By Simon Henry @simlington
The British – frequently misunderstood, even by themselves.
Here is a quick guide to an often misunderstood people – the British.
The British are so weird, they often don’t understand each other – literally. The English language is stretched to breaking point all over Britain.
There are many places in the British countryside where you’re not welcome – even if you’ve lived two miles away all your life.
And other places like London will welcome you with open arms, no matter where in the world you’re from – as long as you come laden with cash.
Meanwhile, there’s a political party called UKIP that apparently wants to populate Britain with white, male, racist, homophobic middle-aged men who drink and smoke too much. Ugh!
Quite how a visitor is supposed to deal with the natives is the mootest of moot points. (Britain is full of mootness.)
Because of its utter weirdness, I’ve resorted to a particular method of description – the stereotype. Apologies if you’re offended. I don’t mean it – really.
Read on if
- you live here and want to know why you spend your life confused
- you’re planning to visit Britain and don’t want to spend two weeks with a furrowed brow
- or you just want a giggle.
They’re a right laugh, the British, you know?
So, in no particular order, here goes on your quick tour of Britain (I’ve left out Northern Ireland, as they’re a breed apart from this breed apart. Absolutely no idea what makes them tick at all.)
The West Midlands is dominated by Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham.
The ‘Brummie’ speaks in a slow, dreary whine (pronounced ‘woyn’) – easily the country’s most hated accent.
As a result, everyone else avoids the place like the plague – so we don’t actually know what happens in ‘Brum’. Except the Balti (a national curry dish) was invented there.
Listen to Jasper Carrott (7 mins 46 secs) – a comedian with a posh Brummie accent. This is honestly as good as it gets.
The Mancunian is expert in two vital areas of human endeavour: dancing and football.
Although the Madchester music scene has died, ‘Mancs’ still think they’re the best movers on any dancefloor in the country, especially if there’s a reasonable supply of class A drugs.
The city also boasts the best football team in the country (Manchester City) and the most famous football team in the world (Manchester United). Oh I forgot, Mancunians are also very greedy.
The Home Counties
Inhabitants of these counties on London’s picturesque fringes regard neatness as the highest virtue. Shrubs and privets neatly delineate their well-preserved gardens.
An entirely understandable obsession.
A bog standard semi-detatched house in Surrey now costs more than a Scottish castle, so an inch of privet can affect the asking price by £100,000.
The county is famed for its Yorkshire pudding – not a pudding at all but rather a stodgy, tasteless main course accompaniment. Dependence on this doughy (and cheap) staple suits the traditional Yorkshire inhabitants down to their (second-hand) bootstraps.
Yorkshire folk are people of few words – and the few words they do use are ‘no’, ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’.
The most talkative Yorkshireman is Geoffrey Boycott, a cricket commentator – and most people wish he’d just shut up.
Yorkshire people will occasionally smile – usually when they’re about to pass wind, the result of the Bradford curry taking over from fish and chips as the county’s favourite food after the pudding.
The West Country
Excessive consumption of a noxious and highly intoxicating home-brewed cider, ‘scrumpy’, is the West Country inhabitant’s weakness. While some weaknesses – an inability to speak fluent Portuguese for example – don’t pose undue health risks, addiction to scrumpy certainly does.
The typical yokel’s face is permanently reddened and the slurred delivery of the West Country drawl is blamed on its addling qualities.
Even before drinking scrumpy, the yokel is relaxed and thoroughly contented. After a barrelful, he’s literally horizontal.
London West End
The West End of London is populated by the most fashionable, chic and jaw-droppingly wealthy individuals in Britain.
Few British people can actually afford to live in the capital, so multi-billionaires from all over the globe live there instead.
Sales of caviar, champagne and designer condoms are huge. And the vice girls, rent boys and drug pushers who give the West End its bohemian atmosphere also supply the mega-wealthy with something to fill their otherwise idle hours.
The City of London provides the bulk of Britain’s earnings, now the factories, mills and mines have been closed down.
The relatively few people who work in The City are therefore exceedingly rich. Ask an ambitious City type how much they earn and they’ll say: ‘Not enough.’
This equates to approximately £1 million before bonus payments, share options and perks.
The City type works between 17 and 21 hours per day on average (slightly fewer on weekends), and is easily spotted when not toiling at a trading desk – passed out in a ridiculously plush bar, surrounded by several half-drunk bottles of Dom Perignon.
The Glaswegian is less likely than other Scots to don the traditional costume of the kilt – preferring instead to spend his hard-earned social security money on McEwans Export and unfiltered cigarettes.
Both account for the city’s rather worrying levels of cardiac arrest.
When his money stretches to other essentials such as food, the Glaswegian will indulge in a deep fried Mars bar. The heart is therefore offered no respite even when the belly is fed.
The Glaswegian is thought to hold well-reasoned opinions relating to his country’s independence referendum, but the delivery of his dialect is so coarse, fast-paced and strange that he is rendered entirely unintelligible.
The people of South Wales are not keen Welsh speakers. Indeed they are not – strictly speaking – speakers at all, preferring instead to communicate by singing.
Dame Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones are leading exponents of the craft, but even the humblest ex-miner can recite operatic arias at will.
South Welsh eyes moisten as perfectly-pitched harmonies fill the air at every turn. This apparently childish display of emotion is explained by the endearing South Welsh tradition of calling everyone ‘boyo’.
The Geordie lives in the cool, intemperate climate of Newcastle. Excessive intake of suet (particularly in meat pies) is therefore considered essential, providing layers of insulation via the trusted media of cellulite and fat.
Geordies of both sexes are fanatical supporters of their football team, attending games even in deepest winter wearing only a thin replica shirt – without a hint of a shiver.
Geordies are the only people in the English-speaking world apart from rich Californian girls who finish every sentence with the word ‘like’.
But you’d be hard-pressed to hear a spoiled Beverley Hills teenager saying: ‘All reet, pet, giz a couple of bottles of Newcastle Brown, like.’
Oxford and Cambridge
The twin ancient university cities are idyllic centres of learning, culture and architectural majesty – spoiled only by the students resident there.
By day, the pretentious undergraduates in distinctive college scarves ride their bicycles along cobbled streets, reciting epic Greek poetry and complicated mathematical formulae to their peers.
By night, they stage humorous reviews and obscure plays, and celebrate afterwards with lashings of vintage champagnes and ports provided free of charge by their wealthy colleges.
Following final examinations, taken in full evening wear (or ‘sub fusc’), the students are doused with flour, double cream and confetti by their friends in a ritual as arcane as the universities themselves. The students then get jobs in the City of London.
A resident of the city is called a Scouser – a bastardisation of ‘Lobscouse’, a sailor’s dish of stewed meat with vegetables and ship’s biscuits.
Even The Beatles were not immune from this historic affinity with the sea – Yellow Submarine is about something that goes in the sea isn’t it?
Liverpool’s musical tradition is underpinned by the Scouser’s method of speech which modulates in an almost operatic manner – leaving the listener feeling faintly seasick, and not ‘All right. All right’ at all.
Most British people love Liverpool Football Club, – and we’re sick- pronounced ‘sickckckck’ – they’ve not won the league this year.
Though, as you may have guessed from my argument we British are used to disappointment. Aren’t we, sweethearts?
The inspiration for this blog came from a book I wrote years ago called A Tourist’s Guide to the British. I think you can still get second-hand copies of it.
If you enjoyed this, you may like another language-based blog I wrote recently – Verbal tics, cliches and catchphrases – to be brutally honest they’re basically not alrighty
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Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014