Local traditions and culture in United States of America

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    American English Language

    by deecat Updated May 14, 2005

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    Both the United States & England speak English; however, the two languages certainly do not sound the same. The English are much more formal and dignified. The American English language is much less formal, filled with slang, strange phrases, and solely American words.
    The basic grammar and American English usage can be attributed to Noah Webster He was the one who developed American grammar. He created a linguistic identity based on spoken English. Webster created new grammatical rules, as he disregarded many old British English rules. He also published An American Dictionary of the English Language, using American spelling.

    American English is difficult for foreigners who come to our country, mostly because of the phrases that we use. If someone is just learning the language, they take each word literally, and these phrases cannot be taken literally!

    Here are some phrases that cause problems:

    Burn the candle at both ends (Work too hard)
    Bust a gut (work harder)
    Get the lead out (Go fast)
    Go jump in a lake (Get out of the way)
    Go to pot (Become a failure)
    Fast as greased lightning (really fast)
    He's thin skinned (He gets his feelings hurt easily)
    Hold your horses (Slow down)
    I have butterflies in my stomach (My stomach feels queezy)
    In the nick of time (just in time)
    In the groove (Have a good, fun spirit)
    It's a cliff hanger (It is filled with suspense)
    Keep it under your hat (Keep it a secret)
    Jump the gun (Start too soon)
    Like a bull in a china shop (Clumsy)
    More than 1 way to skin a cat (More than 1 way to do something)

    No wonder people are puzzled by the American English language!

    My Webster's Dictionary
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    American Families

    by deecat Updated May 14, 2005

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    Unlike many European countries, most Americans DO NOT live in their hometowns permanently.

    Instead, Americans tend to leave home between the ages of 18 and 21. Some people more away when they attend college and never really return. Others find a job out of their hometown area, and they never move back. A great number of individuals marry someone outside the area; thus, they move away (All three of these happened to me.)

    Our own daughter Jill left home to go to college; came back home for a few years; moved to Chicago to live in an apartment of her own; then this last summer she was married, and now lives with her husband Eric in their apartment.

    Photo is our family: Allan and I walking Jill "down the aisle" at her wedding.

    Extended families in the USA are rare. Most families are made up of two working parents or (because of divorce) a single-parent family..

    Allan and Dee Giving Jill Away at Her Wedding
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    American Education

    by deecat Updated Feb 19, 2005

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    In the USA, both primary and secondary education is compulsory. The majority of students attend taxpayer-supported public schools, but parents have the right and the freedom to select a private school.
    Children usually attend kindergarten at age five, go on to primary (1-4 grades), then middle school (5-6 grades), then junior high school (7-8 grades), and finally high school (9-12 grades). Most students graduate when they are 18 years old, but by law, a student may drop out at age 16.
    Students attend school Monday through Friday from about 8:00am until afternoon (2:30 or 3:00pm).
    Students are taught reading, writing, math, history, science as their core classes, and they usually attend Physical Education classes also. In High School, students are able to select what we call "electives" such as art, music, business, creative writing, cooking, sewing, auto mechanics, and many others.
    Extra-curricular activities play an important (probably too important) role in a student's life. Sports, drama, journalism are three examples of extra curricular activities.
    In America, about 35 per cent of high school students go on to higher education.
    A sad fact in America is that teachers, although professionals, are seldom highly respected as they are in most other countries.. (I know, I taught high school for over thirty years!).

    Deecat as a Beginning Teacher
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    What We Americans Owe to the State of Virginia

    by deecat Updated May 3, 2005

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    Americans owe the small state of Virginia great recognition.

    "Virginia is our history". Our American Revolution started & ended in Virginia. The Civil War fought some of its most bitter fights within her borders.

    We must always remember that Virginia was the FIRST of the thirteen colonies, & this original colony was actually carved up into many states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, & Minnesota). For those of you who do not know, that is the reason Virginia is called "Mother of States".

    Remarkably, 8 presidents were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, & Woodrow Wilson. Eight is the most presidents born in any one state.

