Culturally Discombobulated

America Comprehended: Collective nouns and singular verbs

COLLECTIVE NOUNS AND SINGULAR VERBS: The last month, for fairly obvious World Cup-related reasons, I have been flicking through the sports pages of American newspapers more often than usual. Reading reports of World Cup games I have been reminded of one of those irritating British-English and American-English grammatical discrepancies that trips up and makes a fool of the expat on either side of the Atlantic; in this case, whether to use a singular or plural verb with a collective noun. “Brazil is losing badly to Germany,” sounds leaden and just plain wrong to me, whereas “Brazil are losing badly to Germany,” sounds perfectly natural, and is how I have always unthinkingly talked to the locals about sports teams, but presumably all this time – and assuming the average American isn’t au fait with the quirks of British-English – I have sounded ever-so-slightly moronic.

The County Fair

Does it get more American (real American?) than a County Fair? I went along this past Saturday, looking at livestock, sweating like a pig as the weather hit the 90s and wondering just who in this heat could bring themselves to eat deep fried fair food while dehydrating on lite beers.
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“By Toutatis, these Americans are crazy”

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As it’s July 4th, Independence Day, the one day of the year that the normally retiring and modest citizens of the USA get to indulge in some common-or-garden patriotism, ESPN broadcast a competitive eating contest / did an hour long advert for Nathan’s hot dogs masquerading as a sporting contest. As it fell between today’s two World Cup games I found myself watching it.

Before an overexcited crowd chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A,” a dozen of the nation’s finest competitive eaters gathered (among them the macaroni and cheese eating world champion, the cannoli eating world champion, the crayfish eating world champion, and the ramen noodle eating world champion) to stuff as many hot dogs into their faces as possible in ten minutes. By the time they have finished a competitors’s stomach may contain up to four liters of food in it; for a normal person one liter of food is about the limit your stomach can take before you feel extremely nauseous. 

If you were to carve up one of these professional gluttons you could probably get a fabulous foie gras from their livers. Probably preferable to a Nathan’s hot dog.

The winner managed to consume 61 hot dogs in the time allotted. “U-S-A, U-S-A,” they sang to him. Jefferson would have been proud.

In other news, 49 million Americans are food insecure.

Futbol Fever

With the US clasping soccer to its bosom like a nurturing mother, things are now getting pretty crazy here with the World Cup on. It’s certainly a lot different from back in 2010. I remember trying to watch Argentina – Germany in a coffee shop only for some guy to change the channel over to NASCAR (what was really galling is it was a NASCAR repeat).

Yes, things are very much changing over here (and for the better) as demonstrated when I went out to view Colombia – Uruguay.

Sure, you could go out and watch the game at a sports bar, but for the best sporting atmosphere, as well as that special camaraderie that comes when true fans are enjoying great sport together, nothing beats heading down to your local car dealership to watch the soccer (I may have also needed an oil change).

As you can see, everyone was pumped for the game.
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Goooooooooooal!!!!!! Colombia!!!!!!!!!! It’s kicking off after that scorcher of a goal. Shit is getting real here. Crazy times, crazy people.

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Slow down, Jasper. You’ve already had three lukewarm car dealership coffees. Not another one, surely? Stop writing checks that your bladder can’t cash. I know this is a futbol fiesta, but pace yourself, man. Typical Jasper – he’s always loco.

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Can Uruguay find a way back into the game? They’re trailing by two. It’s all far too much for this fan of the Charruas. She could hardly bring herself to watch. Naturally we had some good natured ribbing at her expense. It’s what friends do.

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What an exhilarating game! Ref calls for full time. Yes, I think we all need a breather after that. Vamos Colombia!! Best of luck against Brazil in the quarter-finals.

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Partying hard.

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Let England Shake

And breathe!

Finally a day without soccer. An entertaining World Cup (how has it been for you?) has, from my perspective, been sullied by being pitied or mocked for my nation’s early exit by some of the locals. It’s a disgusting feeling, truth be told, particularly when I’m being pitied or mocked, not by a fellow fan, a true believer, but a bandwagon jumper who doesn’t understand the basics of the game.

Still, I am sure that my misplaced optimism regarding England will return once the Euro 2016 qualifiers come around because following England is like a mother experiencing birth amnesia; the body releasing extra amounts of oxytocin during labor (or in this case, exit at the group stage) that we forget just how intense the pain was and so are willing at a later date to go through the whole thing again.

I am not, however, being a good guest and cheering on the United States. It is pure bitterness on my part. To misquote Morrissey, “we hate it when our friends become successful – and if they’re American that only makes it worse.” If there was an American version of the Tebbit Test I’d fail miserably (I think a point I made in this blog during the 2010 tournament).

Intellectually, I agree with the writer Teju Cole who tweeted “any occasion that situates the US as just one among many nations, and not necessarily the most gifted or interesting, is a wonderful thing,” but reason doesn’t stand much chance of competing with more bilious thoughts.

Ah, jealousy, it’s a terrible thing.

At least cricket is unlikely to ever really take-off here.