(Mailed to the International Herald Tribune and posted to alt.usage.english.)



The virtual silence continued to reign in Oslo. When the Swedish Academy presented Coetzee with his prize, much was made (rightly so) of the human evils he documents: torture, alienation, racism, suffering. But little was spoken about what animals mean to Coetzee, the man, or Coetzee, the author.
"Animal Rights: What the Nobel Committee Failed to Note" by Tom Regan and Martin Rowe.
Published on Friday, December 19, 2003 by the
International Herald Tribune


The people of Norway often cite the United States of America as the place where people think either Norway or Oslo is the capital of Sweden. It's a standing joke. I thought it was, anyway.

It is a shame that Tom Reagan's and Martin Rowe's article about the Nobel Prize for literature was spoiled by such a stereotypically dumb Americanism. I fear that the Norwegian stories of conversations with Americans who think that Oslo is the capital of Sweden will increase as a result.
Here's a correction:
The Nobel Prize literature is presented in Stockholm, capital of Sweden, by King Carl XVI Gustav. This year, the prize went to J. M. Coetzee from South Africa.
The Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo, capital of Norway, by Harald V (this year it was presented by Crown Prince Haakon, who is regent for his convalescent father). The prize for 2003 was presented to Shirin Ebadi from Iran.
Sweden and Norway are next to each other on the map, but have been wholly independent of each other since 1905.
I urge the International Herald Tribune to print a full-page correction of Reagan's and Rowe's mistake; I hate hearing stories of "dumb Americans".

Simon R. Hughes
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I fear that the Norwegian stories of conversations with Americans who think that Oslo is the capital of Sweden will increase as a result.

It is a faraway place about which we know little. Joking aside, how many of your half-frozen Norwegian friends know where California is, a state at least as significant as their entire country? Not all by a long shot, you can be sure. All the time people in Ireland ask me if I liked the west coast of America so much, why did I leave Washington, DC? Many here don't even know the name of the capital of the US, let alone where it is located. And the Irish are said to be among the best educated people in the world.
Americans are a hell of a lot smarter than you give them credit for, the election of George W not withstanding. Half the threads you start are there to make fun of Americans. Most of us already know what Franke's problem with America is, what is your excuse?

Charles Riggs
Email address: chriggs¦at¦eircom¦dot¦net
Thus spake Charles Riggs:
I fear that the Norwegian stories of conversations with Americans who think that Oslo is the capital of Sweden will increase as a result.

It is a faraway place about which we know little. Joking aside, how many of your half-frozen Norwegian friends know where California is, a state at least as significant as their entire country? Not all by a long shot, you can be sure.

Is this "joking aside"?
All the time people in Ireland ask me if I liked the west coast of America so much, why did ... alone where it is located. And the Irish are said to be among the best educated people in the world.

Er... Ireland is populated by paddies. Nuff said.
Americans are a hell of a lot smarter than you give them credit for, the election of George W not withstanding.

I agree. P. T. Barnum's maxims, "every crowd has a silver lining", and "the public is wiser than many imagine" are true. The place he said them was America.
Half the threads you start are there to make fun of Americans.

I would dispute the statistic.
Most of us already know what Franke's problem with America is, what is your excuse?

Answering this again, I would be repeating myself.
Simon R. Hughes
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I fear that the Norwegian stories of conversations with Americans who think that Oslo is the capital of Sweden will increase as a result.

It is a faraway place about which we know little. Joking aside, how many of your half-frozen Norwegian friends know ... alone where it is located. And the Irish are said to be among the best educated people in the world.

Fine, and not argued with. How many, though, of those people are journalists and copy-editors on what purports to be the world's most prestigious international newspaper, most of the contents of which are culled from America's two newspapers "of record"? That, surely, was Simon's point.

Ross Howard
Thus spake Ross Howard:
It is a faraway place about which we know little. ... to be among the best educated people in the world.

Fine, and not argued with. How many, though, of those people are journalists and copy-editors on what purports to be the world's most prestigious international newspaper, most of the contents of which are culled from America's two newspapers "of record"? That, surely, was Simon's point.

I was working as the sole English teacher in a small middle school last year. About the time America was beginning serious rattling of its sabres, I had a great idea for a class of 14 year-olds. I got them to write letters to George W. Bush, to let him know what they felt about the imminent invasion of Iraq. The thought at the back of my mind, although I didn't tell the kids, was that if any of the letters were any good, we could post them.

A week later, I collected the letters, and decided that none of them were appropriate for posting to the US president. A week after that, I took a couple of hours to try to teach them about the concept of appropriate usage (e.g. you don't call the President of the United States of America a "*** monkey-brained Nazi" to his face).
Charles thinks I am anti-American, but I have nothing on the kids these kids are representative of (the next generation). If America wants to see the decline of anti-American sentiment, America is going to have to help its own cause. Eye-rolling stories of Americans thinking that Norway is the capital of Sweden are a small step on the way.
I wouldn't have written to a newspaper, had I encountered personally a person (of any nationality) as ignorant as the journalists appear to be.
There is ignorance everywhere. I would roll my eyes at Norwegians not knowing the name of the capital of the US. But I don't recall having met one. My current gripe in this country is the impending death of the semicolon.

Simon R. Hughes
There is ignorance everywhere. I would roll my eyes at Norwegians not knowing the name of the capital of the US. But I don't recall having met one.

In Denmark, it is said that Americans think Copenhagen is Sweden's capital ;-(.
And I've never met a Dane in middle school or above who doesn't know where Washington DC (or California) is placed ...

Per Erik Rønne
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
There is ignorance everywhere. I would roll my eyes at ... of the US. But I don't recall having met one.

In Denmark, it is said that Americans think Copenhagen is Sweden's capital ;-(. And I've never met a Dane in middle school or above who doesn't know where Washington DC (or California) is placed ...

Yeah, but how many Danes can name the capital of Wisconsin, a state whose population and economy are similar in size to Norway's?

Incidentally, America's 'gross legal product' is only slightly smaller than the gross national product of Norway.
And 'personal services' were worth $63 billion in 2001.

http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/regional/gspmap/mappage.asp

Mickwick
Yeah, but how many Danes can name the capital of Wisconsin, a state whose population and economy are similar in size to Norway's?

This is a granfalloon (Kurt Vonnegut) viz. a
presumption of shared interest that on analysis
can be shown bogus or unlikely here that all
members of communities of size N share an
interest in knowing about other communities of
size N that is undifferentiated (does not vary
with proximity etc.) I vote in a community of

10 million and I know the name of the head of itsgovernment: this does not imply I have an
equal interest in knowing the names of the heads
of government of all other communities of size

10 million.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
In Denmark, it is said that Americans think Copenhagen is Sweden's capital ;-(.

Copenhagen needs to come up with a memorable, exportable cheese. Every American knows that the capital of Sweeden is Ikea, and the largest city is Volvograd. Norway's best chance at recognition is to harbor some al-Qaeda.
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