Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pub Names

Here are some names of pubs that can be found in the Northeast of England:

Crown and Cross Swords (a.k.a "The Croon")
Kings Head
Bellamys Bar
Company Row
The Demi
The Freemasons Arms (a.k.a "The Masons")
The Grey Horse
The Soviet Union Bars (a.k.a "The Union")
The Turf
The Coach and Horses (a.k.a "The Coach")

The Derwentside Public House
Derwent Walk Inn
The Jolly Drovers
Horse & Groom Inn
Britannia (a.k.a "The Brit")
Duke Of Wellington
Smelters Arms
The Golden Lion
The Punchbowl Inn
The Black Horse Inn
The Miners Arms
The Braes

Thank you Caroline. She says this list is from memory. Hmmmmmm.

Friday, May 30, 2008

You Only Live Twice

Along with the British music invasion of America in the early-to-mid 1960s came a British movie invasion as well, mostly in the form of horror flicks starring Peter Cushing, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price. All were standard drive-in movie fare (which, therefore, no one actually watched anyway.) The second wave of the British movie invasion of America, after the horror flicks, was a phenomenon known as "James Bond" or "007" films. Dr. No. Thunderball. Goldfinger. All of these movies starred a handsome Scot by the name of Sean Connery. All of the moves had the same general theme: bad guys trying to take over the world, good guys thwarting them—always accompanied by plenty of guns and plenty of girls. A proven combination that has been repeated ad infinitum.

The sixth James Bond movie, and the last to star Sean Connery in the title role, was a movie called "You Only Live Twice." I am reminded of this movie because it was the one which was later spoofed by Mike Myers, spawning Dr. Evil, Mini-Me, and, of course, Fat Bastard. This spoof movie, in turn, was a part of my second post ever on BritishSpeak, the one in which I first encountered the non-devious Claire. (This post is being rerun a few posts down below this one, by the way, if you want to reprise my introduction to the non-devious Claire.)

As with several of the other James Bond movies, the title song to the movie also got quite a lot of radio play. The theme from Goldfinder (sung by Shirley Bassey) is an example. The title song from this movie "You Only Live Twice" became quite popular for a time as well, and was sung by Nancy Sinatra.

You only live twice, or so it seems,
One life for yourself, and one for your dreams.

You drift through the years and life seems tame,
Till one dream appears and love is its name.

And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on,
Don't think of the danger or the stranger is gone.

This dream is for you, so pay the price,
Make one dream come true, you only live twice.

(Last.FM members can listen to these songs at the following links:)
Goldfinger Live Twice

I want to apologize! I started this post early this morning (USA time) and posted the words to the title song first. Then I had to go out suddenly, intending to add the rest of the post when I returned. Of course it was not early morning in the rest of the world, and of course there were some comments when I returned mid-morning. The comments, of course, were on the meaning of the words to the song. Please let me apologize to the commentors, thank them for their insight, and assure all of them that I myself am not nearly as deep as they give me credit for. Please? I want to leave there comments up, because they were so very good, I thought. Thanks.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Guest posts on Lord Likely appearing now

Relax Max authors some poor substitute posts In Lord likely's absence. It would be really great if you went over there and read some of Max's ramblings about sex in 19th-century Australia. Australia? Yes, there he is in Australia. Thanks!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

That does it, Claire

claire said...
Knackered means tired from shagging or any other activity :)
March 10, 2008 9:50 PM

Ok, ok. I'm finally starting to get it now. You people are doing this to me on purpose, aren't you? You define one word, but at the same time, you throw out another word or two in the definition. It's endless, isn't it? You're making sport of my ignorance, aren't you?

Well, I do hope you are enjoying yourselves. All I was trying to do was pursue this in a scholarly manner, and look what you've made my earnest quest degenerate into. Into what you've made my earnest quest degenerate. Well, as Winston Churchill once said, "Up with this I will not put."

So know that the laugh is on YOU this time, because I KNOW what shag means. I saw that damn movie. The one with Mike Myers and Heather Graham. Fat Bastard. Not you, claire--I mean the character in the movie, the fat Scot with the terrible accent and the bagful of euphemisms. I suppose you even used the word "shag" on purpose, knowing it would draw my mind to that movie and to Fat Bastard. You people are incredibly devious. I thought you Brits would be much more easily handled. And you haven't even started to crank up the intellect, have you? What have I gotten into here?


[And then]

March 11, 2008 10:11 AM

claire said...
Ah ha!!

Shag is in fact a sea bird, shagging is the act of trying to catch one. What did you think I meant?

