American Backwards

I love living here, got my Green Card, not going anywhere, building a life etc etc please don’t shoot me. That said, here are some weird backwards things I’ve been noticing. Consider it an addendum to the Same but Different posts.

Political Red and Blue

In the UK, red is left-wing and blue is right-wing. Conservative stronghold counties are known as “True Blue”. Paranoid news reports about lefties and commies referred to “reds under the bed”. Billy Bragg was involved with the Red Wedge. In the US, political reporting shows conservative states as red and progressive states as blue. This confuses and perturbs me.

Measurement Units

SI units are used worldwide. The UK is a bit stubborn in many ways, with miles on the road and pints in the pub. There was a kerfuffle a while back when market traders resisted converting from pounds and ounces to grams, but I think that particular rebellion was crushed, as is only right.

Here in the US, it’s Fahrenheit (where zero is 32 and 100 is 212, of course), and engineers are trained in SI units (I assume) and then go to work on projects where they have to convert to feet and inches (with all the rounding errors that introduces). Plus weirdly they call feet and inches “English” units, despite the English mostly not using them. I guess calling them “Imperial” units (as is done in the UK) is a bit much for this young, fragile democracy.

Speaking to an intern here in the office who is an undergraduate studying Civil Engineering, I was told,

It’s a pain in my ass. Depending on the book you use, the professor you have, and sometimes the department you’re in, you might use SI units, American units like feet and inches, or even British units.”

He wasn’t able to define what a “British” unit was, but did mention the existence of “slugs“, which are an Imperial unit of mass used in hydrology.

Admittedly, this might be a perspective from within the rail industry. The UK was still using miles and chains when I was there, due to the ancient plans and drawings that were being referred to.

They call LEGO bricks “Legos” goddamnit

Not much else I can say about this.

Can’t think of any other examples right now that aren’t just cute “faggot”/”pavement”/”elevator” references. But there are some pretty fundamental differences lurking here, that can swallow an unsuspecting foreigner alive. Tread carefully, my fellow travellers.

Categorized as UK-USA