    "Virginia is also government".
    Most of our federal government workers live in Virginia. One of my favorite quotes comes from Nancy Astor in a speech she gave in England in 1919: "I am a Virginian, so naturally, I am a politician."

    As an American, Virginia is a place to rediscover
    our "roots". Actually, it was the birthplace of the United States because its lawmakers set up the 1st representative government.

    Ironically, Virginia calls itself a commonwealth, rather than a state. A commonwealth is defined as "a body of people who agree to live under law & work for the common good of the governed." (Now that is worth remembering!)

    Finally, some of our nation's most historic places reside in Virginia: Jamestown, where American history began; Yorktown, where colonial America came to an end; 400 Civil War battles took place here; Richmond, Virginia, served as the Confederate capital; Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, & Monticello = mirrors to our past; The Pentagon houses the huge Department of US Defence; & Arlington National Cemetery, veterans burial spot.

    If you can only visit one state, make it Virginia.

    George Washington & the American Flag, Virginia
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    Made in America

    by deecat Updated Feb 20, 2005

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    Americans are great inventors. Just think, without Thomas Edison, we would not have lightbulbs, the phonograph (basically, the record player), or a kinetoscope (movie projector). Edison also opened the first movie studio and movie theater!

    Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone.
    The ballpoint pen was invented by John H. Land.
    The Apple II was the first personal computer.
    Eli Otis invented the first passenger elevator.
    Wilber and Orville Wright invented the first airplane.
    The first traffic light for automobiles was invented here in the USA in 1914.

    Many popular kitchen appliances came from the United States.
    Josephine Cochrane is responsible for the dishwasher. Fred Waring invented the blender in the 1920s. The electric toaster and the microwave oven were both invented here.

    Fun toys also originated in the USA such as the teddy bear (named after US president, Teddy Roosevelt in 1902).
    Silly Putty, the Slinky, and the Frisbee were also thought up and produced in America.

    American Indians gave us many of our popular foods such as popcorn and corn bread.
    Would you believe, pumpkin pie also came from the Indians. Maple syrup that we use on pancakes is because the Indians taught the early settlers that maple trees had sweet say that could be made into rich syrup when boiled.
    Dr. John Kellogg started the tradition of cold cereal with milk when he came up with corn flakes. Potato chips came about when a chef made his fried potatoes very thin, and customers loved them and so teh potato chip was born.
    At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair the cone for ice cream came about.
    Most people think that Chili came from Mexico--not true. It comes from Texas.

    You probably thought that Apple Pie came from America since we always say, "It's as American as apple pie"! No, apple pie came from Europe.

    Early advertisement of Corn Flakes
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    Appalachian Culture in West Virginia

    by deecat Updated May 9, 2005

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    "Here are mountain and ripsnorting river and ripsnorting people who came to conquer them both." poet Stephen Vincent Benet

    The photo is from a West Virginia brochure

    I admire the Appalachian culture and its people. The people are poor and proud, independent but hospitable. This struggle with poverty and isolation has caused some people to leave the state while others feel trapped. But most of the people have found contentment in its mountains

    Often, member of the same family stay in one West Virginia town for generations.

    The Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College in Randolph County has kept the art and music produced by Appalachia's early settlers. Both country music and bluegrass have their origins in Appalachian culture.

    Appalachian crafts and arts are most often made from natural resources such as glass, clay, and wood. And, most of the art work is made to be used such as quilts, clay pots, furniture, and jars.

    The Augusta Heritage Center connects Appalachian craftspeople, musicians, dancers, artists, and craftspeople with people who are eager to carry on these wonderful traditions.
    Students learn basket making, wood carving, quilting, glassblowing, and clogging. Music students study the fiddle or dulcimer.

    If you want to make a West Virginian "bristle", just mention how some people characterize them as illiterate and unsophisticated. The detest that "hillbilly image" and are not afraid to voice that hate.

    A West Virginia writer, Don West, says it best, "How many people know that one reason why West Virginia became a state was that the hillbillies rejected the idea of slavery?"

