Ameri-Brit children and awkward situations

Posted on September 8, 2009 by pacificyorkshirebird

pacific birdThis one is for those of you who might be raising kids with American and British families.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my 14 month old nephew lately.  His parents are both American but Mr. Charismatic and I have given him a few books from Britain featuring iconic British characters, Noddy for example.  Today we were discussing Thomas the Tank characters.  My sister mentioned Sir Topham Hatt and Mr. Charismatic didn’t have a clue who that was.  So, she describes the nicely dressed man wearing a top hat.  “Oh!  You mean the Fat Contoller!” said Mr. C.  We all had a really good laugh about this.  Can you imagine a child going to an American school, playing with the train set and calling this toy “The Fat Controller”.  The American teachers would be horrified at such an un-PC name.

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What Others Are Saying

  1. peacefulyorkshire September 12, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    My English boyfriend, AKA Mr. Chill, upon reading your comment suggested that the Fat Controller just simply be renamed “The Average American!”.

    (Don’t worry–for all you Americans out there, I gave him a lil’ flick on his head)

  2. Steve Shawcross September 11, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Sadly PC is becoming an issue here, especially under the current government.

    Many of Enid Blyton’s works have been bowlderised… Gollywog in Noddy being a good example, plus there have been a few eyebrows raised about the content of some of the Famous Five stories.

    There was a charity campaigner in Lincs who got quite precious about the “elderly people” sign, complaining it was offensive to elderly folk. As with many PC decisions made on the basis of “it causes offence to X group of people”, most of X never are offended I find!

  3. yankeebean September 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve gotta admit… I don’t think the Old People Crossing sign is offensive at all. I think it’s bloody HILARIOUS, but not derogatory. When I’m old I’ll be glad they’re there… :)

    Basically, if Thomas the Tank Engine was ‘based on a true story’ and there really was an obese train operator out there being driven into depression because of the publics’ insensitivity – THEN I’d have a problem with it.

    And I bet there is a cocktail somewhere called a 9/11… I wouldn’t put it past us Yanks.

  4. Marcia Blaine September 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    When the Rev. W. Awdrey first wrote about Thomas the Tank Engine in the ’40s and early ’50s, political correctness was not an issue. Remember, those were the days when it was not uncommon for people to refer to a sizeable chunk of the American population by a very unpleasant word indeed – I am, of course, thinking of the word ‘commie’!

    But how should we bowdlerize the Fat Contoller? ‘The Unanorexic Controller’, perhaps? ‘The Controller of Comfortable Girth’? ‘The Not-Necessarily-Clinically-Obese Controller’? What about ‘The Gravitationally-Challenged Controller’? Perhaps your other readers could compete with even better euphemisms to protect the particularly sensitive.

    As for the elderly crossing traffic sign: my Aunty Blodwyn and Uncle Plantagenet, on whom the figures in the sign were modeled way back in 1981, would have been most distressed if ‘their’ sign could be construed as causing offense. Both were fit and spry well into their late 90s: Aunty was a County Championship-level mudwrestler, and Uncle was the inventer of the ‘Supa-Slym’ umbrella (the object you can see him holding in the sign). Both were keen observers of ant life, which is why they are portrayed as if looking at the ground.

  5. FriskyTurtle September 10, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    There’s a BUNCH of ghastly drink names here in the States (nobody does them better). I can think of lots off the top of my head. But if an “Irish Car Bomb” is seen as crass then the others just aren’t repeatable to sensitive ears/eyes. You have to understand that the people that are drinking these libations live for insensitive, gross-out humor. Think “frat boy” mentality and read Tucker Max’s blog as a reference point and know that we’re not ALL like that.

    I suspect when Mr. Fat Controller made the move over to the States, he deemed it was time to assert himself by his birth name. He’s not even really that fat by our standards. He only has 2 chins!

