Last year, when asked what you would most like to read about on my blog, I received a lot of requests via comments, email, and social media to write about my life as an expat in America, and the cultural differences I have encountered.
On that topic, I have enough tales to fill this blog for a lifetime to come, but have kept many to myself or within private circles. This incident, however, happened on a public forum between a Jamerican cat and an American woman. I’m just sharing the story and adding my two cents.
Here’s what happened — and how the stink of ethnocentrism found its way to our noses.
How It Started
As many of you know, my feisty feline has his own Twitter page. He tweets without opposable thumbs under the handle @ShadowThePRcat, via my old BlackBerry. He mostly spends his time chatting up writers, causing trouble with other Twitter Kitties, and advocating for his favourite causes.
Recently, I saw a bit of sisterly love playing out, which involved a good Twitter friend from the UK, who also happens to be Shadow’s favourite ringleader. Sensing the opportunity for some innocent mischief and witty banter, I joined in and later dragged Shadow into the mix.
Shadow and Rosetta take special pride in ganging up on me, and sure enough, within minutes, I was being accused of starving the poor kitty, because he was denied tuna that evening.
Now, I know this all sounds trivial, but it gets ugly — and I want you to be as confused as the three of us were when it did.
As the playful tweeting progressed, Rosetta jokingly offered Shadow some fish, giving him the chance to state his preference. Shadow replied with:
Almost immediately, Shadow was hit with this:
If you read through the thread, you will see Rosetta doing her best to defuse the situation, but the Cajun Queen was persistent and continued to push the issue. Meanwhile, Rosetta and Shadow just continued to respond to each other.
The Cajun Queen would not let that slide either.
Finally, Shadow decided to dip his paws in deeper mischief than I suppose he had anticipated.
Things only continued to escalate from there.
Apparently, this bit really hit the mark for the Cajun Queen, as she then threw her last tweet in his direction and blocked him.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t join in on the conversation, I do believe Shadow is a grown kitty and can handle himself well. Any dealings I had thereafter was specifically with Rosetta, and you can bet, I said crayfish.
I make no apologies for my culture, especially on an international forum like Twitter. I will not be bullied and cowed into being “Roman” in “Rome”. You have to bring me to actual Italy for me to consider that one.
Ethnocentrism & Racism
To be honest, this is just one of the many instances of ethnocentrism I deal with on a regular basis as an immigrant. You would be surprised how often my words are better than your words escalates to my culture is better than your culture, and finally, I am better than you. And that, as you all know, is the groundwork for racism.
It’s one thing to debate the finer points of each other’s culture with each other, or even outsiders. Jamaicans do this all the time, as have many of my European friends. We have plenty of good laughs about our own culture, at our own expense, as you’ve seen from my many Jamaican posts.
It’s another thing entirely to impose your culture on someone else, telling them that they must adopt your way of doing things or risk the dropping of F-bombs.
No F-Bomb Given
When I told my friends and coworkers what had happened, few people believed me at first. You just can’t make these things up!
For those who didn’t already know, it took them a few minutes to get past Shadow having a Twitter account, before they could even begin to comprehend the idea of a grown woman from Louisiana publicly arguing with a one-year-old cat on Twitter over the word crayfish. Many still didn’t believe until I sent a link to the thread. The guffawing that ensued cannot be put into words.
Was I offended by the Cajun Queen and her antics? I was more surprised by the turn of events, than anything else. That soon melted into a cocked eyebrow, then rolling of the eyes, and then annoyance.
Reel Real Deal
What you may notice from the date of the tweets is that this started on Friday morning and continued into the afternoon, just as my article 15 English Words Jamaicans Just Can’t Seem to Get Right! was published. Am I the only one who finds this hilariously ironic?
What’s even funnier in this whole scenario is that Shadow, while well-meaning, is only half right. While there are many variations of the word crayfish, crayfish itself is the most correct. There are no equals.
Crawfish is considered an American invention, which came about a century after crayfish became the Middle English derivative of the Old French word escrevisse. Crawfish is also particular to a specific part of the United States — the deep south.
Just as the Cajun Queen said, those yankees up north — much like the rest of the world — say crayfish. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to debating matters of English, I look to the English (ie from England) for the “correct” answer, if indeed there must be one.
But funniest of all is the fact that after Shadow’s advocating that both pronunciations and spellings were correct around the world, and his insistence that both sides should just respect the other, she accused him of trodding on her culture.
I wonder who she voted for…