Friday, February 02, 2007

Chewing gum

Growing up in the UK, I always thought of chewing gum as quintessentially American. It was another of those nasty American habits, like not pronouncing words properly, that marked one as boorish and uncultured. I knew people who chewed gum, but it wasn't something I did. Chewing without eating seemed rather pointless and, anyway, my dentist had advised me not to bother as I had some problems with my jaw that he said chewing gum would aggravate. I remember noticing that French teenagers seemed to chew gum more often than the English did. (They smoked more too.)

My dislike of gum is apparently typically British - as Cadbury's starts a large advertising campaign to launch Trident gum onto the British market, the BBC reported today:

most people think it looks "common" and "uncouth", according to government research. And that includes the 50% of the population who chew it.
My issue with gum chewers when I was in school was the fact that they didn't seem to know how to dispose of their gum. Of course one reason my peers didn't dispose of their gum in more appropriate ways was because they weren't supposed to be chewing it in the first place. I worked for some years in a school where gum chewing was not allowed and the teachers seemed to be fighting a losing battle to stop the kids from chewing gum or to get them to throw it in a trash can when they had finished chewing it. Then I worked at a school where it was allowed unless individual teachers asked students not to chew gum in their classes. There seemed to be very little problem with finding it in places it shouldn't have been. Then a new regime changed the rules - no more gum permitted, and suddenly there was gum on the ground outside buildings, under desks, stuck on the walls . . .

Just as I've become used to American pronunciation, I've become used to seeing people chew gum without judging their social worth. I still don't do it myself, but I really don't think more people in the UK chewing gum indicates the decline in standards that some people over there are bemoaning.

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