    Thank goodness this Appalachian culture is being preserved.

    Glassmaking, an art in West Virginia
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    United States System of Measurements

    by deecat Updated May 14, 2005

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    The United States uses the common system of measurement rather than the almost universal metric system.

    Basic Units of Weight

    Ounce
    Pound (16 ounces equal one pound)
    Ton (2,000 pounds equal one ton)

    Basic Measurements of Distances

    Inch
    foot (12 inches equal one foot)
    yard (3 feet equal one yard)
    mile (1,760 yards equal one mile)
    (5280 feet equal one mile)

    Basic Measurement in Liquids

    Pint
    Quart (2 pints equal one quart)
    Gallon (4 quarts equal one gallon)

    Cooking Measurements

    Teaspoon
    Tablespoon (2 teaspoons equal one tablespoon)
    Cup (16 Tablespoons equal one Cup)
    Pound (2 cups equal one pound)

    Temperature Measurements

    Temperatures are indicated by Fahrenheit degrees rather than the Metric Celsius measurement.

    I must say, the Metric Stystem of Measurements is much easier than our system.

    The picture is of an American Ruler. It is 12 inches (1 foot) long.

    American Ruler
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    American Currency

    by deecat Updated May 15, 2005

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    In the United States of America, we use both coin and paper money. Our Federal Government is the only one to produce our money.

    100 cents make one dollar, the basic unit of American Currency.

    Coins

    One penny equals one cent.
    One nickel equals 5 pennies.
    One dime equals 10 pennies or 2 nickels.
    One quarter equals 25 pennies or 2 dimes & 1 nickel.
    One half Dollar equals 50 pennies or 2 quarters or 5 dimes or 10 nickels.

    We have two different versions of a dollar coin:

    a. Susan B. Anthony dollar.
    b. American Indiana guide, Sacagawea dollar.

    This dollar coin equals 100 pennies or 20 nickels or 10 dimes or 4 quarters or 2 half dollars.

    Paper

    1 Dollar Bill (George Washington)

    2 Dollar Bill (Thomas Jefferson)

    5 Dollar Bill (Abraham Lincoln)

    10 Dollar Bill (Alexander Hamilton)

    20 Dollar Bill (Andrew Jackson

    50 Dollar Bill (Ulysses S. Grant)

    100 Dollar Bill (Benjamin Franklin)

    1000 Dollar Bill (I've never seen one!)

    I hope that this has helped to understand the American Currency System. I remember, before the Euro, how difficult it was to determine currency systems between countries.

    American Currency
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    Patriotic Small Town America

    by deecat Updated Jun 10, 2005

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    Most small towns in America display much patriotic emotions and loyalty to the United States. Their citizens and local organizations display this patriotic spirit through "flag waving", "flag pins worn on clothing", "banners on cars and trucks". .

    Many small towns across this country have newly erected War Memorials. An example of one such memorial is found in Gurnee, Illinois in front of the Fire Department.

    It's really quite a lovely War Memorial that is made of white granite set on a dark granite base. The base has five brass emblems which represent The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the National Guard.

    Letters done in relief make an inscription that reads:

    In Memory of the sons and daughters of Warren Township who gave their lives during military conflicts of the United States so that freedom might prevail"

    The MIA (Missing in Action) Flag stands beside it; the American Flad stands behind it; the Illinois Flag stands on the other side of it.

    This is only one of many memorials to honor our servicemen and servicewomen. It's an honor to live in small communities who still value old-time patriotic values.j

    A Typical War Memorial in Small Town USA
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    Have a drink with the locals

    by PA2AKgirl Updated May 31, 2004

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    When we started taking back roads, we got the idea that we would stop in a bar in some random little town just to meet the people. Originally, our plan was to go into local bars and sing karaoke, but that sort of faded away in Utah where we couldn't even find an open bar. (Most we closed up and for sale, but you gotta love a person for trying to keep a bar open in a Mormon community) Early on, we stopped in the town of Leoti, Kansas and got a drink at "Leoti Recreation", a small bar in the middle of the town. When we walked in, we knew we found the perfect place. Granted, it was only 5:30pm, but there were still about 10 people in there. (When you hear the size of the town, you'll see that's significant) We ordered whatever was on tap (Budweiser, maybe) and I asked the man sitting next to me "How many people live here?" He said "all of them" at the same time the bartender said "those who are too poor to leave." We continued talking to them a little bit & found out there are less than 1000 people in the town, most of which are over the age of 85. For fun, they go to the bar during the day, close up early & then head over to the senior center.

