Friday, May 28, 2010

Limeys and Yanks

I hope that none of my English readers take offense at the term “Limey.” The term originated with Captain James Cook’s measure of having his men suck on limes to prevent the outbreak of scurvy. So what happens if you don’t suck on a lime during an interminable sea voyage? Answer: You die a slow, horrible, agonizing death from scurvy.

The term “Yankee” originated with Dutch settlers in New York, referring to English-speaking new arrivals. The meaning later expanded to mean “inhabitants of the six states of New England.” During the Civil War, the term came to mean “anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line.” As recently as fifty years ago, the term “Damn Yankee” was a serious insult down South. Now that it’s been a century and a half, some of the bitterness has been resolved. (Although I did once hear about Lee Cameron, the editor-in-chief of Notre Dame’s Law Review being referred to as a Yank. Since Mr. Cameron was born and raised in Mississippi, he wasn’t sure if he should laugh or cry.)

A small word of caution to my English readers: if you ever see an American wearing a baseball cap with an ornate, red capital “B” on it, do NOT refer to the wearer as a “Yank.” His cap signifies his allegiance to the Boston Red Sox baseball team , and there is nothing that a Red Sox fan hates more than their archrivals, the New York Yankees.

Instead, if you see such a person, simply start chanting at the top of your lungs: “Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!” You will be treated like a long-lost brother.

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