Cultural Appropriation – Am I Guilty?

Cultural appropriation – I’ll admit it, I’m confused.

This year, yes 2018, was the first time I came across these two words – cultural appropriation. I may have had my head buried in the sand, I may have not been reading the ‘right’ journals, or watching the ‘right’ shows, I may simply be an ignoramus.

But in the last few months, I seem to have found myself on a roller-coaster of confusion and bafflement as I watch Dear White People (Netflix), read The Root (online magazine), and try to get answers from people on social media who are black or POC (people of colour).

Lets say this right now – I am a white woman. I am a middle-aged, white working-class woman. (MAWW) I may, to some, have led a dull life, a mediocre life, a life of ‘white privilege’. I can’t argue with that. But I’m curious, I want to learn, I want to expand my horizons and discover the whys and wherefores of other people’s lives. I do not want to offend anyone due to my ignorance.

BUT

Am I doing more harm than good when I ask questions about the clothes I wear, the make-up I use, the words I say, and the songs I sing? I have an Indian salwar kameez (though the salwar don’t fit anymore) that I have not worn in years. I used to paint Egyptian style eye-liner on my lids when I went out in the evening, I call my girlfriends ‘bitch!’ and I listen to and sing Blues and Mo-Town – but only in my home. I love the minimalism and simplicity of Japanese design; interior and clothing.

BUT

Am I appropriating those cultures?

I attempted to learn Japanese some years ago, I have been interested in the history and culture of that country for a number of years, I watch animé and read manga. I once learnt calligraphy. I have taken an online course called Japanese Culture Through Rare Books. I have been interested in Egyptian history since a little girl. I have visited Egypt and stood looking in awe upon the art and architecture.

When did I, if I did, cross the line from appropriation to appreciation? Or vice-versa?

We may think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not to the person whom we think we are flattering – or so I have learnt. I think I first saw the term ‘cultural appropriation’ was on Twitter; I watched an awful slanging match that snowballed, the way these things do, into a ‘them and us’ scenario.

AND SO

I did some further reading. I recently read Kit de Waal’s piece in The Irish Times: Don’t dip your pen in someone else’s blood: writers and ‘the other’, in which she hi-lighted this conundrum. When is it okay to write in a voice that is not your own?

Similarly, When is it okay to wear something that does not come from your culture? When am I appropriating another person’s culture? From de Waal’s text I took this extract: The dictionary definition is this: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.”

Then I saw something in de Waal’s piece that I hadn’t seen in any other article – There is no one person that can speak for the whole of Ireland. Nobody can give the definitive answer to how a culture behaves or what they believe or why.

THE IRELAND, WALES & SCOTLAND QUESTION

Every article, and I mean every article I have read, talks about cultural appropriation as a thing done by white people to non-white people. But here I was reading something I have, as a child of an Irish immigrant, felt for years to be lopsided. I am white and had felt ‘done to’. Don’t we all appropriate from other cultures? The Irish, Welsh and Scots have been suppressed and oppressed by the English for decades, and yet today English people can be heard boasting their Gaelic/Celtic heritage/ancestry.

Irish cultureThe combination of Corn Laws, the first Land Act, trade agreements and a succession of famines resulted in over a million people dying, another million leaving the homeland. Upon arriving in England and the USA, Irish people were often classified as peasants, thieves, feckless, smooth-tongued blaggers, the ‘drunken paddy‘.

In the 60’s and 70’s England, the Irish were the butt of every joke. TV was flooded with stand-up comedians who openly told anti-Irish jokes, daily, because the Irish were ‘thick’, and ironically at the same time mistrusted as con-men who would jam a foot in your door to get a job cleaning windows. If you were the child of Irish parent(s), then you had to be prepared to be teased, bullied, have things thrown at you and labelled the thick one in class.