    Jeanette asked when it got rowdy in there--when it was appropriate for her to dance on the table. They said she was looking at the height of excitement...but she could dance whenever.
    We left after one drink & continued on. After an hour, we crossed into Colorado & were hoping to have a drink at "Towner, Colorado", but no such luck. There was no bar there or in the next 10 towns. Not a gas station or restaurant for that matter.
    We went to another local bar in Gardiner, Montana & also in West Yellowstone. Though these people see a lot of tourists, they are mostly local bars.

    That's gotta be one of my favorite things to do--just hang out with locals wherever I go. I'm sure this applies everywhere across the world, but in the US, I've always just wanted to hang out with rural kansas natives. There was a great spread on that in National Geographic a few months ago.

    THE bar in Leoti, Kansas
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    Made in America II

    by deecat Updated Feb 20, 2005

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    Americans not only invented items and food, they also created new sports.
    James Naismith, an American gym teacher, invented basketball when he wanted a new game for his bored students. Thus, he put up fruit baskets on the balcony of the gym so that students could try to toss the ball into the baskets to collect points. He later refined the game to have a basketball net rather than fruit baskets. Thank goodness!

    Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing the modern game of baseball in 1839. The USA formed the first baseball leagues in the early 1900s. Today, baseball is called "America's Pastime"

    American football evolved from soccer, but it was more like rugby. Today, when American's travel abroad, and they hear that a "football" game will be televised, they are visualizing American football, not soccer.
    Vice versa, when foreign travelers come to America and hear about "football", they assume we mean soccer!

    As a result of sports, a practical, safe shoe was needed. Thus, in America, the"sneaker" was invented. Today, we call them "gym shoes or "athletic shoes".

    Also conceived in America was the ever practical zipper. Think how much time that saves.

    Perhaps the most American of clothing, the "blue jeans", were first introduced by Levi Strauss...oh, my, what staying power the blue jean has!

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    Outstanding Pennsylvanians

    by deecat Updated Mar 30, 2005

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    Of all the states that I have visited, I think that I like the famous people from Pennsylvania the best!

    One of my favorite books as a young girl was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Germantown, PA)

    The woman singer I really admired was Marian Anderson, one of the greatest singers of her time in concert & opera. (Philadelphia, PA)

    Since I loved books, I always went to the library, and in my hometown, the library was the Carnegie Library because Andrew Carnegie, gave his money to build libraries all over America. (Allegheny, PA)

    The book Silent Spring changed my life forever. The author was Rachel Carson.
    (Springdale, PA)

    One of the women artists whom I have always loved is Mary Cassatt and her impressionist art. (born in Allegheny City, PA)

    As a young adult, I loved dancing the "twist", made famous by Chubby Checker. (Philadelphia, PA)

    My all-time favorite comedian and TV star is Bill Cosby. (Philadelphia, PA)

    I love a woman singer with a "New Attitude" such as Patti Labelle. (Philadelphia)

    In sports, I've always respected and admired Joe Montana (Monongahela, PA) football quarterback; Arnold Palmer (Latrobe, PA) golf champion; Jim Thorpe (Carlisle, PA), an American Indian who won gold medals in the decathlon & pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics; and the best of the best actors, James Stewart (Indiana, PA).

    And "American Bandstand" originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

    The list goes on and on, but these are some of my favorites.

    Chubby Checker (Pennsylvania)  the
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    Drinking your way across the USA

    by PA2AKgirl Written Jun 11, 2004

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    Drinking laws are so different from state to state and even county to county within the states, it's hard to keep up.

