I wasn’t always an Anglophile, but I do enjoy our family visits to see the relatives in England. Over the years, I’ve developed a mental list of things I like to do there, and I tick them off as I take care of them. Eat a “cheddar ploughman’s” for lunch at a pub. Tick. Have a yummy cup of tea at some downmarket establishment. Tick. Read The Independent. Tick.
I’ve been travelling “across the pond” for more than twenty years but I still manage to learn something new on each visit. This trip, I found out that for taxation and insurance purposes, cars are assessed on the basis of their engine size. (This makes clearer the fundraising scheme described by the Sandbox Savants.) I also learned a new word. More specifically, the commonly used abbreviation to a word I already knew. (Brits are wild about abbreviations: telly for television; uni for university; bickies for biscuits; rellies for relatives; and, I discovered, rota, for shift rotation, as in the weekly schedule my niece kept at her job.) And even after twenty years, I still face the occasional challenges of a citizen of one of the two countries (as George Bernard Shaw put it) “separated by a common language.” I managed to completely confuse my mother-in-law with my pronunciation of the name of the Olympic sport in which players use long-handled rackets. Am I the only American who says “bad-mitten”? Well, the English render a more precise badminton, with a clear middle “n,” as it is spelled. Badminton confusion aside, I’m generally pretty good about adjusting my vocabulary and, when necessary, pronunciation, to ensure I’m understood. For example, I’m from New York, where the aunts and the ants are homophonous. In England, I remember that the ants are one thing and the aunties are another.
No matter how often I visit, I remain bewildered about the national identity. After crossing immigration into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we learned about England’s results in “the cricket,” in which for international competition, the different nations composing the U.K. field separate teams. But where the Olympics are concerned, the team name is Great Britain, with residents of Northern Ireland apparently invited to compete for “Team GB” or for Ireland. It’s a far more muddled identity than citizens of most countries experience, and that’s before we even consider the relationship of the U.K. to the European Union.
But now I’m back to work, and Fletcher is starting to hum. The new MIB students have arrived and are participating in their pre-session course focussed on financial statement management. Finishing touches are being put on plans for new-student Orientation, which will start on Sunday. And we’re all wrapping up those summer projects that keep us busy when we have less day-to-day contact with students or applicants.
We always enjoy those first days after graduation — a quiet time to motor through some work. But, by the middle of August, we feel ready for the return of the students and the liveliness they bring with them. I’m looking forward to next week and to welcoming new members of the Fletcher community.
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