No Irish

And yet – On St. Patrick’s Day, thousands of non- Irish use it as an excuse for a piss-up. Thousands claim Irish ancestry because they a)had a great-great-great-grandparent who came from Ireland during a potato famine, b)have an ‘Irish’ surname. (Citizens Information says: Unless at least one parent or an Irish-born grandparent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis of extended previous ancestry (that is, ancestors other than your parents or grandparents)).” Lots of white English/British claim Irishness from some sort of romanticised idea of what it’s like to be Irish-born. Irishness has been commodified, in particular, by Hollywood, perpetuating stereotypes of Irishness in films– Finian’s Rainbow, The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

Suddenly, it’s ‘cool’ to proclaim your Irish heritage, send in the Leprechaun hats, ‘based on’ Celtic jewellery and ‘Celtic’ tattoos.

JAPAN-IRELAND-FESTIVAL

Scottish CultureScotland according to some commentators, was ethnically cleansed by the English. The Highland Clearances had Gaelic peoples moved from their ancestral land to make way for – sheep. Scots were banned from wearing their traditional tartan. The English effectively eliminated a whole way of life from The Highlands.

Map of British Isles - Scotland

They were later subjected to anti-Scots jokes, labelling them as dour, penny-pinching, alcoholics who were always ready for a brawl. The weather map of the UK has, until very recently, portrayed our island on a tilt, thus ensuring that England looked bigger than Scotland – for English viewers it did not strike them as odd. The Union Flag/Jack has the Scottish white saltire in the background with St. George’s (English) red cross over the top. Golf, hurling and shinty originated in Scotland. Halloween comes from Gaelic Scotland (as well as Ireland and Wales). Bagpipes were deemed tools of war’, yet were adopted into the British Army later on. The Scottish accent a point of confusion and derision amongst the English.

Chinese man in Scottish tartan

And yetTartan in many forms, not just kilts, became utilised initially by English Royalty, filtering through history until becoming something for the masses; like Burberry attire, worn mainly by those with some dosh to spare. Paul McCartney, an Englishman, has utilised the sound of bagpipes in his music: Mull of Kintyre.

Black Guy in Kilt

Welsh Culture – The Welsh are the ‘original’ British, pushed to the margins of Britain both geographically and politically. Military, political, economic and cultural power was exercised by the much more populous English over the Welsh for many centuries. Many elements of the Welsh economy and society since then have been shaped by demands from England. They had their language suppressed. They had a whole village evacuated then flooded; to provide water for Liverpool. Portrayals of Welsh on TV in the 70s amounted to little more than hideous stereotypes with buck teeth, extreme accents and a clear message to the English that this was ‘the other’. Even today, the Welsh have to listen to insults such as their country being called a “little shit place” – Eddie Jones, Rugby Union coach. A.N.Wilson, newspaper columnist and writer, said: “The Welsh have never made a contribution to any branch of knowledge, culture or entertainment. They have no architecture, no gastronomic tradition, no literature worthy of the name.

Really? How about Dylan Thomas, R.S. Thomas, Roald Dahl, Sarah Waters, TE Lawrence? Or Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood (both filmed in Wales with some Welsh actors)?

And yet The English, and the world at large, have the Welsh language to thank for words such as: Bard, Corgi, Crag, Flannel, Druid and Penguin(possibly). ‘Lush’ and ‘Cwtch’ (means cuddle) are recent additions from the TV comedy, Gavin and Stacey. I hear English people at work using ‘lush’ all the time.

I have never heard a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish person complain that their culture has been appropriated. I have never read an article in which a Dane, a Norwegian or Swede complained about the way others wear Viking horned helmets, thus perpetuating the myth of Viking attire.

Image result for welsh rugby supporters daffodil hat Related image

Image result for sports fans fancy dress viking ukImage result for welsh rugby fans

Sports fans don’t seem to mind who wears what

 

 

It seems to me that it isn’t purely a black/white issue. The world is a huge place that we, the human race, cover and move like a tide; ebbing and flowing within a time-frame way too large for an individual to perceive, cultures, communities, empires rise and fall (what would the ancients think of the modern taste for ‘Roman sandals’?) It seems we all could do with a little more education and tolerance regarding this issue, that or we all just throw up our hands and have a free for all on everything.