Me devious? never!


[to which relax max must reply as follows]

Ah, yes, the common Shag: A western European and Mediterranean cormorant with greenish-black plumage and a long curly crest in the breeding season.

Yes indeed. I must confess that never crossed my mind when I read your comment.

Because you have been so honest and forthright with me, I feel obligated to now tell you the truth about what I was REALLY thinking you meant, although I must admit I was quite puzzled that you, a Brit, would be shagging at all--especially for a living. Of course, as an American, the very first thing that popped into my mind was that you had obtained employment at a baseball stadium, and were being paid to retrieve baseballs during morning batting practice. At first I was puzzled, because I didn't think baseball was that popular in your country. But you know best, and so I simply shrugged my shoulders and accepted your statement. I must admit that it did make a great deal of sense when one thought about it; one would certainly be quite knackered after a session of shagging the players' balls. Also, your statement was reinforced by the fact that, in the movie, Fat Bastard made his living by shagging baseballs as well. (You didn't see the movie, did you? Good.)

So you can probably imagine my embarrassment (even shame) when you told me you had actually been shagging a bird for a long enough time to get knackered. (Christ, I'm actually getting quite good at talking like this.)

Two points of order I must reluctantly call you on, however. First, since I was able to find that bird in my American dictionary, it hardly can be an actual example of an obscure British idiom that would qualify as a subject for this blog. In other words, you cheated by using a real Shag instead of a slang shag. Not permissible. Secondly, it is not allowed to hide behind double-entendre. You already have an unfair advantage in that you are already fluent in BritSpeak. Ok, I just made that last one up, but I reserve the right to enforce it as an actual rule whenever I perceive you are taking unfair advantage of my delicate American sensibilities, as you so obviously were doing.

I hope this explanation suitably clarifies where my mind was when I read your comment.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Government and Politics

I hate politics. Nevertheless, Government and Politics is a legitimate word category. One supposes there are many words and phrases that are unique to this rather odious enterprise. I mean to collect some of them.

This idea has come to me because it has come to my attention that there is a political election of sorts going on in the USA right now. We have elections here every 2 years. Every 2 years we elect a new Congress and one-third of our Senate. Every other election, we also elect a President. Well, not really. The people give their input, but the Constitution doesn't really give a shit about that. But the people like to pretend to vote for President. So that's cool. There are a couple of very good reasons why the President is not elected by the people, by the way: They are just too stupid; and, frankly, it's just none of their business. So the Founding Fathers took it out of their hands, more or less. The several states elect the president. Sometimes they cast their votes for the candidate that the people living in those states tell them to vote for, and sometimes not. It is a long story—one Brits could never hope to understand anyway. And why on earth would you care?

Suffice to say that, just going by the coverage I have found on their blogs, Australians seem to care much more about who is elected president than most Americans. I don't have a clue why, but the Aussies are dead serious about who the next U.S. President should be. Mostly, the Aussies seem to favor that Irish guy O'bama, from what I can tell. There are three Democrats running this year, no Republicans. So you already know what party is going to win. McCain is pretending to be a Republican (wink, wink) just so it looks like democracy in action. Ho, hum. Americans are not particularly interested in the outcome because they are well aware by now that none of these thieves are going to do anything for them except rob them again. So who cares, right? Well, the Aussies care. But nobody else.

In the UK, you have a parliament. That is one of the first things I would like to learn about. To help you, I have drawn a box below which contains all the things I already know about how your parliament works.

Ok. That leaves the field pretty much open. I do know that the people in your parliament are elected (don't know for how long, or if there even is a particular term. Maybe they just stay in until another party comes in power? Probably not. Parties: I know about Tories and Labor. Labor is when a woman has a child, and Tories are children of the LA Dodgers Manager, who just came over from the NY Yankees. Correct?

I presume you only have one chamber. And, hence only one chamber pot. Unless you count the House of Lords. Do they actually have a function, by the way? Perhaps. So I'd better ask you about those then. The leader of your government is the Prime Minister. And this is by virtue of the fact that he is head of the party that currently happens to be in power, right? Um. Or is he actually elected? I mean you don't have the possibility of having a Prime Minister from an opposition minority party, like in the U.S. (where the president can be just about any party at all and not be affiliated with the majority party, and nobody but the Aussies care anyway.) So that is different.

And, your form of government is called a Constitutional Monarchy. Wow. Begging your pardon, but that really sounds like an oxymoron. How does that work? I'm guessing that she's not really a queen in the sense that she tells people what to do and cuts off their heads, like her ancestors did, correct? So, you have, like, a Constitution that tells her she is not needed, right? But you still pay her and a bunch of her family anyway. Is that correct? Awesome, guys! We'll collect some of them special queen words too, if you don't mind.

