Being Anal is a Pain in the WHAT?

Some friends call me picky, pedantic, a perfectionist. They’re just being nice … I call myself anal, and sometimes it’s a real pain in my backside. Yes, backside – a word that Mitt Romney, the nominee for the Republican Party for the President of the United States used recently in London.

This is not a politically motivated post, no worries. I won’t bash Mr. Romney even though he criticized the biggest sporting event Britain has held in over forty years and said:  “… looking out of the backside of 10 Downing Street.”

This post is about the English language – more specifically, the difference between British English and American English.

As a Canadian, I have the best of both worlds. I’ve grown up with both. I know the difference in their spellings, and I’ve familiarized myself with the nuances of British idioms and words, but let’s face it folks, although the word “backside” can mean “the rear view of something” as in this:

I can assure you this is NOT 10 Downing Street.

The word backside is more aptly visualized as a different rear view.

You KNOW this is not what I meant.

Regardless, I did some research on the word as I know many Brits were offended by Mr. Romney’s gaffe. The word backside does appear to be a North American term. It refers to the rear side of something, but for both the British and Americans, it’s also a word used informally to refer to a person’s buttocks.

I almost feel sorry for Mr. Romney. His every move is being scrutinized, and his poor choice of words didn’t help win him any points on his first foreign tour as a presidential candidate. I’ve written about words and their impact to communication in a previous post.

Our misuse of words will not make any headlines, but for someone running for the highest office in the land, Mr. Romney may just need to watch his backside a bit more closely.

eden

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25 Comments

Filed under Revelations & Humor

25 responses to “Being Anal is a Pain in the WHAT?

  1. Lance

    I too am a fellow word nerd. But I also love casual, open, relaxed speech. If we were to hang out I would admire your slang or colloqialisms and think they were cute.

    I wrote that article making fun of Romney. I was making light of his awkwardness not his speech. He’s having to not be himself to get votes. That will always lead to gaffes.

    I think words are important because we misuse so many. My teenager throws out love/hate/really/like/literally/great etc…. I do this too. I read and comment so many blogs, I run out of adjectives and use the same words over and over.

    This was ace column….ace

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  2. You wrote a column on this too? Gotta go read, must have missed. Yes, I do find Romney awkward, and you’re right, when you try too hard to be cool, funny, or something you’re not – it comes across badly.

    Thanks for reading, and like you, I run out of words too – thank god for the Thesaurus some days.

    eden

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  3. I love this, I refer to backside to both. It just depends on the content you use it in but since you won’t bash Mitt ‘I can’t believe he’s an American too’ Romney, I sort of will. He is kind of embarrassing and borderline mental. (more of a loon I suppose.) Mitt is like that family member that embarrasses you. You try to act as if they don’t share the same lineage as you do, but its inevitable. Someone is always going to find out. He talks more out of his anal then trying that glorious brain of his. Now I want to skip through the corn fields singing, I wish Mitt Romney had a braaaaaaiiiiin. I love the queen, and I hope to visit England soon but I’m to embarrassed by this man to go.

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  4. Well, I’ve gotten to really dislike Romney, who I’ve taken to calling Governor Mittens whenever I mention him in blogs. He’s coming across as more awkward and unnatural by the day.

    One of the things I liked, in regards to Ten Downing, was the notion of the place having a cat around. The cat gets its own title: Chief Mouser to the Cabinet. I liked it so much that I wrote it into my book.

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  5. Nick

    Yeah, idiom will fuck you every time.

    But Romney just got everything wrong. Don’t turn up to one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world and claim “Anglo-Saxon heritage”, especially when any decent student of history could tell you that the majority of people living in England (which is different from the UK) from c. 400 to c. 900 AD were not themselves Saxon by origin. Speaking as a British person, I find people who claim to be Anglo-Saxon are generally trying to make an unwelcome point about racial purity (and can go fuck themselves). Okay, sure, if you’re British there’s a possiblity that you may be related to some settlers from Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium who were loosely and collectively defined by others as Anglo-Saxons, but most likely you’re the product of a long line of interbreeding between people of pan-European descent. Even as a political swipe at Obama, it’s just plain imbecilic.

    The whole “backside” – “back of a building”/”backside” – “arse” thing is the tip of the iceberg. Don’t show up in a country and say they aren’t ready to host an international sporting event they’ve spent years preparing for. Just don’t.

    But even before that I think Romney stood little chance of making a good impression in the UK. Most people in the UK couldn’t genuinely believe that George W. Bush got elected or re-elected. They marvelled at it. Romney praised the close relationship between the US and the UK, but it’s difficult, since (personally) I don’t see these shared values. We have a mutual interest in promoting tolerance and freedom across the world, but internally I think there are large differences between our cultural outlook, whatever our shared heritage. Hopefully, Romney noted the lack of armed police (or armed citizens, for that matter). Perhaps he noted our commitment to scientific study over religious teaching, particularly in the education of children. Perhaps he noted that since 1948 we’ve had the National Health Service, provided by our government.

    As what we call over here, a bleeding heart liberal, I have a vested interest in seeing Romney fail. He represents a right wing political agenda that is beyond the Conservative party, and I don’t like how right wing *they* can be. Even allowing for my prejudice against him though, and from my experience of talking to friends who are less left wing than myself, it seems to me that the UK looks at Romney and thinks: “If America elects that fool over Obama, then something’s gone seriously wrong.”

    Okay, rant over. You can go back to having fun again now =)

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    • Nice rant Nick. Agree, Romney is not endearing himself to the Brits, nor to many others around the world for that matter. Your points are well noted, as is the fact that Romney was the best of the worst running for the Republican party. It was a thin herd.

