Do not, I beg, suppose for a moment that I am holding up the English way as better than our own--or worse. I am not making comparisons; I am trying to show differences. Very likely there are many points wherein we think the English might do well to borrow from us; and it is quite as likely that the English think we might here and there take a leaf from their book to our advantage. But I am not theorizing, I am not seeking to show that we manage life better or that they manage life better; the only moral that I seek to draw from these anecdotes is, that we should each understand and hence make allowance for the other fellow's way. You will admit, I am sure, be you American or English, that everybody has a right to his own way? The proverb "When in Rome you must do as Rome does" covers it, and would save trouble if we always obeyed it. The people who forget it most are they that go to Rome for the first time; and I shall give you both English and American examples of this presently. It is good to ascertain before you go to Rome, if you can, what Rome does do.
Have you never been mistaken for a waiter, or something of that sort? Perhaps you will have heard the anecdote about one of our ambassadors to England. All ambassadors, save ours, wear on formal occasions a distinguishing uniform, just as our army and navy officers do; it is convenient, practical, and saves trouble. But we have declared it menial, or despotic, or un-American, or something equally silly, and hence our ambassadors must wear evening dress resembling closely the attire of those who are handing the supper or answering the door-bell. An Englishman saw Mr. Choate at some diplomatic function, standing about in this evening costume, and said:
"You are a cab," said Mr. Choate, obediently.
Thus did he make known to the Englishman that he was not a waiter. Similarly in crowded hotel dining-rooms or crowded railroad stations have agitated ladies clutched my arm and said:
"I want a table for three," or "When does the train go to Poughkeepsie? "
Just as we in America have regular people to attend to these things, so do they in England; and as the English respect each other's right to privacy very much more than we do, they resent invasions of it very much more than we do. But, let me say again, they are likely to mind it only in somebody they think knows the rules. With those who don't know them it is different. I say this with all the more certainty because of a fairly recent afternoon spent in an English garden with English friends. The question of pronunciation came up. Now you will readily see that with them and their compactness, their great public schools, their two great Universities, and their great London, the one eternal focus of them all, both the chance of diversity in social customs and the tolerance of it must be far less than in our huge unfocused country. With us, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, is each a centre. Here you can pronounce the word calm, for example, in one way or another, and it merely indicates where you come from. Departure in England from certain established pronunciations has another effect.
"Of course," said one of my friends, "one knows where to place anybody who says 'girl'" (pronouncing it as it is spelled).
"That's frightful," said I, "because I say 'girl'."
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