March 11, 2005
Recently John Cleese wrote a piece suggesting that Britain and the United States should forget about that little "revolution" we had almost 229 years ago and go back to being the same country. He had a lot of suggestions for things Americans should do in order to restore our former Britishness. Although I respect Mr. Cleese, I think we deserve the right to have some of our own demands met. After all, we won, and it’s not our fault that the British troops thought wearing bright red and standing in a straight line was a clever strategy. Maybe if we’d waited a little longer we could have been more like Canada and declared our independence while maintaining our slavish adoration of the monarchy, but, as someone who knows his history pretty well, Mr. Cleese should remember that we tried to negotiate with King George III but he was too busy talking to houseplants. So before asking us to scrap our independence, Mr. Cleese should consider the following demands:
1. We’re not going to start adding the letter "u" to words that don’t need it. There’s a reason Webster changed these words when he wrote his dictionary. To be fair, we’ll consider a compromise. We’ll add the letter "u" to words like "color" and "favor" if you’ll pronounce the second syllable of these words the same way you pronounce "flour" or "scour". Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?
2. Look at a listing of all letters in the alphabet, or just examine your computer keyboard. You’ll find that the letter H (pronounced "aitch") follows the letter G. Learn to use this letter. Replacing it with an apostrophe whenever it appears at the beginning of words was cute in "Mary Poppins" but will no longer be acceptable.
3. We absolutely refuse to accept roundabouts. I’ve heard enough English jokes about them to know that the only reason you want to foist roundabouts on us is so we’ll understand why 97.85% of the English public thinks they’re a bad idea.
4. If you’re going to make us pay $6 per gallon for gas you’re going to have to make trains that run on time and that can’t be stopped by a leaf on the track.
5. Toast is not a food group. Deal with it. And, for crying out loud, toast is not something you should ever, under any circumstances, put baked beans on.
6. Either monarchs can get divorced or, like penguins, they mate for life. Please pick one and stick with it. It was fine when it was just Richard II, Henry VIII, and Edward VIII, but English royals now seem to change partners more frequently than a bunch of square dancers on speed. I’d prefer that they go back to sticking with the same person for life, mainly because I’m getting tired of jokes about people from the Southern United States having family trees that don’t fork. It would be nice to turn these jokes back on the people who not only really do marry their cousins, but who are actually REQUIRED to do so.
7. Please draw a diagram for us to explain who’s next in line to the throne. I know this sounds ignorant, but you’ve had 939 years to figure this out. On the other hand, please keep recycling names by putting a roman numeral after them. That’s cool. It reminds us of Rocky and Jaws movies. We’ll help by adding something to each name, like Henry V-The Revenge!, or Charles II-The Return of The Stuart!, or Edward VII-Nice Moustache! Imagine the marketing opportunities. And let me add that English royals deserve credit for being more imaginative than the French who, at last count, were up to Louis MCDLQXVI.
8. If the person who’s theoretically next in line is an Earl or Duke or Viscount or Baron or some other crap title one of your kings came up with centuries ago as an excuse to send his annoying cousin to a miniscule shire in Wessex the new monarch will actually be picked by lottery. I know this will open it up to a lot of unsavory characters, but the results couldn’t be any worse than "King Ralph".
9. It’s a "trash can", not a "dust bin". How much dust do you people have? If the contents of a container are more than 50% fine particulate matter removed from antique furniture then it could acceptably be called a "dust bin". If it’s mostly full of wadded up paper, old chewing gum, earwax-covered cotton swabs, a map of Belgium, cans of baked beans that were formerly applied to toast, and other things that even you will agree qualify as "trash" then it’s a trash can…or a trash bin if you insist.
10. A "boot" is something you put on your foot. A "trunk" is part of a car.
11. People will get "fired". They will no longer be "made redundant". Trust me. If you’ve ever felt the burning humiliation of your boss giving you ten minutes to empty your desk and get out before security throws you out you understand that "fired" is the only appropriate verb.
12. Can we agree on a term other than "water closet"? Once in an English pub I asked a bartender where the bathroom was. He said, "Why? Do you want to take a bath?" He had a good point, but "water closet" sounds like a medieval torture device.
13. Stop complaining that American films always cast English guys as villains. Since "Four Weddings and a Funeral", but really going back to James Bond, you’ve been casting English guys as the world’s best lovers. We’ll stop making you villains if you’ll stop deluding yourselves. I think we all know there’s a reason James Bond had to find a different girl in every movie.
14. While we’re on the subject of films, I think we can both agree that turning successful films into Broadway plays is something that should be stopped immediately–with one possible exception. "Spamalot" may be the funniest thing on Broadway since Lionel Barrymore puked over Laertes in the second act of "Hamlet", but whoever decided to make "The Full Monty" a live musical was spending too much time talking to houseplants. On the other hand we both need to work on our music. The sun finally set on the British invasion in 1991 when Freddy Mercury died and the Kinks broke up, but there wouldn’t have been a British invasion if we hadn’t invented The Blues first. Obviously this is one area where we do best if we work together.
15. We’ll accept calling the 26th letter of the alphabet "zed" if you’ll accept that the digit 0 is properly called "zero", not "naught".
16. Finally, there’s the question of geography. Back in 1776 one of the complaints of our MP was that he couldn’t telecommute and the Concord wasn’t up and running yet. Come to think of it, it isn’t now either. Since we have more space it seems only fair that you move over here. England will officially become the largest suburb of New Jersey, partly because the name will make you feel more at home and partly because people there have a similar way of pronouncing the letter ‘R’. I know you may have heard a lot of bad things about New Jersey, but based on what I’ve heard you’d rather be part of it than the European Union.