Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British-themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, my post was a first pass at a travel plan for four days in Kew. Tina reviewed the film Mr. Holmes. Georgie shared the contents of her Holiday Relaxation gift basket. Sim told us about the current production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in London with Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh. Becky reviewed a children’s book about the real Winnie (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame), a bear that came over with a Canadian regiment in World War I before being housed at the London Zoo.
Book: That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
Publication date: 2015
Summary: That’s Not English is a quickly read, amusing collection of essays. Each essay focuses on a word that is poorly understood across the Atlantic. As anyone who loves language knows, one word can open up a world and that’s what these essays do. Start with a word and dive into class, economics, bathroom rituals and other interesting topics that improve understanding between two countries separated by a common language (of course, author Erin Moore starts with that quote – noting that it has been attributed to both George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde).
In her introduction, Erin Moore quotes columnist Joe Queenan:
Anglophilia, like pornography, is one of those things that are hard to describe but you know when you see them. (p. 4)
Moore is an American living in London, but her book isn’t just for Anglophiles. It’s also for their opposite number. Americanophiles? Okay, let’s not go with that term. Aside from the awkwardness, it does that USian thing of equating the USA and America, even though the latter term refers to two whole continents. In That’s Not English, we learn why our style of tipping is so irksome to the English and the English learn why they can’t get a proper cup of tea in a US restaurant, no matter how much they tip.
Thoughts: What I’m looking for in a book like this is something to feed my Anglophilia, a taste of England in Missouri. Moore admits that actually living in England is a pretty good cure for unbridled Anglophilia, but she hasn’t lost her passion – it’s just changed and developed.
I found a new item for my bucket list: see a Panto. Panto, short for pantomime which has roots in the Middle Ages, is a British Christmas theater tradition that has never made it to the US, possibly because we take our Christmas more sanctimoniously than the British.
Moore quotes Andrzej Lukowski, a London theater critic, in her attempt at a definition:
Frankly, pantos are so weird . . . I’ve never managed to explain what they are to somebody who didn’t already know. (p. 196)
Moore makes a gallant attempt to describe the experience, though, and she makes Panto sound so fun:
The audience will expect big musical numbers, double entendre and innuendo that fly over the heads of children in the audience, slapstick, and, above all, crowd participation. Breaking the fourth wall is standard practice in Panto….To the uninitiated, Panto can seem like an inside joke on a national scale ….If you’re going to your first Panto, be prepared to laugh yourself hoarse at half the jokes, and to need the other half explained to you. (pp. 196, 197)
I’m not sure how I’d pull off seeing a show in the UK at Christmas time. I have trouble with jet lag, as you might have noticed since I spent the last two British Isles Friday posts talking about it. How would I go to a Christmas season show and still be bright and cheery for the requisite family activities at home? Ah! I see a few Pantos go well into January, so maybe I could fly over after the New Year to see Aladdin in Birmingham or Robin Hood at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London. Anyone know of any good last-minute deals on airline tickets to the UK?
Appeal: That’s Not English will appeal to language lovers, essay fans, and Anglophiles.
Have you read this book? What did you think?