Saturday, January 3, 2009

British humor: much too clever and witty for American brains. Don't even try.

We have said this many times before, but it bears repeating: Americans need to stay away from British humor. It will only confuse you and leave you still thirsty for actual humor. It has many of the characteristics of American humor except for the funny part.

From the
National Enquirer Guardian: "Woman gives birth on London Underground, considers naming the child accordingly. Thankfully the station was Kingsbury and not Elephant and Castle."

Dear fellow Americans: You should know that right now British readers are probably laughing their arses off. Don't yet know what an arse even is? Sorry - that was a different post and you will have to check the archives. Anyway, the British don't really ever actually laugh their arses off. They only snicker inwardly. Sometimes their lips twitch once or twice, but that's pretty much the limit.

Other questions?

How could a woman give birth "on" London if she is underground?
—S.B., Cleveland.

Is the funny part that London is underground? It isn't, right? I mean London isn't, right?
—Joe. L., Fargo

Why would anyone name a kid "Accordingly"? You're right, I don't get it.
—Julius T., Schenectady

I don't get the elephant in the castle part. It just doesn't make sense.
—Rudyard W., Bakersfield

If the Underground were in Boston instead of London, the station could be Roxbury instead of Kingsbury. But it still doesn't make it funny. Don't know, dude.
—Bob M., Boston

She gave birth in the London Underground? She should get her "tubes" tied! Har!
—Sheena P., Helena


And so it goes. Just when you start to think we have something in common, a British reporter will try to tell a joke. Sadly, this is also only the third day of the year.

Okay, so I made up the questions. It's not illegal. Like the "Guardian" doesn't make most of its stuff up. Right.


  1. Hey Maxwell! Yes, YOU turd brain. Ten to one this is the only comment you get on this piece of rubbish. Frickin American gutter humour, anyway! Who needs it, I say. Hoser.

  2. So... why would she want to have a baby in a subway anyway?

  3. You know I love you Maxie, but not your best work this time.

  4. Why not, I ask. Babies born on the London Underground automatically qualify for lifetime free travel.

  5. Leave the wit to those who

  6. I resemble this remark! Actually I did laugh out loud - but you have to be British. As I've written about this many times before, the two senses of humo(u)r are very different and there's no point arguing which one is better/sharper etc. I have just learned, after 19 years of living here, that sarcasm is usually taken at face value and Brits are advised against using it.

  7. Max, hang on a mo (short for moment) didn't a well known Brit who plays football sorry soccer name his son after he place he was conceived in NYC.

    Nothing to do with the post but I being an English guy thought it was funny.

    Thought I'd use my pen name today since it is an attempt at humour (not humor) based on a notorious US gangster-bet you don't know who!

  8. I beg to differ! I am American and I got the joke :)

  9. @Soubriquet - So true. As long as they are content to only travel 'round and 'round London. Sort of like the Kingston Trio's Man Who Never Returned. I myself would be happy with London-For-Life, so it would be a good deal. I wonder how many are actually born down there? Or why a woman in labor would want to run down and jump on the subway? Ah, well. There might be more than we know, eh?

    Speaking of Women in Labour, I was just now sitting here and thinking of Margaret Beckett. I suspect you were as well. Only I was thinking of how much she resembles HRH Princess Anne, and was toying with the notion of twins being separated at birth. One rising to fame and fortune, the other remaining a mere Royal. I wonder if I am alone in this speculation? I am admittedly unable to actually tie the Right Honourable MB, MP, to the London Underground.

    More on the Underground in my sly comments to The TEFL Don below.

    Thank you for your comment. I would not have bet you could actually write a 2-sentence comment. You continue to amaze me, my friend. :)

  10. @KingOfAngst - Point well taken. I shall. :)

    @Expat mum - I'm delighted to see you. I want to tell you up front that I've purchased your book, so I hope if you find any uncredited thefts on this blog, you will go easy on me. :)

    Sarcasm. Yes. Well, it work both ways, doesn't it? - I can't help doing it and the Brits on this blog always take me seriously. I hate their seeming inability to understand American sarcasm. I have NEVER been able to write a post without at least one or two people taking it at face value and tearing into me. And yes, THEY would be better off leaving the art alone entirely. Fat chance.

    Thank you for stopping by!

  11. @The TEFL Don - You've got me there, Mike. The only thing that comes to mind is Yankee Stadium Beckham. Probably not, eh? I wish I knew the names of some other "football" players so I could have a better go at this. I'm lying, of course. It was Brooklyn Beckham -though he is unlikely to receive any free rides to Coney Island. But who knows.

