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It's often said that the Americans and the British are "two peoples separated by a common language." Recently, a pair of British tourists learned the hard way just how dangerous that can be.
Bar manager Leigh van Bryan, 24, of Coventry, and his friend, 26-year-old Emily Bunting, of Birmingham, were very excited about their upcoming trip to Hollywood. Leigh (who, like everyone else under the age of 35 these days, has an account on Twitter) sent a message to another friend asking if she'd like to have a drink "before I go and destroy America."
Now, as it turns out, "destroy" is a term used among young Britons to indicate that one intends to party hard. To get plastered, bombed, wasted. To, in a more familiar American idiom, paint the town red.
It seems that a lot of the slang used in Perfidious Albion has a violent and vaguely sinister cast. For instance, when someone from the UK tells you he could "murder an Indian," he is not expressing homicidal frustration with some unhelpful call-center wallah from Bangalore. He's telling you he's hungry for curry, which seems to have replaced fish and chips as the primary take-away food of the British Isles.
If they say they're going to "pop out and smoke a fag," they're not planning to ambush a homosexual by jumping out of an alley and shooting him; they're going outside for a cigarette.
If a Brit wants to "have a butcher's" at something, it means they want to have a look. Describing someone as "dead sexy" doesn't mean they resemble a hot zombie; it's the equivalent of "drop-dead gorgeous." And so on.
(Thanks to my UK pals Georgette Goldie and John Rickards for advice on the slang).
Apparently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not have a dictionary of British slang handy. It does, however, have some way to scan the Twitterverse for ominous words and phrases like "destroy America." Therefore, when Leigh and Emily landed at LAX, they were detained, handcuffed, thrown into a cell, interrogated, then unceremoniously hustled onto the next plane back to England.
Reports that Fox News pundit and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan flew into a rage and had to be sedated when he found out that the DHS had failed to waterboard the couple could not be confirmed at press time.
I don't know about you, but I certainly feel a whole lot safer. I'll sleep so much better tonight knowing that Homeland Security is out there, reading Twitter (which their official report refers to repeatedly as "Tweeter"), looking for the buzzwords that will aid them in their tireless quest to protect us from the peril of 20-something British hipsters coming to our shores to get their drink on.
They even searched Leigh and Emily's luggage looking for shovels and picks because Leigh had posted another joking tweet about "digging up Marilyn Monroe." The young man's attempts to explain that this was a reference to an episode of the American TV series "Family Guy" fell on deaf ears.
"You really [bad word] up when you sent that tweet, boy," one DHS agent is reported to have told Leigh before they threw him in the cage.
So, from this, we learn quite a few things about the Department of Homeland Security. They believe that the next major terrorist attack might be perpetrated by someone who will telegraph the strike by posting explicitly about it on Twitter, even though DHS is not really sure of Twitter's actual name.
They also believe that such an attack might take the form of an attempt to dig up long-dead movie stars by people who lug shovels across the Atlantic in their luggage because they don't realize America has hardware stores. They don't watch "Family Guy." And finally, they make Buford T. Justice, the comically incompetent redneck sheriff from "Smokey and the Bandit" look like Jack Bauer from "24."
Maybe I'm being too hard on the DHS guys. Maybe they're only acting like idiots as part of a cunning plan to lull the bad guys into a false sense of security. I know one thing: It's a bad idea to post the words "destroy America" in print or on-line.
Excuse me, I have to go now. There's someone hammering on my door.