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Made In America

Bill Bryson

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American Eng has preserved old words like skedaddle and chore, but not fortnight or heath.

Ray Buduick took his light plane up for a spin one Sunday morning. Not unusual, but he was in Honolulu and this Sunday was 7 Dec 1941, and to his surprise the sky was full of Japanese Zeroes. His plane was raked by gunfire, but he managed to peel away and land safely. He became, completely inadvertently, the first American to take part in aerial combat in WW2.

Mayflower story heavily based on a poem The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, which has a very strange background. Written, not by an American, but by a somewhat limited (to put it politely) Welsh poet named Felicia Dorothea Hemans. One day in 1826 her local grocer happened to wrap her buys in a sheet of two year old newspaper from Massachusetts with a small article about the anniversary of first landing.

Multiple errors in poem, but particularly the idea that they landed on Plymouth Rock. This rock was never mentioned in any of the Pilgrims' diaries or letters, and in fact never recorded until 1715, nearly a century later. They didn't call themselves Pilgrims or Puritans: they used terms Saints and Separatists.

(Her other claim to posterity was the poem Casablanca, although it is only the first line that anyone remembers: "The boy stood on the burning deck"

For at least 120 years before the Mayflower, English fishermen had been landing in bays along the east coast of America, sometimes over-wintering to get a head start on the next fishing season.

Chaucer wrote ientyl and ioye for gentle and joy. American settlers were first recorded to use new ly minted (1524) letter 'j'. Still occasionally have choice - gibe or jibe.

Pilgrims kept words which died out in Later English English - fall for autumn, bug for any insect, cabin for small house, hog for a pig, junk for rubbish

Some words died out in both AM and Eng - slobberchops for messy eater.

Charles Goodyear, the man who gave world vulcanised rubber, typical Am inventor - total belief in idea, years of devotion to perfecting it - but with an exception to the rule: he din'thave a clue as to what he was doing. Bankrupted his family and friends, and when he did luck onto right process, he was quickly cheated by imitators who paid him nothing. Even Goodyear Co had nothing to do with him - set up by a couple of brothers who admired him.

Eli Whitney invented cotton gin ('gin' being an abbrev for 'engine'), but was similarly ignored by people who copied his invention. Despite huge effect on profitablity of cotton growing, he made nothing.

Elias Howe invented first working sewing machine. Isaac Singerstole te patent. He was eventually forced to pay Howe royalties, but Singer is known as inventor. Similarly, (sucking) vacuum cleaner invented by Murray Spangler. Hoover was the smart businessman who made the money.

Prof Joseph Henry of Princeton invented all the necessary parts of telegraph. He never bothered topatent anything, so Samuel Morse did, and refused to credit Henry for anything.

Aleander Graham Bell inv phone 1876. Tired to sell it to Western Union but their execs decided it 'had no commercial value'. Withi 5 years, the Bell patent had become the single most valuable patent in history. Bell sold interest 1881 and went on to inventaircraft ailerons and contrib to phonograph and iron lung, photo cells and desalination.

Many everyday objects patented under strange names - electric lamp rather than light bulb, spoken telegraphy rather than telephone, wire fences not barbed wire, fireless cooker for electric stove, apparatus for testing air, not air conditioner.

There are no cities named after Ben Franklin or Jefferson,but Dallas, after George Miflin Dallas whose sole claim to fame was as VP for Pres Polk. Cleveland is named after a lawyer who owned land there but never visited.

L'eau Froid (Cold Lake) became Low Freight, Mont Beau became Monbo, Les Mont Verts became Lemon Fair.

Once the West had multiple Two Tit Mts, Nipple Butte and the like (not to mention Shithouse Creek, Puke and dead Bastard). TToday, apart from Sugar Tit, Kentucky, only remnant is Teton Mts, which you need to know French to decipher.

William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh, like all Elizabethans, were careless about spelling of own name - they and peers spelled them multiple different ways. But Shakespeare never used that spelling, neither did Raleigh.

Famous Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather named not for the fibre, but for his mother, Mria Cotton, who,incidentally, was the step-sister of her husband, Increase Mather, and thus was both Cotton's mother and aunt.

Non-English speaking immigrants commonly anglicized their surnames. There are far more Millers and Smiths in America than in Britain. but that is largely bc of the transition from German/Scandinavian Schmitts and Mullers. Custers were originally Kosters, Rockefellers were Roggenfelders, Hoovers were Hubers.

