British flats in American apartments

I have sinned. My hands are unclean.  And no amount of washing will do.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!What! will these hands ne’er be clean? And all that.

The cause? I’ve aided and abetted the murder of the English language.  In my own little way. Yes, every pin-prick counts. 

All right, all right. I’m through being melodramatic. The point follows.

I’ve just signed a piece of paper. It’s one small step in the frightening process of buying something really big. It wasn’t easy, believe me.

I agonized! And how! 

My English-teacher eyes scanned the paper. Vile bureaucratese.  Punctuation, spelling, grammar, and formatting all over the place.   

Hadn’t I the nerve to suggest I’d edit it? No. Because I’d need someone to translate it for me. All that mattered was the buying. A rare moment of ruthless philistinism. 

Yet, the hand trembled as I filled out the form.  And when the gory deed was almost done the seller chirped: (edited transcript) “Madam, please write ‘flat’ instead of ‘apartment’.

Good grief!! The man knew the difference? “Why?” I asked, feigning naivete.  (Again, edited transcript.) “Madam, ‘flat’ means a single home. ‘Apartment’ means the entire block of flats. People don’t know this.” 

I attempted remedial work. In my propah classroom language. “No, no. Actually the words belong to two varieties of English, British and American. ‘Flat’ is British and ‘apartment’ is American. 

(Edited . . .) “Both the British and the Americans speak English, no? What is the difference? Only our English is different, Madam. Trust me. Just write as I say.” 

I agreed and complied. 

The sheer simplicity of his fundas I tell you.  


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