On St George’s Day earlier this week, I was reflecting on all things English and picking out some of my favourite things; Pimms, bonfire night, bacon butties and Victoria sponge cakes are naturally pretty high up my list but I have decided that my two favourite things about being English are English manners and English language.
I love the intrinsic politeness of being English. We are a nation of sorry-ists. We apologise for things that aren’t our fault “Oh, I’m terribly sorry that my feet are on the floor in front of me. I can see that you were left with no alternative but to stand on them. No, no, it’s completely my fault, I just should have put them somewhere else, my apologies. Are you okay?”
It’s like queuing. I don’t actually like standing in a supermarket queue wondering why the man in front of me is only buying a carrot and a packet of digestives (This was an actual purchase that I witnessed recently. My conclusion being that his biscuit tin needed replenishing and he owns a rabbit). But I do love the fairness and the courteousness of it. In England we’re generally very “After you, you were here first” about things. Abroad, it’s every man for himself; like spinsters at a wedding bouquet throwing. Terrifying.
I particularly love the sudden random camaraderie that happens when someone tries to queue jump. People with absolutely nothing in common, apart from a need to catch a bus, immediately turn into ‘defenders of the order’ and will do everything they can to prevent someone illegally entering the line. It is a proven fact that you will move closer to a man with a comb over and a dirty mac who has been blatantly looking at your tits for the past 14 minutes rather than create a chink of space for an interloper. That’s the mighty power of the queue.
If I were not English, it would sadden me greatly. Not only would I not appreciate the civilised nature of a queue, I also would not know and love some of the great English words like jammy, scrummy, shirty, faff, brolly, strop, twit, cross, welly, yonks and most importantly, bollocks. I love those words. My life would be empty without them. I wouldn’t want to replace them with American words. I don’t want bangs instead of a fringe, I will wear my pants underneath my trousers thank you very much and I can’t even say the word fanny let alone use it to describe my bottom. I feel violated just writing it down.
The most disturbing phrase I discovered on a trip to Canada. Picture the scene: it’s a balmy summers day and I’m enjoying a barbeque in a friend’s garden, meeting new people, having a few drinks, enjoying my holiday. I’ve nearly finished one drink and someone hands me another so I’ve got a drink in each hand. Suddenly the beautiful scene is shattered by a man who I’ve only just met saying four words to me “Are you double fisting?”. I’m momentarily stunned. What sort of pervert does my friend socialise with? How do I respond? Fortunately for the poor unsuspecting chap, my friend was within earshot and shouts loudly and calmly across the garden in a reassuring manner “Two drinks! You have a drink in each hand! They call that double fisting over here!”. Crisis averted. Although, if he was making some lewd comment, what would I have done?… Apologised probably.