January 2020, Question 3

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  1. The UK Navy is culturally very different than the US Navy, from the games played to pass the time (Ucker vs. Cribbage) to drink of choice (Ky vs Coffee). How did you feel about this immersion in a sub-culture?

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    "sub-culture" has to be one of your more striking puns in this context :)

    It all made sense to me - in passing, I hadn't realised that Cribbage (often called "crib" for short here in the UK) was popular in American submarines! I suspect the ky vs coffee thing was a quirk of rationing - Brits came up with a wide variety of innovative alternatives in the absence of real coffee, most of which were rapidly abandoned post-war as being truly foul. About the only one which persists is Camp Coffee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Coffee) which was around long before WW2 and has continued long after.

    But on the bigger issue, I found it fascinating to read something so very obviously British - Scots rather than English, of course, but with far more closeness of habitual thought and expression than US writers. I have been trying to work out what makes this so apparent - partly vocabulary, of course, and partly mannerism, and partly things that are so familiar they don't need explanation. But also, I think, it has to do with almost unconscious use of humour and the like. Even before looking up a biography, I would be totally certain that NK Jemisin is writing in US English rather than UK, likewise Gene Wolfe and Ursula LeGuin. I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this one.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    "sub-culture" has to be one of your more striking puns in this context :)

    Thank you! I try to entertain. :D

    It all made sense to me - in passing, I hadn't realised that Cribbage (often called "crib" for short here in the UK) was popular in American submarines! I suspect the ky vs coffee thing was a quirk of rationing - Brits came up with a wide variety of innovative alternatives in the absence of real coffee, most of which were rapidly abandoned post-war as being truly foul. About the only one which persists is Camp Coffee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Coffee) which was around long before WW2 and has continued long after.

    'Ready Aye Ready' - the one with the Sikh and the soldier, right? I'm familiar with it! Chickory and coffee go very well together, but most coffee substitutes are foul indeed! :D

    But on the bigger issue, I found it fascinating to read something so very obviously British - Scots rather than English, of course, but with far more closeness of habitual thought and expression than US writers. I have been trying to work out what makes this so apparent - partly vocabulary, of course, and partly mannerism, and partly things that are so familiar they don't need explanation. But also, I think, it has to do with almost unconscious use of humour and the like. Even before looking up a biography, I would be totally certain that NK Jemisin is writing in US English rather than UK, likewise Gene Wolfe and Ursula LeGuin. I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this one.

    I can fairly instantly tell the difference, but I have read an enormous volume - see there? Another one! - of British writing since childhood. Until I was a pre-teen I used British spelling as often as American, which led to clashes with my teachers.

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    Since we tend to be in between British and American writing, I seldom really notice and chameleon myself To either we’ll enough. Exposed to both cultures, as well as Canadian, my own writing is probably a hodge podge, too.

    I spent a summer working in some National Trust for Scotland public gardens when I was younger, and I spoke to a lot of tourists. The English tourists all asked me which part of America I was from. The American tourists all asked me which part of England I was from. Only the Scottish visitors asked me which part of Canada I was from.

    Btw, I grew up playing Crib with my family in Montreal. Came to Ontario and suddenly the only card game anyone wants to play is Euchre. I’ve no idea which of those is more American, but would have guessed the latter. Chicory coffee, learned about that a long time ago since it’s a common weed here. The other coffee sub I’ve heard about is made from the burnt scrapings of toast.
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    @Apocryphal - Is Ucker == Euchre? I did not know.

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    Acorns were often used to make a form of coffee, and don't need to be imported here!
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    Not much to add here, but would the "sub-culture" (groan) have been as apparent had we not seen alternatives? We start with Harry not fitting into the surface navy way of doing things, and we see how the Kiwi navigator slowly becomes accepted as part of the crew. Without those incidents, would the "trade" and its ways been less obvious?

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    @NeilNjae - good question. The Submarine service was full of people who would not make the regular navy, both in the RN and the USN. I am not sure how much was cause and how much effect, but the sub services required out of the box thinking and individual initiative, and the consequent harboring of these odd ducks attracted others, and all kinds or rituals took hold.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    @Apocryphal - Is Ucker == Euchre? I did not know.

    Apparently not - I just assumed one was an alternate spelling of the other, but Uckers (with an S) is a board game, and Euchre is a card game. I have not heard of uckers before.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uckers

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    Huh! I assumed it was a card game! One with a scoring board, like cribbage.

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    How exceptionally cool! I'd never heard of it either before this

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    The stiffness of the ordinary Royal Navy culture was the most strange to me, and at the start I imagined the main character being very frustrated and unable to fit in, maybe managing something by the end of the book as it's a series.

    I'm glad that didn't happen. The submariners' culture felt more familiar from what I know of friends who've been in the modern British armed forces. But the contrast between the two was great!
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    See my comment to question 1!

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