Am I being insensitive? Am I missing something? 

Or maybe I have had my head in the sand?

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PDA Syndrome

PDA1

* WARNING *

*May contain images offensive to some people *

I had a funny conversation with friends last night. They are a married couple and were complaining about public displays of affection – PDA. When they were going on holiday last summer, a young couple in front of them were doing some heavy snogging –  what my friends regard as ‘heavy snogging’ compared to me, or anyone else is all relative.

ME: “Was it open-mouthed?”

HIM: “Yes!”

ME: “Tongues?”

HER: “Ew, yes. It was gross!”

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No PDA here.

I laughed, maybe they were very much in love, or going on honeymoon, I suggested. Whatever, I thought my friends’ outrage funny. So I posed a series of questions – How much PDA is too much? And here, I am not talking about the rare instances when a couple feel they have to go into the realms of extreme – like this couple –

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Serious case of PDA. What were they thinking?!

Holding hands – Fine, no problem.

Arms around each other – Okay.

Kissing on the cheek – Fine.

Kissing on the lips – Hmm, no.

Squeezing a partners buttocks – No!

Full on deep kissing – Absolutely not!

HIS addendum was; if the show of affection was politically motivated – ie: two gay men/women at a Gay Pride event, or similar, did this, then he could accept that it was done with purpose. But stepping out of a store onto the street to find a couple enjoying a grope and a bit of mouth action – No Thank You!

I told them they were too English. We do have a reputation for being rather restrained and ‘stiff upper lipped’. And apart from when we get steaming drunk and everyone is a friend, we tend to be reserved about emotions – especially affectionate ones!

Why do we feel uncomfortable when we see a couple engaged in PDA? As long as they aren’t getting naked and having full on intercourse or doing heavy petting in the park, then shouldn’t we be more accepting? Is it about etiquette and good manners? Does the sight of an older couple kissing spark revulsion more than if it were a young couple – or vice-versa?

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Public Affection can be sweet.

Does the public space make a difference? I asked my anti-PDA friends, what if there is a couple kissing deeply under a tree in a moonlit Paris? That was fine apparently. What about Hyde Park? No! One of my friends is a high school teacher and occasionally encounters a couple of students kissing in the corridor, when she tells them to stop and they query her, her response is great: “Would you want to see Mr and Mrs Finnegan( a married couple) kissing around the school?” They would not, is the reply – so don’t you do it!

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Tongues on a Train – the follow-up to Snakes on a Plane!

I know there are countries around the world where PDA are taboo; if not illegal. I read comments from the British Middle Classes calling PDA ‘repellent’ and ‘ghastly’. I think they/we need to get over ourselves. But I wondered where in the UK were we most and least demonstrative with affection. Should public displays of affection be banned? Some people think so!

PDA4
A quick kiss in Kerala 

Londoners appear to dislike it the most. Nottingham likes a bit of public romance. Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff like a street smooch. I couldn’t find any solid statistics – though I have to admit I didn’t search that hard – but I did find lots of articles calling for less shows of affection in the UK; even light kissing.

Personally, I don’t care if it’s ‘showing off’, or over the top. If a couple feel the urge to express their romantic inclinations then I think it’s lovely. Maybe if more people were snogging and squeezing each others bums and being affectionate, we wouldn’t have all the discourse, wars and aggression and so forth. Of course there need to be some boundaries, but so long as bedroom activities aren’t in public, then what’s the harm?

Next time you balk at PDA, ask yourself two questions –

1.Would you rather they were fighting?

2. Aren’t you just a teensy bit jealous?!

PDA8
One of the most iconic images of PDA. VJ Day picture taken by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt  on August 14, 1945

 

 

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/relationship-advice-and-romance/11251250/Kissing-in-public-No-thanks-were-British.html

https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/157803/Should-kissing-in-public-places-be-banned

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3783454/Woman-iconic-V-J-Day-Times-Square-photograph-died-aged-92.html

http://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/kissing-in-public-kerala-triggers-a-debate-for-change/501941

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_display_of_affection

Can the Brits ‘do’ Hygge?

