Laura Agustin has caused a stir by criticising journalist Nicholas Kristof for using the American term "seventh-grader" in relation to a twelve-year-old girl he helped to "rescue" in Cambodia. Agustin's broader point is a very profound one - that the use of such terminology betrays the unconscious and pernicious colonial mindset that underpins the whole "rescue industry". But it also reminded me of the much more minor irritation caused by the innumerable petty ways that Americans attempt to force the rest of the world to conform to their norms on a day-to-day basis. One good example is postal codes. If I was writing a letter to someone in another country, I'm confident I would take special care to copy the postal code exactly as it's written. But I can tell you from experience that if you send your address to someone in the US, there's at least an 80% chance that the reply will delete the space in the middle of your postcode. American zip codes don't have spaces, you see, so a postal code with a space is automatically interpreted as an error. And then there's the issue of names. Most of my family and friends call me Jimmy, but I've had experiences where I've literally said to an American "Hi, I'm Jimmy", and the instant reply was "oh hi, Jim". It seems that the American practice is to only use nicknames like Johnny and Jimmy for very small children, and to switch to the shorter names for older children and adults. Ah, well. They're perfectly entitled to their own traditions, but there are times when I can't rid myself of the feeling that I'm dealing with people who have been instructed by a stage hypnotist not to hear the second syllable of my name, no matter how clearly I pronounce it.
The most hilarious example of this mindset has to be Bill Mallon's claim that the selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympics was proof that the IOC is "international-centric". For the uninitiated, "international" is code for that peripheral part of the world that lies beyond the borders of the US, and where a mere 96% of the global population live. That's the rough equivalent of residents of the Isle of Wight splitting the UK into two distinct regions for the sake of convenience - "Wight" and "The Rest". And it has to be said the government and media are disgracefully Rest-centric.
For those who don't know, I have dual US/UK nationality, so you can put these periodical anti-American rants down to a form of self-loathing.