letter to america

Here’s the text of a Letter to America purporting to be written by John Cleese which I came across in a recent blog. I don’t think it is written by him but it’s gently mocking style did make me smile and it sure stirred up a lot of reaction from our cousins across the pond, not all of it hostile – more than a few did get the humour.

Dear Citizens of America,

In view of your failure to elect a competent President and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy), as from Monday next.

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up “revocation” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up “aluminium,” and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix “ize” will be replaced by the suffix “ise.”

3. You will learn that the suffix ‘burgh’ is pronounced ‘burra’; you may elect to spell Pittsburgh as ‘Pittsberg’ if you find you simply can’t cope with correct pronunciation.

4. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up “vocabulary”). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as “like” and “you know” is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

5. There is no such thing as “US English.” We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of “-ize.”

6. You will relearn your original national anthem, “God Save The Queen”,
but only after fully carrying out Task #1 (see above).

7. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. November 2nd will
be a new national holiday, but to be celebrated only in England. It will be called “Come-Uppance Day.”

8. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you’re not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you’re not grown up enough to handle a gun.

9. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

10. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

11. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables… Both roundabouts and metrification will help you understand the British sense of humour.

12. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling “gasoline”) – roughly $8/US per gallon. Get used to it.

13. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call french fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called “crisps.” Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with malt vinegar.

14. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

15. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as “beer,” and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as “Lager.” American brands will be referred to as “Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine,” so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

16. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors as English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was an experience akin to having one’s ear removed with a cheese grater.

17. You will cease playing American “football.” There is only one kind of proper football; you call it “soccer”. Those of you brave enough, in time, will be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American “football”, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a
bunch of Jessies – English slang for “Big Girls Blouse”).

18. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the “World Series” for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable and forgiven.

19. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

20. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due, backdated to 1776.

Thank you for your co-operation.
John Cleese
Good eh? Well it got me thinking and although JC (or whoever) had already fingered the usual suspects for mockery there were still one or two topics which I thought deserved comparison too. You have to appreciate that there was quite a lot of indignation about any form of criticism of the ‘American Way’ – there was more than a few comments about we ungrateful bloody Brits after they’d saved us in WW1 and WW2! So I did try and keep it balanced:
‘Ok some fantastic comments but can I do another short letter from a real Brit as JC has been closer to you guys for the last 20 years (about the same time he has ceased to be funny):
-sit coms. we accept you guys produce the most consistently sharp and funny sitcoms which put our usual lame stuff to shame. and yet, just occasionally, we produce stuff of real genius which is incomparable – the Office, Extras, MPFC etc.
– sport. we can see the beauty in a fantastically compelling and tense draw (even after 5 days of a cricket match) and appreciate it for its own sake. it’s just win and lose to you guys – that’s ok but lacks a certain subtlety.
– scenery. you have it all: the Canyons, deserts, searing mountains, prairies, forests of indescribable scale and beauty etc. we have rolling hillsides like the Yorkshire Dales and village greens. and yet we seem to connect with the countryside more.
– you gave us the great american song book, we gave you the beatles, stones led zep, oasis etc. Shall we call that a draw?
– politics. you gave us george bush. unforgiveable
-entertainment. we gave you simon cowell. apologies
– war. you claim credit but i think you’re actually crap at it and those you’ve won were done by overwhelming odds.sorry (and thank you!)
– you gave the world the original Guggenheim gallery, the Golden gate bridge and the Chrysler building. just beautiful. we have stuff too but….
– we haven’t a film to compare realistically with the Godfather I or II
– irony and natural reserve (ie reluctance to open up easily, not the State parks). i know it’s a cliche but you’re crap at both.
– roads. ditto
– footie. the sooner you get it the quicker we can move on.
– oxford/cambridge v harvard/yale. another draw?- you gave the world the burger, hotdog, pizza (?), pretzel, salted peanut. we gave you HP sauce, sausage and mash, fish and chips, branston pickle, yorkshire puddings. let’s give this one to italy eh?- you have excellent theme parks but rubbish medieaval castles and we have the reverse.

– big ferocious animals. we just have millwall fans…

– climate. d’oh! you win

– we’ve got the SAS; you have er…

– you have the superbowl; we have crown green bowling

– we can understand everyone of your accents and you don’t even grasp the Queen’s English

– we cover world news in our press and tv and other media and you don’t.

– we teach world geography in schools and …..

– we go the US on holiday and you come to the UK (a bit)

I think that’s advantage tim henman but I’d be happy to accept an honourable deuce?

Unsurprisingly I got the ‘oh a funny bugger’ kind of response which wasn’t meant kindly but I was reassured that it did sound like a British type of expression. Maybe our culture is cutting through over there after all. Anyway it’s only fun of course. If you’re a Brit please feel free to add to anything I’ve missed and if you’re from the US I expect you to respond like a true American, with full force (if a little late). Sorry I’ll stop joshing now.
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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

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