For my part, I will be compiling a list of American political terms, such as "Muckraker" and "Carpetbagger" and "Asshole." Then you kind folks can tell me what words we have in common on that list, and you will also, hopefully, make a list of your own for me to laugh at. Then we will all go to the pub on Lord Likely. It will be fun.

Pretend we are writing a chapter on government and politics now. Who will start?


Starter list of political words: These are all American words. Are some of these also used in British politics? Can you list words that are unique to British politics? Does this make you think? Sorry.

lame duck
bleeding heart
dark horse
inside the beltway
bully pulpit
rubber chicken circuit
silent majority
smoke-filled room
pork barrel
swing vote

Politcal Question of the Day: Do snails really enjoy sex?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Avos 'n Stuff

Howzit little b?

Today I would like to send a love letter to South Africa.

Lately I have REALLY been trying to learn about South Africa, their history, their culture, and, of course, their special words.

I have my reasons. And this studying I have been doing is one of the reasons I have not been hanging around my blog as much as I probably should be lately.

First I want to recognize four special ladies in South Africa who have been helping me. Three for a long time and one nice new lady. Also there is a guy, Glugster, who tries to help when he can, but is busy with his own stuff.

The ladies are little b, Big B, Candy, and FrostyGirl.

little b is really Briget, a very hip and savvy business lady who also runs a rather earthy blog called becauseican. She has been on my blogbuddy list since I started BritishSpeak. Briget lets me call her little b. Even answers to it now. I think she secretly likes me to call her that. She has been faithfully feeding me words whenever she can, since the very beginning. little b is ever so cool I think.

Candy is a writer. A serious writer. A very GOOD writer. Candy is Candy Tothill, and her blog is InsideCandy. Candy has also been a strong friend and supporter of BritishSpeak since the beginning. Thanks Candy.

FrostyGirl is a nice lady I have only recently met. She is giving me words, but she is also patiently teaching me some things about South African culture, and what living is like in that unique country. FrostyGirl is Petro Meintjes and her blog is Ocean Africa. Petro was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) but came to live in South Africa many years ago, and has been a South African citizen for a long time. Like the other ladies, Petro is a great writer. All of these ladies can write circles around me.

Finally, (and here Tom closes his eyes and smiles, breathing in her imaginary perfume) there is my Bridget. My fiery Warrior Princess. Awesome published author. Irreverent as hell. Awesome poetess. I use the word "awesome" an awesomely lot when I talk about the impossibly talented and intelligent Bridget. She spends a good part of her time lately sitting by the pool with her laptop on her lap firing off pointy little missives to a little doggie in New Mexico. Yes, I'm quite sure I'm in love with Bridget. I am in partial denial, but I am only faking the denial now. She calls herself Dementor, but if there is ever a lady who is the exact opposite of Dementor, it is my Bridget. For she pumps me full of happiness and she makes my soul sing. Dementor not, my love. If you have the guts to take life full in your face, visit Bridget's blog. Not for the faint of heart.

And now that I have bragged about what I have been learning, let me share some cool South African words with you, courtesy of the above people, and others, and my own research. There are many more in my storehouse.

Ag (ach) This is one of the most useful South African words. It can be used to start a reply when you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don't know." Or a sense of resignation: "Ag OK.” It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation.

Aita The people of South Africa’s townships have developed an even faster, more efficient alternative to “howzit”, which is Aita. This also means hello and how are you, but only has four letters as opposed to six, equalling a total saving of two letters per greeting per person.

Babalas (buh-buh-lahs) Your tongue feels like sandpaper, someone is driving a nine-inch nail through the back of your skull and foggy images from the night before are crawling into your memory. What does this mean? You have a babalas (buh-buh-lahs) – a hangover!

Bakkie (bucky) This word can refer to a small truck or pick-up. If a young man takes his "girl" (date) in a bakkie it could be considered as a not so "lekker" form of transport because the seats can't recline.

Boet (boot) This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all language groups. Pronounced "boot" but shorter, as in "foot", it can be applied to a brother or any person of the male sex. For instance a father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used. But don't use it on someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronizing and could lead to you getting a "lekker klap".

Braai (brye) After soccer, after rugby, after cricket, our top sport is the “braai” – otherwise known as the barbeque. Its our most favourite thing to do, come rain or shine.

Bunny Chow Hollowed out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry. Cheap, filling, messy and very tasty.

