Questions for Americans

9508707233_4acdef5fb7I just came back from my honeymoon – a two-week road trip around California. America is a foreign country. Well that’s not news for most English people, but it was news to me. My new husband and I wrote diaries each and in a month or so, we’re going to share them with each other to see if we want to stay married. No, not really; to see how differently we saw what we thought we had shared. I haven’t written a diary consistently even for two weeks since I was a teenager and it was fun, and interesting. But it threw up more questions than answers. Here are some of the questions. Perhaps any American readers can help me with the answers:

  • I think we saw a herd of zebra on Highway 1, or maybe it was just the sea fog rolling in from the Pacific. No, we really did. Zebra in California?!
  • Where did the expression ‘holy cow’ come from? Ron, (from Denver, married to Jeanie, lovely man who liked to ask us questions each morning, like ‘can you get fruit in England?’ and would reply ‘holy cow’ when we said could get any kind of fruit he would care to name), liked to use it regularly.
  • I could probably find this out from Google, but when are bears most active and can they see well in the dark? When we were locked out of our remote cabin (a whole other story), we found bear poo by the rubbish bin. Definitely bear poo – berries and all. Never saw the bear though. Anyone got any bear stories they’d care to share?
  • Why do US signs in the woods, like ‘keep off my land’ start with the word ‘Posted’? I could see that they were posted.
  • Are there still independent diners in America and how do I find them? I was so disappointed not to be able to sit in a red vinyl booth and eat apple pie in my whole two weeks. The closest we got was one of the Black Bear Diners, which is a chain and wasn’t that great, but we were served by Jesus. Really, we kept the receipt to prove it.
  • Is it usual for hummingbirds to look through windows? We saw lots of hummingbirds in America. They were very exotic and exciting to us, but no Californians seemed to get quite so worked up. Perhaps they are the equivalent of our wood pigeons. Anyway, several times I saw them hovering in front of windows. Were they looking in, or just admiring their own reflection?

All answers gratefully received.

6 thoughts on “Questions for Americans

  1. Zebra in California, I can’t answer as I live out the other side of the country, but I’ve never heard of zebra in California. It’s possible there could be a zebra farm or a “safari park” (a place with a bunch of animals like ostriches and bison and camels and such that you drive through, though I’ve been to a few and never have seen zebra at one) with a herd of zebra.

    Holy cow I believe originated with a baseball announcer in like 1920 and just caught on. There are many variations: holy heck, holy hell, holy balls, holy shit, holy this, holy that, you get the point. As long as you through holy in front of it any word will work.

    Can’t answer the bear question. I’ve only ever seen one wild bear in my life and it was running across the road around mid morning about a hundred yards in front of me. Glad I didn’t hit it with the car.

    Posted signs say posted because in some states they are required to say that to make it legal. Meaning if it doesn’t specifically say posted someone could hunt on your land (in a state that requires the sign to say posted) without any repercussions because your sign saying no hunting/trespassing/whatever wasn’t legal, technically speaking. It just became the norm even if it isn’t technically required by all states. At least that is my understanding. Why they made it required I can’t answer. There are many laws that don’t make a whole lot of sense in this country, as with any country I’m guessing.

    There are still plenty of independent diners. The hard part is finding them. Usually takes some Google searching prior to your trip or asking locals once you get there.

    There are a lot of hummingbirds around here, but I don’t see them often. I always enjoy seeing them, but don’t make a big deal out of it. I’ve seen them looking in/at windows also but never bothered to wonder why.


  2. Pingback: Short story: Nothing to worry about | W O R K S

  3. Hi Claire,
    I don’t know the answer to most of your questions. The U.S. is such a big country and so varied. Zebras in California? Unless they had escaped from a wildlife theme park, I don’t think so. We, too, drove Highway 1 on vacation, and mainly I remember sea gulls.I think Adam did a good job of answering the Holy Cow question. Americans get most of their colorful language from sports announcers. Can bears see at night? I’m no expert, but I don’t think they have great night vision, but they can smell at night and their sense of smell is fantastic. I once got a lecture from a park ranger on bears’ olfactory sensitivity because we left part of a bottle of wine out overnight in our campsite. As for the term posted, it means there’s no hunting, though I can see how it would be confusing. Yes, good news, there are still a few independent diners, but you have to look hard to find them among the fast food franchises. Best way it to ask the locals. They’ll know where they are. Hummingbirds are incredible flyers and beautiful. I used to live in Arizona where there are more species of hummingbird than anywhere else in the country. I used to spend hours watching them. Why do they hover outside windows? They’re attracted to anything red, or pink, so they may be seeing something that color. Not really sure. Anyway, I hope you had a good honeymoon, and Americans were nice to you. Sorry I couldn’t be more help, and I hope to visit your homeland one of these days. Ron


  4. Thanks Ron. You live in an amazing country – we had such a wonderful time, and everyone was really friendly. I didn’t know that about hummingbirds – attracted to red and pink – perhaps they saw that reflected in the window or inside. I’m glad your bear story was only a telling-off and nothing more dangerous.


  5. A Google search turned up “Hearts Castle Farm” near Highway One (Pacific Coast Highway) where there are zebras.
    Hummingbirds are very territorial, they may have been seeing their reflection and wondering if it was another intruding. Many different kinds of birds will behave in this way with windows, and car mirrors.
    There used to be “Silver Diners” here, a modern version of the hometown diner, but they have closed. Some small towns still have the real thing, but the advice in an earlier reply is what I would offer, too.
    Sorry, I don’t have any other answers for you.


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