Sunday, November 30, 2008
Our Man In Melbourne
Eric Williams in the Northcoat district of Melbourne, taping a segment for an upcoming conference on Cancer to be held in Houston, Texas later this week
CULTURE KEYS, TWO JOES AND THE BATTLE OF ENGLISH SPEAKERS
by Eric K. Williams
(Special to YOUR FREE PRESS readers)
Melbourne, Australia-- "Typical Yanks" is an expression often heard when one witnesses a heated discussion, or argument, between an American and, an Australian. It could be over a sporting event, a movie and, especially over politics. More than likely, the latter, politics, than the former. There is much fascination between policy makers, intellectuals, academics, lawmakers, writers, and even music fans in this part of the world, now that Barack Obama is the president-elect. Whether it is long and insightful articles by such noted writers as Ian McEwen or, sharply critical commentary heard from the popular radio talk show host, Tony Biggs, known for his program, ON THE BLOWER, Australians will let you know what they think about every topic imaginable.
What is less imaginable is the undercurrent of suspicion that abounds among many in this part of the world with everything American. It is a different sort of undercurrent than, say, what one might encounter in Europe while riding a train between cities. There it is, out front: either people will not like you straight away, because of the land you happen to call home or, there will be a complaint about the policy of the president. That is what this writer encountered while living the life of an American Ex-pat in Scandinavia in the 1980's. After the exchange of names and other niceties, out comes the criticism directed at you, by virtue of your place of birth, to find out where you stand on one subject or another.
There are aspects of that here, too, in the land called DOWN UNDER. Yet, among fellow English speakers there is the aspect of what one might call, the verbal sword fight. The verbal sword fight is a battle devoid of profanity, curse words and open hostility. More subtle, often times. But, it is a fight none-the-less and, one that British speakers of the language, are masters of, and, it is a battle that many speakers of the American language rarely engage in.... at least not in the same way. Frankly, I would prefer a verbal sword fight with fellow New Yorkers on the corner of, say, 110th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. On the other hand, in the city that I happen to call home presently, there are no Harlems to speak of..... at least not yet.