Five Great British Things The Americans Ruined

So far in this series, we have examined 10 great American institutions, and the effect a British influence has had over each one, for better or worse.

Now it’s payback time. Here are five things which were originally very good, and then became very bad (from the British perspective) once re-interpreted by the Land of the Free.

1: Spelling

So, the founding fathers made their trip over to the new world during a period where spelling was not uniform. Even the spelling of your own name could vary wildly, depending on how you were feeling at the time. Since then, there has been an attempt to nail down the English language, and to enforce the rules a bit more stringently. Unfortunately, the people doing the nailing on each side of the Atlantic had different ideas over certain words, and one letter in particular. The humble Z is a far less well used letter in British English than it is in America, so much so that it even has a different name – Zed. To British eyes, putting a Z where an S normally goes, or lopping the U out of colour or honour, just looks brash and vulgar. That we would notice this, and make that judgement, has done nothing to alter each nation’s fundamental perception of the other.

PS: We’re entirely wrong about aluminium, however.

2: Rock Bands

How often is the sad tale told of a UK band who has been doing astonishingly well in their home country, and in Europe, and across Asia, even as far as Australia, only to fall apart when asked to try and ‘crack’ America? Too often, that’s how. From Slade to (The London) Suede, the common experience seems to be that they come over, ready to work, ready to blow some minds, they go off on tour for nine months, playing to 150 confused Anglophiles every night, during which time they’ve only covered a third of Texas, then they all go bonkers and pack up and go home. Meanwhile, everyone in the UK has gone off them and their career is effectively over. What are you DOING to these people, America?

Dairy Milk

A bar of Dairy Milk

3: Candy Bars

Over in the UK, candy bars are called chocolate bars, and you know why? It’s because they all, even the rubbish ones, taste of chocolate. You might want to give that a try. Once you’ve experienced the full glory of a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, the temptation to scrape your teeth over a dusty old Hershey’s diminishes. A lot. Also, we don’t feel the need to put peanuts into every variety either, because when the chocolate tastes nice, there’s no need to overwhelm the flavour with other ingredients.

Note: This does not apply to either the sterling work done by Reese’s on fusing peanut butter and chocolate, or the mighty peanut M&M.

4: Adaptations

An umbrella heading which covers classic British novels which have been made into bad movies, classic British comics which have been made into bad movies (a sub-genre of hell which includes Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, and a LOT of Alan Moore’s best work), and classic British sit-coms that have been made into bad American sit-coms. Leaving The Office aside for a second, did you ever see the American version of The IT Crowd? No. Or the American remake of The Vicar of Dibley, starring Kirstie Alley? No. And there’s a reason for that.

Note: Orange put together a brilliant list of British sitcoms that attempted to cross over the pond, with varying degrees of success. It’s a cautionary tale.

5: Joss Stone

The flip side of the Rock Bands thing is when a British person of tender years experiences sudden and enormous success in the US. It fundamentally changes their personality DNA, or something. So Joss Stone, who was a precocious 16 year old from Devon when she left these shores, came back talking with an American accent, flopping about like one of the cast of Superfly, and generally acting as though Britain was a cultural backwater that she could not wait to leave. Naturally, we did not take kindly to this. And after her speech at the 2007 Brit Awards, which still defies rational explanation (I repeat, she’s from DEVON, people from Devon don’t wish Big Love to ANYONE), well we basically washed our hands of her. She’s like the baby bird that was touched by humans, and now the mother won’t feed it any more. Sad, but true.

See also: Five Great British Things The Americans Improved

Have you more examples? Tell us here.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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