      Election season will be comedy gold with him against Obama.
      xox
      eden

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  6. I daren’t comment on the political issue because I would go on and on. However, as a person not only representing his country, I understand his wife has horses in an equestrian event – is he a moron or was he just nervous? Either way, dumb ass just made himself look bad but great article by you and great comments from everyone.

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    • Thanks OHMJAM for your comment here. I think Romney was nervous, awkward, and wasn’t respectful of his wife at all. If I were a woman thinking of voting for him, I’d think long and hard.
      eden

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  7. Alex Jones

    Excellent article! There will forever be (with the exception of an intergalactic empire in 4000 AD when everyone is speaking Esperanto) a difference in British and American English. As an editor, I can honestly say it is difficult to change from one to the other, even when you are familiar with both!

    I think there is a mistake of homonyms in the first couple paragraphs here, though: anal is quite literally “of or pertaining to the anus.” I think the word you are looking for here is anile, as in “like a fussy old woman.”

    Article on the difference: http://www.gq.com/style/style-guy/miscellany/200305/anal-anile

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    • Hi Alex, so lovely of you to leave a comment.

      Actually, my use of the word ‘anal’ is the short form for ‘anal-retentive’ to mean I’m obsessive about detail. Though I am fussy, I’ll reserve referring to myself as anile for a couple of more decades 😉

      It’s also my play on words with backside – I was in a goofy mood today.

      Really appreciate connecting with you,
      eden

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  8. Clever post, Eden! I love the nuances in languages and differences in spellings between American and British English. You do well to be able to handle both systems simultaneously. My (British) sister is living in the US now and gets herself in a right muddle – telling us sisters she’ll send us a ‘check’ (what’s she looking at?) when we’re waiting for our ‘cheque’ and having ‘favourite colours’ and being accused of having an excess of ‘u’s in her life. She definitely knows the difference between the ‘back’ and the ‘back side’ however, she wouldn’t make that mistake.

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    • Hi Jackie, great to see your comment here. I do love the Brits, and of all the places I’ve been, I’d live in London if I could afford to.
      So appreciate you dropping by,
      eden

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  9. Casey Sheridan

    Nice post, Eden.
    I guess I’ve never thought of “backside” to mean anything other than my actual BACK. Not my butt, either. Oh well, live and learn

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  10. Jason Darrick

    I always thought “backside” looked wrong. I just assumed it was because I was anal.

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  11. Ah yes – good old backside! We would tend to just say ‘The back of 10 Downing Street’ or something to that effect. I am always highly amused by the misunderstandings between the American and British version of English, especially when it comes to something political such as this! Language is such a peculiar tool but nonetheless necessary! 🙂

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    • Thanks Andy for your comment. I agree the English language has so many nuances. It’s a challenge to speak it well somedays, and probably more so when under pressure,
      eden

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  12. They all make gaffes, especially overseas it seems, whether it was Romney’s ill advised use of words or President Obama’s ill advised locale for his speech in Germany a few years back when he was a nominee. What was it a few weeks ago? Right, the former Governor and Presumptive Nominee’s adviser’s couldn’t even bother to make sure America was correct on his App. How about then Senator Obama’s gaffe about how many states are, in fact, in the union? If neither one of them have a proper understanding of language, geography and history, even with a horde of advisers surrounding them, I’m not sure they are the most equipped to be leading a nation. But then that’s me being a little bit anal I suppose. Back when I used to do this for a living I made sure everything was double and triple checked because stupid mistakes have no place in politics… especially when there are so many better mistakes to make.

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    • Thanks Wyatt, hmm … I can see the politico in you. I agree, gaffes are made by everyone – especially under pressure. Given all the prep and advisors surrounding these 2 men, you’d think it should happen less.

      Perhaps our expectations are too high for our world leaders – but I don’t think so.

      They want the job? They’d better be able to perform on the world stage. If Romney can’t make a “friendly” campaign tour without screwing up (whether minor or major gaffes) , how the heck will he handle things under pressure? All the criticism he’s getting now is but a drop in the bucket. Politicians need to grow a thick skin and keep learning.

      eden

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      • You know, ultimately it comes down to that age old political question, “Would you rather have a great man surrounded by mediocre people, or a mediocre man surrounded by great people?” Seems more and more like it’s mediocre men surrounded by mediocre people and when we come close to having someone who could touch on greatness we relegate them to the trash heap of history.

        I don’t think you expect too much. I think you expect a little bit of something we have touched on in history. The problem is our leaders today choose to live in the shadow of greatness, trying to play off the legends of those who came before us, showing little new or original, while finding that they actually pale in comparison. The Republicans all want to be the second coming of Reagan, the Democrats all want to be the second coming of either FDR or Kennedy, but neither side really knows what that means anymore because “when legend becomes fact, print the legend…” as the famous line uttered by Carleton Young in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance goes. So, in the end, we get bumblers who stumble from one gaffe to the other.

        But then this is one of the problems with handlers and fixers these days, has been for a while. They lack foresight, they fail to see how it all plays out in front of them because they are too busy looking back. In the end these gaffe’s happen because they are too focused on creating an image rather than standing on anything firm or creating anything that will last. But then, as one of my earliest mentors used to say and tried to drill in me, “In politics, image is everything…” Perhaps so, but a little more consideration needs to be given to the nature of that image than they currently give.

        Okay, sorry, ramble and rant over… nothing on my chest, honest…

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  13. Pingback: Inside the Author’s Mind – Nick Palmer |

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