Friends sitting by the fireplace

The Danes have a word we do not have in English – Hygge.

How do you even say it? I hear you cry (if you’re British, or American, that is). Check out this YouTube lesson by Broendsted –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSXiH_0HgwI

Hygge is not just a word meaning comfort, cosiness, togetherness and more, it is a mindset; a way of living. Is it an accident that five of the worlds Nordic countries consistently come in the Top 10 of Happiest Countries?

Britain is a strange place. Over the centuries we have had an influx of invaders that have added to our culture. Our southernmost coast is not far from France; geographically warm in summer, whilst our northernmost tip of mainland is neighbour to Norway; not necessarily warm in summer! English is a Germanic language, however, we have absorbed the Romance languages as well. We are a fantastically glorious mash-up from across the globe. We generally don’t show our emotions too often; we rarely cry in front of others, but we do like a good barny (fight) now and then, and some still believe in keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’. An ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ and snuggling with his pals in fluffy socks with a cocoa is probably the last thing on his mind!

So with our Viking/Nordic inheritance, why don’t we do Hygge; or something akin to it?

The closest I can come is Christmastime. Sure, some people are not overly excited by it, but for most, there is a sense of hygge. Lights, candles, fluffy throws and wraps, being with family, baking together, friends, long walks in the park through crispy ice-coated leaves. Everyone says ‘Hello’; even to strangers. We are enveloped in a feeling of well-being. But as soon as the season is over, it is tossed aside like an unwanted sock received from a great Aunt one rarely sees.

hygge-1150x1000

Images of hygge environments show carefully selected knick-knacks arranged artfully – church candles, pine cones, wooden boxes, or – clean minimalism with pockets of lovely things like hand-knitted socks, cream coloured sweaters, open fires and old books. It seems like hygge is for those who can afford it.

But you’re missing the point! Read the first paragraph of this article again – Hygge is not just a word meaning comfort, cosiness, togetherness and more, it is a mindset; a way of living. And it doesn’t just happen in wintertime.

We Brits need to learn to ‘live in the moment’. To see comfort in the simple things. We need; in other words, to alter our mindset if we are to get ourselves happy, healthy and in that Top 10 of Happiest Countries.

To that end, I bought myself a copy of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ in which Meik Wiking (is that surname pronounced as Viking I wonder!?) offers us suggestions on how we can make our lives more satisfying through hygge. He works in the Happiness Research Institute (yes, it actually exists!), Copenhagen, so I imagine he knows what he is talking about. I’ve long been a fan of candles – now they’re everywhere in our house!

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Image from
https://arcadela.co.uk/the-little-book-of-hygge

 

So come on Britain, join me in a huge effort to be more hygge!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report

Rediscovering – Patrik Fitzgerald

In the mid 80s I went to a Polytechnic (now a University! Of course it is, aren’t they all) to study Fine Art. Whilst there, I met my future husband who not only taught me patience, the art of not caring what others think and how to play the guitar, but introduced me to the music of Patrik Fitzgerald.

As art students, it was our prerogative, nay, our duty, to lie in bed in the morning and arrive late. Sit around being fey, poetic, or as Jarvis Cocker once sang, It may look to the untrained eye like I’m sitting on my arse all day.”

One day, whilst not attending class, my other half put on a cassette – you remember those,you had to wrap the brown tape around a pencil when it got tangled or twisted, and then the damaged bit would be a permanent wobble – anyway, he puts this tape on.

PFcassette
The original headscrew!

I had NEVER in my life heard anything like it. I immediately went out and bought an album – that’s a record, NOT a CD people – ‘Gifts and Telegrams’.

PF gifts
gifts and telegrams by Patrik Fitzgerald

I played it until future hubby was sick of listening to it. I still have it. I haven’t listened to Fitzgerald’s music for over a decade – until today.

Fitzgerald is hard to classify/pigeonhole. Wiki describes him as –

Patrik Fitzgerald…is an English singer-songwriter and an originator of folk punk he began recording and performing during the punk rock movement in 1977, after working briefly as an actor.”

