in the 60's and saying (imagine American Accent here) "Oh wow I didn't realise that you had electricity and runnning water in Scotland!"

Mary Witzl said...

This is funny -- I am an American living in Scotland, so I can picture what you're going through over there, in a way.

I was fairly ignorant about Scotland before we moved here, but at least I KNEW I was ignorant. It is people who don't know it and aren't upset when they find out that irk me.

Amusingly enough, I've lived in this town for six years and whenever I go to a shop I haven't frequented much, people tell me to have a good holiday. You'd think they'd be tipped off that I'm a resident owing to my muddy gardening clothes, wellies, frequent and accurate use of 'wee,' 'smidgen,' and 'so I do' as a tag, -- and 'ya ken?'

I am always amused when visiting Americans want to know where Braveheart took place, though. I always tell them 'Hollywood' and irritate them no end.

Almost American said...

I'm an English as a Second Language teacher here in the US. I've been here over 20 years now and my accent is a little confused. People almost always seem to think I'm from New Zealand or Australia. Rather than simply asking "Where are you from?", most people will say something along the lines of "I think I detect a slight accent?" Recently I've begun starting my answer with, "Well, I've lived most of my life in the United States . . ." and manage to work into the conversation that I am a US citizen. That really throws them for a loop!

If they really annoy me, when I'm telling them what my job is I'll explain that they had to hire someone from England to teach "proper" English!