American speak

This country speaks many tongues, the primary one being American English, though I would argue that Americans are also particularly well-versed in the language of hyperbole. Take, for example, Steve Schwarzman comparing taxing carried interest to “Hitler invading Poland in 1939”; or Lloyd Blankfein’s assertion that he was doing “God’s work”; or John Taft, US CEO of RBC Wealth Management, likening “his fear for the country to ‘hiding under my desk during air-raid drills because of the Cuban missile crisis’, when ‘literally the future of humanity hung in the balance’“. “If I were God,” he continued.

I once declared "I am God" in the middle of a deposition.

I once declared “I am God” in the middle of a deposition.

via the Baseline Scenario


Jaguar! Omaha! Nascar! Purple! Hut!

I just had a very American Sunday – bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast, followed by an episode of Peep Show (ok that’s British, but still, funny funny losers), and then it was time for the NFL playoffs. First up, 49ers versus the Panthers, and it was a good game, but the highlight for me came even before the game started:

This gave me goosebumps (especially starting at around 0:42 to the end). It’s something about the trumpet – its faint military connotation that brings thoughts of honor, pride; the fireworks timed to it, and in the end, really, the almost plaintive cries that make a national anthem as it should be – soaring, inspiring, and in this case, sublime. Thank you, Jesse McGuire. (also, perhaps a point of interest: this video was captured using Google Glass.)

Got the Panthers riled up, that’s for sure, with lots of smack talking, back thumping, chest bumping, and occasional head butting in the game. It was more like watching a gladiator arena than football, and players looked ready to kill. Unfortunately they couldn’t translate that into a win in the end (shutting down the Panthers with a yard to go, twice), but Sportscenter has informed me that the Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers game is quite the matchup. (To quote: “They don’t like us. We don’t like them.”)

As is the other championship game, with the Broncos winning tonight to go up against the Patriots next Sunday. But putting that aside for a second; I’d like to say that tonight was really the first time I got acquainted with Peyton Manning as a quarterback.

What to say about Peyton Manning? I’m used to the offense getting together for huddles, but Manning will have none of that. This means we get some forty seconds of him on TV marshaling his players into a formation and shouting a lot of gibberish before they got to get the next play going. Mr Ang has informed me that by skipping huddles, you get a chance to speed up play and tire out the defense, but that was not what I had observed, though perhaps this is due to editing: huddles give the TV station a chance to cut to replays, making the next snap seem to happen faster, but without it we are given a lot of time to see Manning flapping his arms, stomping his legs, running up and down the line and screaming “Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!”

Of course, Manning isn’t the only quarterback to speak in code. Most quarterbacks shout a stream of words that make no sense to us, but serve to tell their players something as simple as when to snap the ball, or as complex as changing the play to something else entirely.

The secret language of the quarterback is vital to defense and offense alike. A pass-rusher could gain a massive advantage if he knows when the ball will be snapped, since he can start moving toward the quarterback a split-second faster than usual without jumping offsides. The quarterback, of course, has a much simpler goal: making sure he gets rid of the ball before the oncoming 300-pound behemoth pounds him into the turf. In that scenario, even a half a second is crucial.

It has also become a way for quarterbacks to take advantage of overeager defenders; Manning drew five neutral zone infractions from the Chargers today (this is when a defender improperly enters the ball-length space between the offensive and defensive lines) – the most by any team in any game this season. And those penalty yards count. So here’s to Omaha:

Manning loves Omaha

Speaking of gibberish, sports announcers are full of at least three hours of drivel; you too can be a sportscaster if you can recite the following:

The keys to the game are to get pressure on the quarterback, force turnovers, play physical football, set the tone, take shots, win the turnover battle, avoid mental mistakes and undisciplined penalties, score touchdowns and not field goals in the red zone, and stay within themselves.

So, basically, everything.

Both teams need to get positive yardage, and make sure they matriculate the ball down the field.

Yes. Don’t run backwards.

And here’s some stuff-that-champions-are-made-of nonsense:

Both teams have to want to win more than the other team, and have to have the desire to give 110 percent and prepare to win. Because that’s how winning is done, and that’s how champions are made.

Who will pay the price? Who wants it more? Who has the guts to go for glory? Who is man enough to take it? Who will meet the moment? WHO WILL GRASP GREATNESS?

To end off, here’s a bad lip reading of the NFL:

“An orange peanut? For me? Aw. Wow. An orange peanut? Well I accept you.”

Welcome to Stink Onions

That would be Stink Onions, or Chicago, USA. Stories lie behind every name, and for Chicago, its name is a result of the wild onion, or wild garlic, that used to grow in abundance in the area, called “chicagoua”. The true literal meaning of places in the US, in addition to Chicago, are now captured in a map designed by cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust.


Names and their meanings swing wildly between the literal and the poetic – Mississippi is the “Land of the Great River”, while New Mexico is the “New Navel of the Moon”. Then there are those that are almost discriminatory – Missouri is  the “Land of the People with Dugout Canoes”, and I’ll leave you to find out which is the “Land of Those Who Speak Normally”.

For those interested, the map is for sale over here. Pair it with Names on the Land, George R. Stewart’s classic study of place naming in the United States, and How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. Just two of the many books on my reading list.

(via Slate.)


As Jean Baudrillard mentioned in his prose essay, America,” Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth.” I’m not sure about the lack of identity, but it is true that Americans make me feel bad about my dental care/lack thereof. This blog is a record of my time in this strange, wonderful land.