dorsetgirl (dorsetgirl) wrote in linguaphiles,

American Idiom Sounds Rude - but isn’t????

The Radio Times last week had an interview with an American actor/actress (I don’t know which term she prefers). In case it matters, the woman’s name is Jane Lynch and she is apparently in Glee.

Ms Lynch is described in the article sub-title as an Anglophile (Britophile?), but unless I’m reading it all wrong, that’s not how she comes over at all.

[1] RT: Is there a programme that you can’t miss?

JL: "Yes, and it’s British! I’m such a fan of Episodes. I’ve gone online to check out the secondary guys who play those American, Hollywood people, and they’re all British - all of them! The only one who’s not British is Matt LeBlanc!"

Further down in her answer to the same question, she says, "I’m also watching the first series of Homeland ... I like the guy who plays the lead, Damian Lewis - another Brit! We’re giving you guys a lot of work. But you can keep coming over because you’re so good."

To be frank, this reply really got my back up. As a native speaker of British English, I think Ms Lynch comes over as being very patronising. She sounds to me as if she finds it quite astonishing that British people can be good actors and do American accents.

And the phrase "We’re giving you guys a lot of work" sounds as if there’s a "...and you should be very grateful" hanging around in the air. To be "given" work is not at all the same thing as "getting the job on your merits". For me, if she really meant to be complimentary, she could have said something like "Some of the best actors in the world are British." Anything less, however polite, would still sound patronising, and would not be worth saying if it's compliments you're going for.

So, is she actually being patronising? How does her phrasing come over to the American ear? Am I reading her wrong, or does she actually resent British actors "coming over here and taking our jobs" (to quote our more xenophobic newspapers)? And what do other British speakers think? Am I being over-sensitive?

[2] RT: Have you got a guilty TV pleasure?

JL: "Yes, and I’m not saying this to blow smoke up your British butt, but I love Absolutely Fabulous and I’ll watch episode after episode after episode."

What the...? What on earth is she saying here? "to blow smoke up your British butt" - I hardly even know where to start, apart from "why not say ‘up your Limey ass’ and have done with it?"

This phrase sounds incredibly rude to me, and frankly I could have done without the disgusting imagery whilst eating my dinner, but then she goes on to praise the programme. So can I assume that blowing smoke up someone’s rectum is in some way a good thing in the US? I’m seriously confused by this one!
Tags: american english, idioms

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