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February 15, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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The Anti-America

Formal New Zealand English, as demanded within academia, uses -ise instead of the “American” -ize endings: organise, not organize; realise, not realize. Any academic who uses Word can regale you with the constant hassle of working on computers set to Word’s standard America spelling – spell check acts like this irritating Yankee bitch, making our spellings “wrong” and forcing us to keep changing them back unless we want to lose face among our peers.

This often leads to more bemoaning the influence of the USA. However, as was recently pointed out to me, the American spelling is in fact the more traditional in this case. The Oxford English Dictionary prefers -ize because the suffix dates back to the Latin -izāre; -ise is in fact an Anglicisation, (rahter than -ize being an Americanization). -ise dates back less than a century, and is a result of Englishmen wanting to sound more French. The American is the venerable one here.

And yet, and yet… many disarmingly intelligent people still see the -ize as another dreadful American innovation. I guess this is pretty revealing of how ignorant our anti-Americanism can be. Perhaps this is because America’s virtues are so very obvious, particularly a commitment to free speech, and the work Americans have put into encouraging this spread around the world. Unfortunately, their commitment to free speech has always come into contflict with their commitment to the freedom of capital, which can be misused to control speech by monopolizing its outlets; and their commitment to the freedom of arms (a result of feeling the need to take up arms against Britain), which becomes an excuse to intimidate.

Since America’s media-presence is out of proportion to her size, we often feel suffocated in boisterous American free speech. Never forget, free speech always means the freedom of idiots to mouth off. This is its inevitable downside. Her clarion cry of liberty is occasionally uttered by those who actually mean liberty to live as you like provided you do no great harm, often uttered those who mean liberty for them to do as they like and fuck everyone else. Hence Lyndon Baines Johnson, a man whose inaugural State of the Union address on the “great society” and his commitment to civil rights brimmed with so much liberal hope, can go about allowing more bombs to be dropped on Vietnam than in the entire Second World War.

Then we come to the very fact they call themselves “Americans.” The United States of America, formerly called “The Colonies,” is a piece of land within North America, a part of what has long been called “The Americas.” So how can America be within North America? It doesn’t make sense, it’s like they are saying “We are the only nation which matters for this whole double-continent area, so We shall take its name and speak for it.” As if freedom of speech becomes the right to speak for everyone else. How do you relate to a nation at once so creative and innovative and so destructive, so self-righteous?

Of course, you react by acknowledging its diversities and by treating it’s people as individuals, not as USAians. But then, they are tied by democracy to a responsibility for their leaders’ actions, just as we are judged by whatever Clark says. I often seriously dislike particular things she says, in particular the way she dismisses opponents with a single line – opponents of the foreshore and seabed legislation as haters and wreckers, her presumption of guilt against those arrested in the terror raids, the Brethren being a weird sect who will punish you all unless Labour can save you. In many of these situations I’ve felt she was ultimately correct in her stance, but felt that such dismissals are not a very genuine or understanding way to treat people. So she can irritate me, but I’m not exactly fired up about it or anything. So perhaps I can understand why half of he USAian population don’t consider Bush to be a bad enough leader to bother voting for someone new. Except… at least from this distance, his unplanned, opportunistic invasions and completely sheltered ignorance of, well, the world make him seen so totally incompetent that – how can anyone feel apathetic when they have the chance to say no to that?

Perhaps it’s because the JFK-LBJ era of liberal optimism ended in such complete tragedy, of racial riots, black panther vs police war, and millions dead in South East Asia, that the majority said “fuck it, it’s too painful to care, let’s just let a man as obviously corrupt and deeply angry as Nixon run our nation.” They elected him twice. Elected Bush twice two. But they also produced the blues, rock and jazz.

So yeah. America is funny.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (3)

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  1. You learn wondrous things from Blaze at 2.30am on friday morning dont you tristan :P

  2. peteremcc says:

    Yeah but it’s not like the American’s just simply kept using -ize all the way through from the Latin.

  3. bisky risness says:

    peteremcc – elaborate

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