Archive | July, 2011

Lost in Translation

26 Jul

America is an English-speaking country, but anyone who’s spent a reasonable amount of time here should know that Americans don’t speak English. Whether you like it or not – my good (American) friend Nick likened American English as OS X Leopard to British English’s Tiger (I tend to lean more towards American being the Vista to British’s XP – if it ain’t broke…) – but it is there. Some translations are impossible, as my British friend Ellie directed me to the brick wall that is reached when asking about certain food items in menus: we don’t have a clue what arugula is, and on the other side of the pond, they only know rocket as a medium for sending people into orbit, or raining fire down on threats to world peace.

So, foodstuffs are the worst, as they’re often difficult to explain as well. Arugula/rocket is a leafy vegetable. Cabbage? No, more of a salad vegetable. Lettuce? No, it has more of a bitter taste. You get the idea. And there is a long list: cilantro/coriander, eggplant/aubergine, zucchini/courgette, oatmeal/porridge, frosting/icing, meatball/faggot (that was fun to try and describe), graham cracker/digestive biscuit, chips/crisps, fries/chips, bap/bun, clingfilm/saran wrap. The list is by no means exhaustive. Some translations can land you in trouble, for instance asking an American if he can bum you a fag (procure for you one of his cigarettes) may get you nothing but an odd look. In a similar vein, asking for a biscuit won’t get you anything closely resembling a cookie, but a scone.

So here goes. My attempt at an American English/British English dictionary.




Potato Chips/Crisps

French Fries/Chips

Fag/Poof (not that either should be used in common currency)

Clingfilm/Saran Wrap







Aluminium/Aluminum (please note that as per Linnaean classification, -ium is the correct suffix. Britain is correct.)





Frying Pan/Skillet





You get the idea. Next week, the pertinacious American exemption of the letter ‘U’ (armour, clamour), use of the letter ‘Z’ (apologize, realize), the switched letters ‘E’ and ‘R’ (theatre, center) and the ‘S’ (defense, offense). I jest.



18 Jul

Morals for the Profane

“Morals for the Profane is a collection of humorous and/or informative posts that written to fill the void known as free time. Other reasons include the educational interest I have with the subject matter, the opportunity to publish my unquestionable wit and the coverage of my other such exploits. If you have the time, take a look and hopefully you’ll be sufficiently entertained.” – Cameron Geddes

The Toxic Oil Spill Blues

Some rather good poetry and literature from the mind of Scott Woodall

Hard Times

14 Jul

I sit in Battery Park, with just $21 in my pocket. My shoes are wearing thin, I’m dripping with sweat after another fruitless day of job hunting, and there is a blister on my heel the size of a quarter. Even my indissoluble optimism is taking a hit today. I’ve resigned myself to bumming cigarettes off of bloated tycoons and wandering into everywhere and anywhere with a resume and a weak smile. Coming to America armed with just a British accent and the aforementioned sanguinity, I’ve found the American Dream to be shallow and undefined, and New York City to be harsh and unforgiving. But then again, it plays to your strengths, and responds to your weaknesses. New York is a pulsating, breathing organism, as if I am in the belly of a giant beast, trying to turn it over to my advantage without getting digested, chewed and spat out. But I’m not going home. And I’m not going to be spat out.

I quite quickly came to the conclusion that anything is possible in America, provided you’re willing to put in some time, and a hefty slab of elbow grease. It’s been four days since my Social Security was put through, and the job hunt started. I’ve already exhausted one pile of resumes, pored over several application forms and sent out reams of emails, with not even a whisper of a reply. It’s as if I’m baiting a trap, but the willow loop reeks too much of my human scent for anything to come close. I need to act, or at least seem, like one of them. But I’m happy. Aside from the languid response from the days of trudging for work, New York is vibrant and fascinating, an enigma that needs to be explored and dissected. It is an entire country in one; is a disparity of race, gender, wealth and age. You walk half a mile and everything is a different price, a different quality, a different type or even a different language.

And that’s the beauty of it. It’s a massive, multicultural, ever-changing globule of human history, emotion, culture and life sat on this tiny island, emanating and pulsating it’s own digested versions of everything that is pumped into it, combining and altering to make its own wonderful product. And that is what makes New York, New York.