Jews often wanted to chnage their name to counter anti-Semitism. So Isarel Baline became Irrving Berlin.Samuel Peppys tellsstory of a doctor named Levy who petitioned to change his name to Sullivan, and then a month later to Kilpatrick. He explained that his patients would ask him "Yes, but what was your name before?"

Two Swiss brothers and nephew Del-Monico opened first restaurant 1827. Delmonicos. Diners were not repurposed railroad cars; they just happened to have similar dimensions as they were built off-site and trucked to location.

Chocolate didn't become popular in America until Milton Hershey came up with the Hershey bar in 1903. Hershey had spent decades as a struggling candy maker until he struck it rich in middle age with caramels. He sold his caramel business for a million dollars in 1900, then poured that fortune into perfecting the new milk chocolate. That made so much money that he was able to build his own town of Hershey with multiple parks, a boating lake, a museum and a zoo, a professional ice hockey team, as well as usual number of banks and commercial buildings. He also built one of the biggest orphanages in the world (but just for boys) and endowed it with his fortune.

Prohibition (18th Amendment) passed 1920, but actually encouraged drinking. California's vinyards expnded from 100,000 acres before Prohibition, to 700,000 acres after. Before Prohibition, NY had 15,000 lgal saloons; after Prohibition it had 30,000 illegal ones.

Mark Twain declared that the cathedral-like Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle in Milan was such a beautiful place that he would happily spend the rest of his life there.

1910 Broadway electric sign rising equivalentof 7 stories above the HotelNormandie. Incorporating 20,000 coloured light bulbs, ir depicted a 30 sec illusion of a chariot race,complete with cracking whips and flying dust.

Lots of products have lost trademark protection due to carelessness in how they phrased their ads, allowing brand name to become a generic description: aspirin, thermos, lino, celophane, zippewr, escalator.

First TV ad was 60 secs of a Bulova watch ticking away the minute, without a commentary, July 1941.

KFC introduced Extra Crispy Chicken option, priced the same as satandard. Disappointing sales until ad agency persuaded KFC to incr price to make it a premium optrion.

Goldwyn, as in MGM, was named after his studio, not the other way round. His father was Gelbfisz when arrived America, and changed it, somewhat unwisely, to Goldfish. Goldwyn studios was amalgamation of founders Samuel Goldfish and Edgar Selwyn. Only after getting tired of all the fish bowl jokes did Goldwyn adopt the name of studio. he was known for his tenuous grasp of Eng language - "Include me out" his most famous.

Studios sanitised star's names, often with good reason: Marion Morrison became John Wayne, Frances Gumm became Judy garland, and Gladys Smith became Mary Pickford. Bernard Schwartz, Tony Curtis, Doris Kappelhoff Doris Day, and Asa Yolesen Al Jolson.

Neologisms from baseball - dial 8 for a homerun bc hotels made you dial 8 for a long distance call; Linda Ronstat for a fastball (bc of her song Blue Bayou - blew by you?

1878 innovation in Am Football (teams get 5 yards for a down) led to 5 yard lines being painted on fields; hence gridiron.

Basketball invented 1891, but not until 1912 that it occurred to anyone that it wd be a good idea to cut a hole in the bottom of peach baskets, so someone didn't have to climb a ladder to retrieve balls.

About 1820 a congress critter named Felix Walker responded to criticism that he was speaking drivel, that he was "speaking to the people of Buncombe" (his district). The phrase "speaking to Buncombe" was quickly adopted when anyone not making sense. Shortened to just buncombe, then bunkum, it spawned bunk and debunk. Bunkum was then mixed with hocus to make hokum.

Jumbo the elephant not named bc he was big, but big things are named after him. His name was a contraction of mumbo-jumbo, chosen by PT Barnum to evoke mystery of Africa. Jumbo was killed when his train derailed in a crash. Barnum had him skinned and stuffed, and made far more money out of him dead than alive (mainly bc no upkeep).

Term 'rock-n-roll' first heard on radio 1951, but was in use by black Americans long before, first to refer to sex, then to dancing.

Ray Kroc's story exaggerated his contribution. (Kroc was a milkshake machine seller who wanted to know why the brothers needed 8 Multimixers - enough to make 40 milkshakes at a time.) Even before he showed up the hamburger op run by the MacDonald bros was legendary in industry. In a tiny, 600 sq ft shack they had turnover of $350,000 and profit of $100,000 a year. They pioneered method of making crisp fries and thick shakes and they also had already come up with the 'Over 1 million sold' slogan.

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