the unintended consequences of revolution

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Humorous Bits
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The smart money says the British have moved on since losing the war for the American colonies. Holding a grudge is one thing, but holding one for 230 years is quite another and the Brits have better things to do. Sure the war was humiliating, usurped by a ragtag group of rebels using unconventional (some may even say dirty) tactics while engaging in the honor bound pastime of systematically hacking up your enemy. Undoubtedly it must have been shocking to be defeated by a fighting force which included a subset of men who voluntarily called themselves “Minutemen.” Really, what self-respecting man bounces about proudly proclaiming to be a “Minuteman”? Most guys would take their lead from the song Sixty Minute Man. But not those independence-blinded Yanks. And so what if Sixty Minute Man was not written until 1951? You’re letting facts get in the way of funny.

Then there was the tea. How discouraging it was to get whipped by people so barbaric they purposely jettisoned exquisite Indian teas into Boston Harbor like so much garbage. Had they trashed crates of kippers, now that would have been understandable, even noble. But tossing three shiploads of delicious Darjeeling and Ceylon into the cold December waters? Pure lunacy! Somewhere in their secret heart the Crown must have been relieved they shed the colonists for these were clearly crazy people. Still, you have to feel for the British. Empire Building is all fun and games until pesky rabble rousers suddenly change the rules and you are now on the short end of Empire Shrinking. Losing a war to those who fought dishonorably, unknowingly self-insulted, and did not even possess enough common sense (heh) to destroy a product they hated, rather than one as marvelous as tea, must have been frustrating.

Years slide by, decades roll along, centuries fall to the wind and here we sit today, America and Great Britain, bosom buddies, hostilities long forgotten. We are mates and cronies sharing similar core values, speaking the same language (mostly), housing Madonna, and puzzling over the popularity of escargot in French cuisine. Actually, the befuddlement over escargot should not be surprising. It is the French we are talking about after all, so a certain amount of head scratching is de rigueur.

Some may say America has experienced greater success since that spot of late 18th century unpleasantness and, on the face of it, they would be correct. America has grown into the world’s preeminent superpower while the British…well, let’s just say tacking the descriptor “Empire” after the word “British” is a wee bit excessive in 2013. (See “Empire Shrinking” above.) Yet these two first cousins of the Western world remain very much in lockstep with subsequent worldly contributions. Maybe rock and roll found its roots in America through the fused strains of blues, country, gospel and jazz music. But the British were arguably the ones who thrust it into global prominence. Maybe the British led the charge with tabloid journalism, but America adapted it and blew it into the seedy realm of television. The trade-off is everywhere. For every Hemingway or Steinbeck there is a Dickens or Orwell. For every royal tragedy there is a Kennedy incident. Where one has Lincoln the other has Churchill. Yes, America and Great Britain are conjoined twins who survived separation surgery, thriving when torn physically apart while continuing to drain psychological reassurance from each other. Different and yet the same.

One of the more regrettable consequences brought about by the American Revolution was the fate of the letter “U” in our two vocabularies. As you know the British continue to insert U’s between their O’s and R’s in many words. Colour, honour, neighbour, flavour – they all sport that curvy extra vowel. You will also find it floating about in favourite, savoury and rumour. How lovely is that! It is so much more appealing than the U-less boredom of color, flavor and rumor, don’t you think? The bonus U adds a touch of old world class, a reminder that elegance can pop up in the most unlikely places. When those pissed off colonists were chucking tea into the waters off Boston they were symbolically discarding the tyranny wrought by unfair taxation. However, they were also at the forefront of something else, something mildly tragic. They helped seal the fate of that beautiful extra U in America, sending it back to England as surely as if it were chained to the hull of the HMS Bellona. They may have thrown tea into the harbour, but they watched it disappear into the harbor.

  1. rangewriter says:

    I agree with SDS. This is a brilliant bit of writing. Mighty colourful. (oh, my spell checker is very American!)


  2. Poor “u”. Who would have thought it would have been thrown out with the “t”?


  3. gene3067 says:

    I believe it was Benjamin Franklin that first started dropping the “U”. Personally I don’t mind the changes. If we had kept the true British writing and speaking style, we’d be saying “Zed-Zed Top” instead of “Zee-Zee Top”.


  4. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    This is one of my favourite pieces of yours. Fantastic writing.

    I love the British. They’re like a beloved sibling or cousin – always there for us, always lending us their stuff. We Americans think we’ve separated ourselves from them, but then here comes Downton Abby. We’ll all be wanting a butler and a valet now.


  5. Rick says:

    I’ve often wondered what Britain and France really think of each other. They fought each other for centuries and now act like friends. Act is the operative word, I believe.


  6. Wow! This is a great piece of writing. Too bad Madonna had to find her way back to our shores.


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