Monday, January 17, 2005

Anglophilia

I’m an Anglophile. Have been ever since I was about 14 and succeeded in wheedling my mom into letting me watch Masterpiece Theatre on the grounds that it was educational. Anglophile isn’t really the right word. If there were a word like British-Isles-o-phile that would be me.

As a teenager trapped in the blandest and most numbingly boring of all bland and numbingly boring Midwestern suburbs, everything British that was markedly different from my own experience was wildly appealing: the accents, the cobbled streets, the red phone boxes, the beans on toast, the uniformed butlers and maids, the bowler hats, the solicitors, the dark satanic mills, the Robin three-wheelers, the black pudding, the Y-fronted men’s underpants, being bombed during World War II.

I was getting exposed to all this mainly through BBC adaptations of classic British novels, and I realized that certain aspects did not reflect contemporary life in the UK, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t get enough of it. I started sneaking out of bed to catch late night reruns of Monty Python, a gold mine for an Anglophiliac like myself. Not only was it set in Britain, it was the funniest TV show I’d ever seen. I loved how it expected viewers to have a certain level of education and intelligence—so unlike American TV, which still assumes viewers have the mental capabilities of planaria. Monty Python made insecure teenaged me feel smart. I also read my way through all of Dickens’ novels (except Bleak House [Blech House]). They made me wish I could travel back in time and live in mid-19th century London. Go figure.

A while back there was a story on This American Life (episode 155) about an American guy who as a teenager really, really wanted to be British. He actually started speaking in a mock British accent and calling the hood of the car "the bonnet" and the trunk "the boot," and so forth. At one point, he opened up his bedroom window and screamed, “I AM BRITISH!” out into the night air. His parents sent him to a headshrinker. Why? What’s so crazy about that? I totally understand it. Had I been less shy and retiring and timid, I would have done the same thing.

I’ve been to the UK five times now and I had a fantastic time on each trip. Everyone is so friendly and incredibly witty. Nor have I lost my old love of the accents (there are so many!) and the liveliness and vigor of British English. I often prefer it to our flat and thinned-down American English (as I was reminded by one of Jilly’s posts.) Scroll through the list below and see if you don’t agree with me.

arse (ass)
bits and bobs (odds and ends)
biffy (outhouse)
bloke (guy)
bog roll (toilet paper)
bum (butt)
cheers (thanks)
chemist (drugstore)
chuffed (pleased)
dodgy (risky)
dust bin (garbage can)
gormless (stupid)
gutted (bitterly disappointed)
interval (intermission)
hoover (vacuum)
knackered (exhausted)
knickers (panties)
nick (steal)
on holiday (on vacation)
plonk (cheap wine)
queue (line)
rubbish (trash)
shite (shit shat out in Scotland)
skint (broke, as in having no money)
sod off (go away)
soft in the head (stupid)
squiffy (tipsy)
stroppy (disgruntled)
trousers (pants)
wanker (idiot; jack off)
wee (small; also "to pee")
whilst (while)
whinge (whine)
wonky (unstable; out of sorts)

14 Comments:

Blogger Cagey said...

Glad to know I am not alone! My own Anglophilia affliction has manifested itself in a hearty collection of BBC DVDs.

Of course, my India-bred husband is slightly horrified by this, yet oddly compelled to watch them with me (a product of the typical love-hate relationship most Indians have with the British).

9:07 AM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

Oh my! I actually lived there briefly and the beans on toast and ploughman's lunches get very tired after awhile. I ended up living on Indian and Greek food almost entirely. I still use the word "Shite" liberally, because I can use it at work and get away with it.

Thanks for stopping by, and yes, the "tamali" is pretty much the grossest thing I've ever seen. And people eat that and call it food.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

My ex husband was stationed there long before I met him, but we did take a trip back so he could walk down memory lane.

I must say, it was jolly fun!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Well, now I KNOW you'll be a massive Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fan. ;-)

10:25 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

P.S. You really need to go to South Africa if you haven't been. They were separated from the outside world for quite some time because of apartheid, and therefore are oddly more old-fashionedly British than the British. They use the word "jolly" a lot and call anything they can't think of the name for a "goodie."

