Blame-Shifting Slang, or ‘The Anglo-Saxons Made Me Do It!’

Got something you’re ashamed of as a nation? Blame it on foreigners! Syphilis is the most common example: The English call it (if memory serves) the French pox, the French call it les pustules anglaises, the Russians call it the ‘Albanian abomination’, Canadians call it ‘Yankee palsy’, etc.

Anything to do with organized crime, violence, or police brutality gets blamed on the Anglo-Saxons, especially the Americans. American movies have been shocking everyone with their over-the-top violence all the way back to Scarface (1932 and 1983) and Little Caesar.

In both Germany and France, you can read about the “American third-degree tactics” when cops browbeat suspects into confessing (And of course Americans and Brits return the compliment by denouncing “Gestapo tactics”.). In the 1920s and 30s, papers all across the world denounced “Chicago-style gangsterism”. The list goes on and on.

I just found another example. I’ve been reading a lot of James Ellroy lately (recommended), and decided to do a bit of research on brass knuckles, which various men are constantly punching other men with in Ellroy’s famously gore-gushing, testosterone-tainted crime epics. Wikipedia tells me:

“In Brazil, brass knuckles are legal and freely sold. They are called ‘Soco Inglês,’ which means ‘English Punch.’…The French term is ‘poing américain’, which literally means ‘American fist’.

So there you have it: We Brazilians and French were once peaceable and civilized peoples, incapable of violence when left to our own devices. And then came the insidious Anglo-Saxon plague of brass knuckles….

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