Obviously, every Brit’s experience in the U.S. is different, but there are a few questions most of us have, at least when we first arrive. (Not necessarily a criticism, by the way, just different.)
While the majority of the civilized world has embraced all things metric, Americans are still dealing in gallons, inches and ounces. Apparently there was a bit of a push for metric in the 1970s; the 1975 Metric Conversion Act declared the metric system the “preferred system” for trade and commerce. Unfortunately, switching was voluntary and such was the public’s aversion that the Metric Conversion Board was disbanded in 1982. You hear some metric measurements bandied about, for example by runners doing 5ks, 10ks and so on, or people buying liter bottles of soda. There is actually a U.S. Metric Association that has existed since 1916, and even an annual National Metric Week (October 5-11). So come on America! If the crusty old U.K. can make the switch, anyone can.
Why don’t price tags include the sales tax?
My purse weighs a ton with all the change I never get to hand over because, even if I could calculate the full price of an item, there’s never enough time. Heck, even if I did have time, the tax is rarely a handy five or 10 percent. I understand that sales tax is different all over the country (and sometimes non-existent), but so what? If stores can change their prices when they run sales (which aren’t always national), surely they can let us know how much they really want from us.
Why isn’t the World Series a global affair?
I’ve heard some cracking answers to this one in my time. “Canadian teams play,” “We would still win if the rest of the world were included” and “We have the best players in the world playing in the U.S. anyway.” The World Baseball Classic is the baseball global event so what’s with calling a competition between North American teams the “World Series”?
If you ask baseball fans, many will say it’s because the Series was originally sponsored by the New York World newspaper, hence the “World’s Series”. Alas, this is an old sporting legend, a fact confirmed by Freddie Berowski, a research associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Here’s a more detailed history of the evolution of the name.
Why are Jeopardy answers in the form of questions?
It always strikes me as weird that contestants must say “what is” before giving their answers. Surely, it’s stressful enough on Jeopardy without having to remember to phrase your answer as a question. A little research, however, unearths the story of the game’s origin; it was also initially named What’s the Question?, which makes things a little clearer.
Why can U.S. kids drive, vote, get married and die for their country by age 18, yet not buy a six-pack until they’re 21?
It comes as quite the shock to visiting 20-year-olds that they can’t go out for a pint here when they’ve been doing so in their own country for two years.
The historical explanation is that in 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was introduced as one of many efforts to curb drink driving. Although it was up to individual states to set MLDAs (minimum legal drinking age), the act witheld federal highway funding from non-compliant states. Not surprisingly, all states eventually raised the age to 21. Here’s a great pro-con explanation of the current situation.
Why does everyone on TV shout?
If you’re a news junkie like me, you probably watch a lot of panel discussions in which the name of the game seems to be to interrupt and shout down the other speakers and—if you’re really good—the moderator too. For this reason (and others) I now watch the BBC World News and Al Jazeera, but I always have to turn the volume up a tad to hear the non-shouty, dulcet tones. You can even see the difference in kids’ TV shows. Take the deafening Dora the Explorer, who will surely shout herself hoarse before she hits puberty. Or the shrieking pre-teens on most of Disney’s “comedy” shows.
It’s no wonder I’m constantly reminding my kids that “I’m standing right next to you.”Read More