    And, speaking of the New York Underground, the first time you made a comment on one of my blogs, I took the "TFLN" part to mean "teflon". But I wasn't sure. I WAS pretty sure you were not referring to Ronald Reagan, the teflon president. But, since every American and his dog knows who the Teflon Don was, I figured it had to be another play on the letters TFLN. Wary of the obvious potential for wry British humouuur, I put off asking you what it really meant. That, and an uneasy feeling you might snap and kill me and my family.

    At the risk of falling into your trap, I will state the obvious anyway: The Teflon Don was NY mafia boss John Gotti, who was sentenced to life in prison (something finally stuck) but only was able to serve 10 years of his sentence because Jesus came and took him home after only 10 years.

    Mike, damn, there has to be some British humor in this name you've taken, and I am just DYING to find out. (Kidding, Mike.) What does TFLN really mean? There is no way an intelligent Siam-dweller would take up this scumbag's name to blog under. Speak to it, please.

    Happy New Year to you btw. Although I realize you won't be celebrating it until next month. May you and yours have the best of all things this year, my friend.

  12. @Lidian - Don't make me put you under the "Doesn't appreciate excellent sarcastic posts" column. You are much too intelligent for that.


    See... ALL Americans get the "joke" in British humor. It just isn't...

    Ah, well. I once (very early on) did a post to address the subject of the differences between American and British humor. The late American comedic genius Alan King summed this difference up best, and so I will simply quote him here, as I did in that post:
    (and here I quote myself)

    Perhaps the differences between American and British humor are best explained by this rather tidy summation which was given by the late great American commedian Alan King (whose picture appears at the head of this post.) I saw this on HBO many years ago. Mr. King had been invited to a student comedy competition at a famous school in Britain. At Cambridge, I think. It was the kind of competition where the two sides each sit on one side of the small autditorium, and the audience would move to seats on the other side of the aisle whenever they were swayed by the comedic prowess of the speakers, who took turns. I remember that Mr. King spoke first to the very bright young British audience. His words summed up very succinctly the point I am grasping to make here.

    “I love British humor.” he began. “It is very instructive. It makes you think. It is very, very witty. It is incredibly cerebral. It is ever so clever. It just isn’t fucking funny.”

  13. Max, (may I call you darling, since you're a customer?) - we will have to agree to disagree. I find when I go back to England every year, I have to give myself about a week to get my brain back up and running enough to understand the jokes!!!

  14. @Mike - I just got it. "Teaching English as a Foreign Language."

    Sorry. Sometimes I am pretty stupid.

  15. But you're quite right, verbose is more fun.
    I fear those pale hordes, born on the underground, growing there, living in darkness upon the circle and district lines, surviving on stale pizza scraps and the occasional sleeping passenger, ghastly pale, they never see the light of day, they speak railspeak, learned from loudpeaker announcements, stand clear of the doors, they say, Mind the gap, mind the gap, mind the gap...

  16. well I laughed, and I agree with Expat mum, i've learnt to avoid sarcasm here, it tends to make people give me funny looks.

  17. Was there a joke in there?

    Well, someone needed to say it.

  18. @Soubriquet - Let me tell the rest of the readers about the Kingston Trio's old MTA song. It was sort of a protest song against a rate increase in Boston where this poor guy gets on the train and they raise the price and he doesn't have any money on him and they won't let him get off. The song says his wife brings him a sandwich every day at a certain station so he can survive his never ending subway ride. And, even as a child, I used to wonder why, if she can bring him a sandwich every day, why can she not just bring him another nickel so he can get off. I have always read something into that song about marital relations rather than fares. :)

  19. Yes. Especially in your area. Don't want to hurt their feelings. :) You are VERY sarcastic, btw. I go to bed crying quite often when you comment.

  20. @Descates - See? I'm not the only one. Thanks. :)

  21. OK. Now I get the subsequent post re: rotten tomatoes. Shutting up now.

  22. Sarcasm and wit, of a British standard, took 100's of years to perfect and as your country is so young, I'd give it a couple 100 years to catch up.

    You Americans are all so sickeningly sincere. I too tired sarcasm,too no avail. I left one particular conversation with people really believing a was a serial killer (I found their ignorance amusing and took it to an extreme scenario, as I generally do.)

    Maxwell, it is well known that Britain has the best comedians in the world. Ask any educated person.
    All your comedy on tv is painfully blunt or just a cheap copy of previous successful formula e.g. how i met your mother = friends. The art of subtlety is still far in the distance as your country matures as a nation.

    To prove my point look back to Charlie Chaplins era when slap stick was king, around 1914. Now compare that with today's american humour. Now be honest,it's not to disimilar is it?

  23. I really hate to be the one to break this news to you MaTt, but Charlie Chaplin was British.



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