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British tourists repelled from U.S. after destructive Twitter jokes

Two U.K. tourists were denied entry to the U.S. after one of them tweeted that he would "destroy" the place. Or party here. It's terribly unclear.

Today's lesson in the Atlantic cultural divide involves humor.

Sometimes, it doesn't travel very well. Sometimes, those who offer it on their Twitter feeds find that those in authority tend not to, well, get the joke. Indeed, they don't even notice there's a joke there at all.

That fate appears to have befallen Leigh Van Bryan, a 26-year-old who tweeted, before leaving for his vacation in California, that he would "destroy" America.

The way the Daily Mail arrests the tale, Van Bryan's tweet went like this: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America."

Leigh Van Bryan's Twitter profile picture. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Many Brits will feel confident in explaining that the use of the word "destroy" here refers to, well, partying. Brits like to do this. They are good at it. They enjoy exporting it.

Sadly, the Department of Homeland Security agents in Los Angeles were not up to the vernacular. Even more sadly, they appear not to have aficionados of "Family Guy", as Van Bryan had also tweeted: "'3 weeks today, we're totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!"

Perhaps if the authorities had chosen to google that line, they might have felt more at ease. Perhaps, though, they would have received some strange results from Google+.

It seems sure that they didn't get this American cultural reference as they reportedly checked Van Bryan's luggage for shovels.

This story does not end happily, as Van Bryan and his friend Emily Bunting were arrested and then sent back to Blighty.

Van Bryan, though living in the chilly English city of Coventry, is an Irish citizen. He told the Mail: "I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me "you've really f***** up with that tweet boy".

Some will declare that the authorities cannot be too careful. Others might wonder whether checks were made beyond Van Bryan's Twitter account, which features a picture of him in destructive (i.e. partying) mood.

Yet the truth is that the Brits sometimes don't even understand their own sense of humor. Who could forget the painfully Kafkaesque case of Paul Chambers, a Brit who joked that he would blow up his local airport if the authorities didn't clear it from snow?

Not only was he convicted of "sending by a public communications network a message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003", but he even lost his appeal.

It would be sad if all amusing twitterers had to place a little asterisk beside their jokes, just in case someone in a uniform and dark glasses happened to be checking them out.