    Pennsylvania, I think, is the worse (or most strict, I guess) Beer is not sold in any grocery or convenience store--ONLY at distributors and bars. At the distributor, you can't get anything less than a case...no six packs are sold here. At the bar, prices are pretty outrageous for a 6 pack. Wine and Liquor are only sold at State Stores, not open late and not open on Sundays. There are exceptions, though. At certain places, like sub shops or restaurants, you might be able to find some beer to go...

    Completely opposite is California where you can walk into a pharmacy (like Rite Aid) and pick up some liquor, wine and beer.

    In the rest of the US, there are pockets of "dry counties", especially in the south. Then there are places that don't sell on Sundays, sell after noon on Sundays, have a restriction on the amount you can buy, won't sell anything over 7% in a grocery store, etc.

    Also different in each place are the times bars and clubs close. PA it's 2am, Mobile, AL it's like 6am. Some places, not at all or just for 1 hour. There are "after hours" places in cities like NYC you can go to after places close at 4am...

    Parks and beaches vary as well. Again, in PA no drinking anything alcoholic in a state park. National Parks, you can.

    One thing that's consistent is the drinking age of 21. What's not is the enforcement of that law.

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    American Holidays

    by deecat Updated Feb 19, 2005

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    Photo thanks to Digital Stock

    Holidays are important to Americans. Most have to do with sharing good times with the family, special foods, & creating memories to cherish always. Holidays such as Christmas, New Years, & Easter are celebrated throughout the world; the ones I mention are pretty much American.

    Fourth of July Independence Day is a summer holiday that celebrates America's independence from England & the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Parades, picnics, & fireworks represent activities of the day. Also, grilling outside or having picnic food is associated with this holiday.

    Saint Patrick's Day on March 17th is a day when all Americans become Irish to celebrate IRISH HERITAGE. Chicago, for instance, dyes the Chicago River Green!

    Halloween is the second most popular holiday in the USA. It falls on October 31, and on that night, children dress up in costumes to go around their neighborhoods to collect treats. They knock on the door& say, "TRICK OR TREAT"!This holiday originated on the British Isles, but Americans have taken it to a new level.
    Pumpkins, black cats, ghosts, & witches are associated with this holiday.
    Thanksgiving is a holiday that falls on the 4th Thursday in November. It's celebrated to give thanks for all that we have. This tradition began with the Pilgrims. A traditional meal usually consists of Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, & Pumpkin Pie.

    There are several lesser-known holidays such as Labor Day on 1st Monday in September (In remembrance of those men and women who fought for the rights of the laboring class), Memorial Day on May 30 (Remembrance of those men and women who died in our wars), Columbus Day on October 12 (celebrates Columbus discovering America), & Veteran's Day on November 11 (honoring those who served in our Armed Services).
    Whatever the holiday, Americans love to celebrate!

    American Children Celebrating July 4
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    Mackinac Island Fudge

    by deecat Updated May 2, 2005

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    Photo from a post card

    Mackinac Island fudge was made for the first time in 1887. It was started by a man named Newton Jerome Murdick because he loved his mother's fudge recipe.

    He believed that visitors to Mackinac island would also enjoy it, so he began making fudge and then selling it.

    The fudge became so popular that other people on the island opened their own fudge stores.

    I think that it is funny that people who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have nicknamed tourists to their area "fudgies because tourists can always be found in the numerous fudge shops purchasing it to take home.

    Here's the Mackinac Island Fudge Recipe:

    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups confectioners' sugar
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1/2 cup nuts (optional)

    Mix milk, butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt in heavy pan. Cook at medium heat until boiling. Boil for exactly 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
    Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, cocoa, & confectioners' sugar. Beat with a mixer until smooth & thick. Add nuts, if desired.
    Pour the mixture into a buttered pan & freeze for 20 minutes. Cut into pieces.

    Makes approximately 1 pound of fudge.

    Michigan Governor's Summer Home, Mackinac Island
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