  6. Rachel September 10, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I must add on to my comment that I didn’t invent the drink. It is a common drink in the states. Nor did I stand behind the name. I guess what I meant to say is that — regardless of how horribly crass it is — it is a common thing here in the states. And — right or wrong — most people wouldn’t blink twice about it because it is and always has been called that. Maybe not a perfect parallel, but I guess I’m pretty horrified by calling a character a Fat Controller or even the insensitivity of the “Elderly Crossing” signs. Both things would definitely gain outcry here in CA. Ultimately, my point was that YES it is super horrible we have a drink of that name, but it wasn’t anything that crossed my mind previously. I’m sure I’m not the first American to take it for granted, just as I’m sure it isn’t a conscious thought to say anything un-PC on either side of the pond.

  7. Rachel September 10, 2009 at 7:25 am

    I can’t agree more, Millymollymandy. It is very strange that as a bartender, we never served it. You can really only find it in Irish bars in the states. We Americans apparently are more crass than the British in some things — if not children’s stories!

  8. Millymollymandy September 9, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    ‘Irish Car Bomb’ more than just crass, its the equivelent of we brits calling a drink a ’9/11′

  9. Rachel September 9, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Ladies — probably because my English beau and I have not quite yet joined the “having kids set” — I don’t have anything to share on children’s stories across the pond. I do, however, find it amusing that in this instance it was the Brits that had the insensitive name. Just this last weekend my English boyfriend told me he was horrified that we have a drink in the US called “An Irish Car Bomb.” The more I think about it — it is pretty crass, but then so are many other bevvy names. Alas…back to Children’s Hour!

  10. pacificyorkshirebird September 9, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Great comments ladies – thanks!

    Yankeebean: Fags – never did get used to that in the UK. In middle school had a friend who went to a British school in Hong Kong and was rather embarrassed when someone asked him for a rubber, thinking they wanted a condom!

    Christine: What a coincidence! Funny name for the top hat man huh?

    Dreamer! Welcome back, so glad you had a great time. My understanding is your bf can enter the US for 90 days on the Visa Waiver Program for which his bank account should be no one’s business. More here:

    I am actually now back in the US, with my (then fiance) now husband and we are having a go at staying here for the forseable future. I’m planning a couple of new posts about that soon. In the meantime, catch up with our summer posts and you’ll learn a bit more.

    Iota – I actually thought of you and your children when I wrote this post. This is a subject I am likely to be thinking more about in the coming years. I’ve actually heard of families completely denying one side, either British or American on account of their children getting confused! My sister actually brought up Big Ears during our conversation as another example of a name you couldn’t get away with in America. So no, I guess he’d be renamed.

  11. Iota September 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

    If Noddy was published for an American audience, would Big Ears still be Big Ears, do you think?

  12. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? September 9, 2009 at 2:06 am

    p.s. i guess i should change my name huh? no longer a dreamer…much more real now than i can believe!

  13. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? September 9, 2009 at 2:05 am

    hello! remember me?! i just got back from london. spent the whole summer there. was so nice! the brit and i are doing very well. so well in fact, he wants to come over here now. which leads me to YOU fantastic girls for a question and answer (hopefully! haha!). did any of your boys come over here (the states) for a time period? i feel like such an idiot when it comes to all the rules and regulations…and i feel like they are always changing too. me and the brit feel dizzy after trying to sort out everything. he’s allowed to come over here for 3 months right? on ‘holiday’? our only worry is…are they going to ask him for proof that he is able to financially support himself the entire time hes over here? hes not going to have a lot of money when he gets here…and im going to help him out a bit while he’s he’ll be fine…but are they going to reject him bc they wont think he can live off of what will be in his bank account? also…are there any other red flags you can think of? or things we need to look into or do? please help if you can!!!!

    now i have to go back and read all the wonderful blogs. you girls have been busy this summer!!!

  14. Christine September 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    OMG I just asked my Brit husband this ‘Who is the guy in the Top Hat from Thomas the Tank’ and his answer was ‘The Fat Controller’

    That is too funny!!! :)

  15. yankeebean September 8, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Hahaha! Classic…

    One of the real dangers of Ameri-kids coming over here is the word ‘fanny’ – there would be uproar…

    And Brit-kids living in America might fall victim to calling cigarettes ‘fags’. It took be about 2 and half years to get used to that…

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