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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale


Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Leaving London’s City Airport on the 29th of December, I arrived in Michigan’s Detroit – via Amsterdam’s Schiphol – and received the tremendous hospitality of my girlfriend Sarah’s family until back the 8th of January. It was just the sort of relaxation and change if scenery that was needed.

From squeezing an extra 5 hours out of 2018, a real fun time was had at the great New Year gathering that we were invited to in Ypsilanti (where Iggy Pop’s from, for a fun fact). This is not too far from the state’s university town of Ann Arbor (my adding a ‘u’ after the ‘o’ in an Instagram post that I sent on New Year’s Eve was seen as a humorously ‘British’!) and was a lovely positive beginning to 2019.

I can take any sort of mockery at where I am from on the chin; especially, as flippantly mocking myself and where I am from does not only tie with a self-deprecating approach to life, that is think is a more than healthy aspect of our culture. Of course, there are a wealth of ugly elements to our growingly divided society, there is much to be more than ashamed of in our arrogant history and it is probably something more than a coincidence why portrayals of the devil are almost unerringly afforded an English accent.

So, however proud of my nationality I may or not be, something that I never consciously wish to enter into any debate over. You’re from where you’re from and you are what you are. It’s not as though I’d ever want to enter any sort of petty point-scoring between any countries. Any sort of comfort in yourself being attained through comparing yourself to anybody else can surely not be at all healthy and there can’t be anything more bigoted than any nationalism to anybody at all contented with who they are after all.

Admittedly, I’ve been around the houses and skirted around the subject that got me on to writing this for too long. This debate was caused by a debate that I had on my penultimate night spent in the States. Indeed, I’m shocked myself at how passionately I ended up feeling about the definition of ‘billion’!

Admittedly, mathematics has certainly never been something that I’ve ever had the greatest interest in; indifference was always the principal that I had to overcome, back in the days when I had to learn how to work equations and the like. Yet, I don’t mind sorting out personal finances or book-keeping and it surprisingly even seems to give me some satisfaction to know that all makes sense and in order. Funnily enough, my supposed ‘numerical’ ability actually came out as by far my strongest trait, when I joined every student in my year at East Barnet School and sat a YELLIS tests to gauge our strengths across the board as we entered our GCSE year. This is neither much here, nor there, but may help with some vague context.

Consistency and order are what have to be needed surely… Math(s) (I can easily forgive this Americanism, however sloppy it sounds ;) “Universal language”, as the heroine the wondrous Mean Girls poignantly states. Apparently not though, when it comes to the definition of what constitutes a billion dollars vs a billion pounds sterling!

This in itself is just such a vast quantity of money, that the actual sum of what it constitutes can easily be side-lined. BUT, a billion has to be one million million, or a ‘milliard’ as the Oxford English Dictionary states. This was the definition accepted.

In American English however, a thousand million is what is meant by a billion. I feel that the “meant by” is integral to this, as it is so incorrect, both etymologically and mathematically to invent the name of a new number before the one that you are using has been surpassed in usage.

Couldn’t believe that this issue stirred so much passion in somebody with such lack of mathematical interest. Whilst my argument was accused of being ‘semantic’, I feel that it is just ‘truth’, in accordance to the ordering of how digits are labelled.

Being perceived as deliberately anti-American or getting on a high horse over nothing, is something that I disdain. Almost, I cringe at this concept. In a similar fashion as I would loathe any accusations of my inability to believe how the definition of a billion can ever work as anything less than one million million! Under this logic, surely you might as well just call 100,000 a million to start with. Of course either are not sums that I ever anticipate myself having to actually deal with!

Rest assured, I am sufficiently ashamed of how consuming I have found this issue. Akin to any rant-worthy topic, the issue really has no relevance or baring on anything or anybody. So I’ll take my umbrage on this aside and instead celebrate the fact that we are all together in 2019. Highlights for me so far have involved being able to explore small town America guided by fantastic hosts. Most notable places that I’d highly recommend a visit include the Detroit Institute of Art for some great culture, Shipping Company for and tasty foods, with the story of Motown for its ambience along with unspoilt authentic odours. With the latter you can get a singalong #my girl at the end.

Michigan’s capital of Lansing was also found to be well worth a visit in touring the State Capitol building for FREE. Always historically it was a strongly Democrat State and I do not feel that I am being seen as biased by anybody outside of the USA, to say that this fashion is soon restored. Perhaps in a way bot entirely dissimilar to anybody outside of the UK seeing ourselves as mindlessly crippling ourselves through Brexit!

Leaving off, as I already feel that I’ve rambled on for far too long I’ll just pay my final piece of homage to Jumbo’s in Sarah’s home town of Owosso – the native Indian name, so there was some thought given after butchering! – for a true American dining experience!

Have a nice day now.

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