This is an edited extract of a story that appeared last week in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper: When 30 people gathered in a Sydney ceremony last month to pledge allegiance to Australia, they were treated to a moving speech on what it means to be an Australian citizen ... by an American. While Prime Minister John Howard has been stressing the importance of new Australians swearing allegiance to Australian values, no-one in his party had the time to take on the job. So guest speaker was US Consul-General Steve Smith, whose consulate is in the area and who was initially baffled by the invitation but ended up speaking about the similarities between Australia and the US.
I've been joking about this stuff for the past two weeks, and synchronicity being what it is, something like this was bound to happen. This past week or so in Sydney, two separate newspapers have carried stories about the "Americanisation" of Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald started the ball rolling with a piece headed Yanks R Us on the similarity of our TV viewing habits.
Among other things, it also argued most Aussie children now pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as "zee'', rather than the traditional "zed'', so I tried it on my 11-year-old daughter, who to my shock duly used the American pronunciation. When I questioned her, she replied: "Well, we use the other one too ... they're both right, y'know.''
"What, the proper one, you mean?'' I asked. "No - zed, the other one. We use that too,'' she said. The next morning, she offered further proof that what remains of our culture is all but doomed. She has recently developed a fascination for yuppy cars (perhaps one day she can move to Los Angeles), and while I was driving her to school, we passed a new Jaguar (now owned by Ford). "Oh, look,'' she said, all prim and proper and very English-looking in her grey-checked school uniform and hat. "A new Jag-wah.''
"What's that, Liz? Beg yours? Don't you mean a Jag-you-er?''
"Errrr, no way, dad,'' she said, with a mid-Pacific accent inspired by shows like The OC, with the must-have accompanying eye, mouth, jaw and head movements, and too close to being devoid of any Aussie twang for my parental liking. "Sor-ree for, like, living ... it's a Jag-wah ... don't you know aaa-nnneee-thing?'' Sigh ...