10:27 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Cagey,

We are so happy that all those British shows are available on DVD--Absolutely Fabulous, The Office, and a very weird and wonderful show called The League of Gentleman (not be confused with the Sean Connery sci-fi flick). I also love some of the old shows from the '70s like Good Neighbours and No, Honestly that are now available on DVD.

frstlymil,

Food was perhaps my one disappointment about the UK, but I knew that going in. I quickly discovered that no matter how tiny the town, there is always either a place to get fish and chips or Indian food, so I survived on that and pints of bitter.

Sharon,

It must have been fun to see the places he knew when he was stationed there and then see and hear about how they'd changed. If they had, that is.

Jamie,

Hugh F-W has a TV show, right? I think I need to search that out either on Netflix or at our wonderfully stocked library. South Africa, eh? I don't know if I could survive the flight from Portland. Six hours on a plane is about all I can take without wanting to throw open the emergency door and bail out.

12:07 PM  
Blogger thequeen said...

I like your blog so very much! I read the entire page and will be coming back to catch up on archived stuff,I know of another blogger who loves the british and irish stuff check out ruggywrites.blogspot.com
I am going to add you to my links. Great Blog:)

5:28 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

I went through that, too, at just the same age! And also still have remnants of it clinging to me.

I wonder why it happens? I was the only one of my friends who was like this...

10:16 PM  
Blogger Jade said...

I guess I am like that too! I was engaged to a man from New Zealand, which is very heavily under Brittish influence. A lot of their language is based upon the Brittish, in fact.
I had flown to NZ after graduation, spending 3 months with him there. I found it difficult to remember the nuances of the languages, however. The most embarrassing occured on one of my first nights there, during a "meet the family" session over dinner. When the mom asked me if everything was ok and did I want more, my first reaction was to say "Oh, no thank you, I am STUFFED! It was delicious!"
Well, stuffed generally means "pregnant" to them. The whole table sat with mouths agape at my comment. I had no idea until much later when Brian explained to me what I had just said to his family. NO wonder!
I adore the accents, to this day. They continuously make me swoon. Brittish humor, too, is my very favorite. I wish I could get the program I had become accustomed to watching there every night!

9:24 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

thequeen,

Thanks for the lovely compliment! I will definitely check out your blog and the ruggywrites one you recommend.

Diana,

I don't know why it happens, but based on the comments, it looks like we weren't alone after all. (Yay!) Maybe it's just that teenaged thing of wanting adventure and excitement and for us adventure and excitement meant Britain.

Jade,

That's a great story! I'm sure you were absolutely mortified at the time, though.

I always feel somewhat self-conscious about my American accent when I am in the UK, so I do my best to try to say "lift" instead of "elevator" and "lorry" instead of "truck," but it's hard to remember it all. I remember kicking myself at a service station when I asked for "gas" instead of "petrol." Ridiculous really, because no one over there expects you to alter your vocabulary, and it's not like I could erase my American accent and trick them into thinking I was British, so I really don't know why I was so hell-bent on trying to use all the British terminology. Maybe just because I was finally in a place where I could use all those terms I like so much!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Jilly said...

Oh you are such darling.

I hereby make you an honourary Brit. Rule Britannia!

Oh and WI stands for Womens Institute and it's not common place for them to do calenders in the noddy, although my mum would definately be up for it!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Jilly said...

You are such a darling.

I hereby announce you an honourary Brit. Rule Britannia!

Oh and WI stands for Women's Institute and even though Calendar Girls was a true story, they don't generally make a habit of posing in the noddy. Although my mum would definitely be up for it I'm sure!

10:53 AM  
Blogger Jilly said...

You are such a darling.

I hereby announce you an honourary Brit. Rule Britannia!

Oh and WI stands for Women's Intitute. Although Calender Girls is a true story, WI ladies don't generally make a habit of posing in the noddy. Although my mum would definately be up for it I'm sure!

11:25 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Jilly,

An honourary Brit! I am so honoured! I will now start saying things like "jolly good" and "righty ho" and wearing a monocle. Kidding! I've watched too much Jeeves and Wooster.

4:33 PM  

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