I had never heard an album that sounded like it had been recorded in someone’s bedroom (though that’s where all the new young things start today – on social media *rolls eyes) I had never heard music that incorporated sounds that apparently didn’t belong to instruments. Singing in an amateurish, yet compelling, manner. And odd techno bleeps.

So today, as I was writing, I decided to look for my NaNoWriMo Novel Writing Soundtrack, and the wonder of the internet brought me to Patrik, it was an odd feeling I have to admit. Kind of like coming full circle musically, rediscovering your youth is a bizarre thing – just you wait!

Fitzgerald is incredibly unique in the history of British music and I do think more people should be aware of him. For some reason, he seems to have been forgotten. It isn’t Punk in the way most remember it, there’s no aggressive, hyper-tuneless, in-your-face stuff – though I do like a bit of aggro – Fitzgerald is more melancholic.He’s urban before urban was a thing, his introspective, almost suicidal lyrics pre-date Emo’s. Ironic, minimal, bitter, poetic,now is the time for a resurgence of Fitzgerald’s music focusing on the human condition.

I know it can be challenging for some people, but I do urge you to give it a listen to. I’d love to hear what people think.

This Week I Have Been Mostly Listening To…

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

The ‘Challenge Alex’ experiment continues. Moving on with the idea of me being introduced to ‘new stuff’ in regards to music, this weeks suggestion comes from Ben, who, from my limited experience, does not fall into the same listening category as other students. He has a taste for the old-fashioned; he likes Edith Piaf, for example! (Shh, don’t tell him I told you!)So I am hoping he has something different to offer. This week I have been mostly listening to…

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (AKA, Rory Graham)

N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes.

What I listened to –

1. Human. Great voice; a softer feeling Joe Cocker. Clapping and a tambourine keep the beat as ‘the Bone Man’ begs us to not ‘put the blame on me’. Background vocals provide harmony and the continuous ‘yell’ in the background – which, oddly, was not too irritating.

What does it sound like to me? It’s pop, but with a difference, influenced by Blues, Rock and Gospel I think.

Did I like it? Yes, I did.

2. Skin – Beginning a cappella, we get to hear the full power of this man’s voice. A very warm, deep Blues sound. When the music begins, it almost ruins it for me, the verse I didn’t like, but the chorus is strong and thrums away; instruments, vocals and lyrics creating a lovely, pulsing rhythm.

What does it sound like to me? Pop, with a Blues influence.

Did I like it? Yes, but not as much as the first one.

3.Lay My Body DownPiano led intro, and then that voice. A plea to not weep for him when he’s gone, as Graham imagines his death. The piano, voice, drums etc. roll around each other in perfect harmony

What does it sound like to me? Again, it sounds like Gospel influence Pop.

Did I like it? It was okay.

4. Life in Her Yet – A slightly, lighter, upbeat intro, but the lyrics are still quite tragic.I can imagine this being used in a Western movie, the heroine has had a tough life; a hard-bitten woman with the desert ingrained on her face and a rifle always to hand.

What does it sound like to me? Country and Western influenced Blues Pop!

Did I like it? Kind of.

5. Grace – Vocals with a simple piano accompaniment; later joined by a bass, guitar, choir; each ‘instrument’ coming in layer upon layer until it builds to join in the chorus – then back to solo voice and piano. Not so much a romantic love song, but a song about eternal love, humanity.

What does it sound like to me? Oddly, it doesn’t feel completely like a modern song. There is something from the past lingering here that I just can’t put my finger on.

Did I like it? I think so; I enjoy the sentiment in the lyrics.

ragnboneman2Humnacover
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human

6.Bitter EndAs he questions whether a relationship has come to the bitter end, we get swells of Gospel-like choir following his solo voice and lone piano. Like that it ends with the question on a high note and stops dead.

What does it sound like to me? A half-empty 80’s bar, smoky pop/soul. Reminds me a little bit of late Sade

Did I like it? Not sure.