5 Jul

I’m writing this blog post from a Starbucks, hence the title. I feel a little beatnik, sitting here with my iced coffee.

Happy 4th of July! We spent it on the roof of our building in the Financial District, drinking beer and having ribs on a barbeque, before going to a ‘kegger’ on the roof of another building uptown, the skyline literally sprawled out around us, with the Chrysler and the Empire State lit up the brightest (red, white and blue for Empire). I’ve become acquainted with $1 pizza, 7/11 big gulps and traversing a hell of a lot of stairs. But it’s okay. I still need to get used to American accents, having just completely failed miserably when ordering my coffee by completely failing to understand the word ‘sweetened’ in a New York drawl. What followed was me looking like a twat while the barista said in the most condescending voice: ‘sugar, or no sugar’. Duh.

Also, contrary to what I’ve heard:

a) New York is sunny. The buildings are really tall, but they don’t block out the sun. And it’s quite leafy, pretty much every street is lined with trees, and there are loads of parks. And I’ve only seen one cockroach. New York is actually pretty clean and really nice. Apart from the subway, I don’t like the subway. But then again, the trains are air-conditioned.

b) New Yorkers are actually quite nice. I’ve had quite a smattering of drinks bought for me already, and it’s really easy to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met and just chat away. Mostly they just want to know about England, from one perspective or another. The guy I was chatting to on Sunday just wanted to know about how English sports clubs worked and how much the players got paid.

c) New York is cheap for me, but expensive for everyone else. Pretty much everything is cheaper than London, but it is apparently the most expensive city in America. But a dollar for a large slice of pizza ain’t too shabby.

I’m going to go to Central Park now, ’cause I can’t apply for jobs until I get a Social Security number. Which takes a few working days apparently, and yesterday was a national holiday and all. Byeeee

Those little town blues are fading away…

3 Jul

I made it. Just, not without incident.

Getting to Heathrow at 12:45 for my 2:00 plane, I managed through the gross incompetence of Virgin Atlantic employees and staff to miss my flight. But it’s okay, they bumped me up to a different flight. No upgrade though. I said my goodbyes and made my way to the plane. The flight was long, if uneventful. I managed somehow in the last month to watch all the films they were showing, and the food was the oddest and most eclectic spread I’ve eaten in a while.

Then, disembarking at Newark, after watching Manhattan sprawl past, the Statue of Liberty looking a hell of a lot greener than I imagined her to look, and the Empire State Building sticking out of the skyline far more than I pictured. An hour in the immigration queue – but once I was there it was deceptively easy, and there I was: In the United States of America, with no turning back and very little capital to get started on. This was compounded by the fact that US ATMs don’t like my bank card, and I have been unable to get any money out. So I was on the train from Newark airport to Manhattan, got kicked off because the conductor thought I had said ‘Newark Penn’ instead of ‘New York Penn’, had to get back on, still wearing the four layers I’d left the UK in and with my heavy duffle bag, and eventually made it to the subway, getting confused as to what trains to get. It was all a bit overwhelming. But I made it, albeit still without a bank card. So, with my original $50 I took in my wallet dwindling, I had to call in an emergency Western Union transfer to at least tide me over until I get settled, and get a job.

But New York is amazing! It’s not perfect – the subway was confusing for one, but it sits on this island with a sense of grimey regality. But the one thing that really strikes me about it is its size, just not in a cheesy ‘New York is tall’ cliche. New York in one sense is exactly how you pictured it, saw it in the movies or read about. But at the same time, everything appears so much bigger than you could ever have imagined. The Empire State, for one, absolutely dominates in a way that I could never have pictured, and my imagination isn’t half bad. Its just Shreve, Lamb and Harmon’s were better when they built the behemoth.

But now for breakfast. Lets see if that is as good as they say it is.


1 Jul

T-minus 20 hours until my journey begins in earnest. It’s been a long, arduous and bureaucratic road, but I’m finally ready to go. And I’m watching Andy Murray on the television to wind down. I’m going to be brutally honest, I don’t want him to win. It’s his mum, mainly. But also the fact that he’s an arrogant, xenophobic Scot. But there we go.

This is going to be a short post, as I’ve still got quite a lot to do. But I’ll update you when I arrive in New York!