7. Hard Came The RainExtremely deep throated intro! A little guitar riff that reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Fear the Reaper’ – hard chorus with passion and vitality; nice gravelly texture to Graham’s voice. Feels ‘real'(whatever that means!)

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock/soft Metal with a C & W influence.

Did I like it? Yes. Best so far.

8. Hell Yeah ft. Vince Staples – rap intro and interspersed throughout. Hell yeah, usually used as definite acknowledgement to a comment, here Graham uses it to say we are all going to Hell – yeah! Quite a short number compared to the previous, at just under 4 minutes, it has an abrupt ending; possibly the abrupt ending some of us deserve! The drums have that tripping hip-hop edge to them giving a very vaguely militaristic feel.

What does it sound like to me? Soul meets Hip Hop.

Did I like it? I think so, I don’t normally like Hip-Hop, but the treatment given here works for me.

ragnboneman3wolves
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Wolves

9. Guilty what I would describe as a ‘typical’ rock/pop sound; with undertones of rap. Nothing outstanding here.

What does it sound like to me? Soft Rock, Pop.

Did I like it? Not really. A little dull in comparison to, say, Hard Came The Rain.

10. No Mother A black gospel, soulful intro. Graham’s Blues tinged voice goes full on ‘Mississippi man’. The regular beat and metallic clangs, I feel, are meant to inspire in us a memory of black slaves working themselves to death on building the railroads. Here we are listening to the voice of a parent who wants to see the child that they have been denied access to.

What does it sound like to me? Particularly the intro and the ending, make me think of poor black people in the bad old days of the American South. Blues Pop.

Did I like it? No. It is too derivative for my liking.

To round-up – I will definitely be giving Rag ‘n’ Bone Man another listening to. Though I can’t assign a definitive style to his music, I just feel that it is something that I would not, under normal circumstances, bother listening to; but I will. However, that being said, I did find myself thinking, you’re a white man,from East Sussex; why are you singing like a black man? Am I even allowed to say that? There is a particular sound that we equate to peoples of the world, and Blues, Jazz, Soul and Gospel tend to belong to Black Americans. Writers are told to write ‘what you know’, and I can’t help but be suspicious of someone who takes on another cultural style wholesale.

So, maybe this is the challenge for me! The music in itself was not challenging, but its delivery and cultural context were. Maybe I just need to be less narrow-minded when it comes to what people sound like; regardless. Were my middle-aged-lady sensibilities offended? Not at all. I would like to see how Rag ‘n’ Bone Man progresses over the next 10 years or so; he’s relatively new on the music scene; I believe, so plenty of time to comfortably grow into his own creative skin – I’m betting he will be great in his later years.

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Soulful Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Addendum: After initially writing up this post, I watched the video for Hard Came The Rain, made by Nick Rutter. He makes a story about the violent end of a relationship between a female impersonator and his ex-lover; quite powerful imagery that provides a decent narrative to the song. I still like this song best of the ten I spent time listening to, now I realise that it is quite different from the other nine, Graham doesn’t sound like he is trying too hard, it sounds like his voice – not borrowed from a late, great Blues singer.

Inglish, It’s An Odd One

I know I mis-spelt the word in the heading! Irritating? Confusing? Not as much as the following will be…

I guess you have to be born in Britain to fully understand the peculiarities of our language. Most of the time you don’t have to explain what you mean – like belonging to a gang that has it’s own idiosyncratic lingo, the English have words, phrases and grammar that does not always make sense to a foreigner. Add to that, the odd dialectic words that are peculiar to geographic areas; that you don’t find anywhere else in the UK, and you have a potential minefield.

  • Stuff we say – but don’t mean:

“How are you?” Mostly, the English don’t want to know how you are, this is simply another way to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. You’ll come across this in a place of work where people are hurrying past each other – “How’re you?” or “You alright?” (depending on location), is answered with “Fine. You?” then move on.

“That’s quite good.” Usually translates as, “That’s rubbish!” We’re just being polite. Don’t take it personally. An English person would actually recognise this as being quite a barbed comment, if said with the right tone!

With respect.” Probably said at work or in middle of a heated debate. This usually means, “You’re an idiot! I’m being patient with you. And I don’t agree with anything you’ve said!”

When invited out for a social event, or to visit your home, you might suggest getting together sometime. An English person will most likely say, “That’d be nice.” What he or she is thinking is, “Oh no, please don’t invite me out. I can’t think of anything I would less like to do.”

“It’s fine.” Watch this one. You have most likely offended. It actually translates as, “Are you a f***ing idiot!”

If an English person says “Thank you” in a determined way, or “Your welcome” it is most likely in response to another person being rude – i.e. not holding a door open, or not making eye contact when giving change. They are pointing out your rudeness.

“I beg your pardon?” If it sounds like a question, we’re not asking for your pardon, we’re miffed at something you said or did. It means, “Explain yourself, you disgusting creature!”

  • Words that mean more than one thing – reading and speaking are two/too different things:

Vowels sound different depending on the job of the word, stress placed on beginning or end of a word makes it a different noun.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

I did not object to the new object.

The psychologist had to subject the subject to a test.

  • Britain still has a class system; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view, you might mix with all four! Yes, despite what some would like to believe, Britain is a multi-layered society and we all know our place!

    Upper class are the posh peeps; ‘old money’, though many these days have little cash as their stately homes have sucked it all up. They don’t usually have a job.

Middle class (and within this are the upper and lower middle), these are the aspirational, moneyed, living in comfort. Managers in private companies, government employees and teachers fit n here.

Working class (within this are also two levels; according to pay, benefits, lifestyle) are what it sounds like, workers in lower paid jobs; industry (little of that left), shop-workers, teaching assistants, nurses and carers.

Trying to say the correct version of a word in a given social situation can even trip up the English!

Toilet, Lavatory, Loo – or Bog?

Bicycle, Bike, Cycle?

Lunch or Dinner?

Pudding, Sweet, Dessert – or Afters?

Sick, Ill, Poorly, Unwell – or Under The Weather?

Pardon, Sorry, What?

Napkin or Serviette?

Front Room, Lounge, Living Room?

Settee, Sofa, Couch?

Pants, Undies, Knickers?

  • Names that will fry your noodle:

Place-names as well as family names in Britain can be complicated. If you mispronounce a place-name the locals might have a laugh at your expense, but it reveals that you are ‘not one of us’. If you mispronounce a family name (especially those complicated upper-class ones), then you a revealing that ‘You really are NOT one of us’ (ugh!)

Name                              Not like this                                 Say this

Aldeburgh                   Alda-berg                                       Olbra

Beaulieu                      Bow-lee-oo                                     Bewlee

Beauchamp                 Bow-champ                                   Beecham

Cholmondeley            Chol-mon-delly                             Chumley

Dalziel                          Dalzee-el                                        Deeyell

Farquhar                      Far-que-har                                  Farkwa

Gloucester                    Glaow -cester                              Glosta

Mainwaring                 Main-wearing                             Mannering

Norwich                        Nor-witch                                    Norritch

By the way, American English is another thing altogether, just don’t talk about it with a Brit!!!! 

And another thing to fry your noodle about English, I have  attempted to stick to English and it’s dialects. Scots, Welsh and Irish have their own idiosyncrasies, but they do speak English. You may have noticed me flipping between the words English and British; I refer to myself as British as I am a mix of Irish, English and Scottish, I am not just English – except on a form when there is not option for Anglo-Irish. There has been a decades long debate about English or British, and because one of the opinions-that I agree with- is that the REAL British are the Welsh, who were pushed west by the Anglo invaders, then I cannot, by my own argument, be British!!!

English – it is what you make it! Good Luck!

victorian-men-and-women
“Nice hat.” (Not!)

The Banshee Visits M N Bernard Books

Wailing Banshee

Melanie Bernard, of MN Bernard Books, invited readers/writers/followers to submit a piece about a ‘spooky’ being/creature for her month long, Hallo-WE-en! edition.

You can read my ‘essay’ here –

https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/banshee/