Crash Why appoint a designated driver, when you can “crash” – meaning to spend the night over at someone’s house.

Dop This word has two basic meanings, one good and one bad. First the good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a sundowner, a noggin. When invited for a dop, be careful! It could be one sedate drink or a blast, depending on the company.
Now the bad: To dop is to fail. If you "dopped" standard two (Grade 4) more than once, you probably won't be reading this.

Dwaal In the beauty of South Africa you may find yourself in a state of sleepy hypnosis brought on by fresh air or magnificent views – don’t be concerned – you are simply in a dwaal.

Eina (aynah) Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the Afrikaans, means "ouch." You can say it in sympathy when you see your friend the day after he got home late to his wife.

Eish (aysh) African slang to express surprise or agreement. For example: Aish, that’s a cool car!

Hey (hay) Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the importance of what has just been said, “did you remember to do that hey?” It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can always say: "Hey?"

Howzit South Africans are always on the go and there is little time available for chit-chat. But we are far too polite to abandon common courtesy altogether, so we have evolved an ingenious timesaver: the standard greeting. We have combined the word “hello” with the phrase “how are you?” into a marvellous mixture: howzit?

Izit? This is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you something at a braai. For instance, if someone would say: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership." It is quite appropriate to respond by saying: "Izit?"

Listen to Pata Pata

Convictism of Australia

Yesterday, bloggers all over the world united to shine the light on Human Rights, and the worldwide abuses thereof. I gladly participated. Even though we probably didn't even put a dent in the continuing saga of man's inhumanity to man.

One of the basic human rights, according to Amnesty International, is the right to ones own life, no matter what.

Much has been said and is still being said, about the fact that several of the U.S. states still put the most heinous of their murderers to death. Amnesty International, and many, many others stongly condemn this.

Of course, many people in those states wonder why there is not more of an outrage over the loss of the innocent victims' lives, rather than concentrating on preserving the rights of the murderer following his conviction. The opponents of so-called capital punishment argue that it is useless, that it does not deter murderers from committing murder. The states reply quickly: "It deterred THAT particular killer."

And the U.S. is alone in executing murderers, of the so-called civilized western countries. That makes them barbaric. Perhaps.

Britain is not totally without spot or blemish, at least historically. Few countries are. As an example, by the time of the American Revolution, in the 1770s, there were 222 crimes in Great Britain which carried the death penalty.

The subject of crime and punishment, and of basic human rights, is currently being taken up as a series of articles on one of my other blogs, and is out of the scope of BritishSpeak anyway, but I wanted to try and stimulate some contributions of uniquely British words that have to do with the category of crime and the justice system. I do believe there are enough specialized words to warrant making "crime and punishment" or "law and order" a separate category.

My collected words so far are beginning to form themselves into various categories, and I think I will begin posting word lists on this blog more regularly, in hope of stimulating additions to the lists.

If you are interested in Max's (Actually Yummy's) theories about crime and punishment, human rights in general, the "convictism" of Australia—and related issues—I encourage you to visit the blog Yummy Biscuits over the next month or so as it undergoes its third incarnation. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

K Kalaivaniy | May 14, 08 4:17pm Malaysiakini

YAB Dato Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi,

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I am the 67-year-old and proud mother of P Uthayakumar one of Hindraf leaders detained by your goodself under the Internal Security Act. I write as the mother of Uthayakumar and on behalf of all Malaysian mothers who have been deprived of the love, care and attention of their sons detained under the ISA.

Only a mother who had raised and nurtured her son would understand the torture of forcefully being separated from him. Like me, there are many other mothers in this country currently being denied to be freely with their sons. On behalf of them, I write to appeal to you as a father figure of this beautiful country to immediately release them.

No mother on earth would condone her son committing an unlawful act and going unpunished but no mother would be able to digest the fact that her son is held for his political beliefs without being charged with any offence.

Like my son, many sons are being held under the law for their political beliefs or held on mere suspicion and without proof that they have committed offences. I wish to state that, like me, many mothers are suffering every day thinking of the uncertainty and unjust punishment and torture their sons are going through.

Many mothers are older than me and their days may be numbered. Every other day in detention is an eternal punishment to the mothers meted out by the country. Dear Prime Minister, let not a single mother leave this earth not being able to cuddle and hug her son for one last time.

I beg you on behalf of all mothers - be he a JI suspect, Hindraf leader or anyone - no mother would want to leave this earthly life with the burden of not speaking to her son one final time. On behalf of all I pray to the Lord Almighty to give you the utmost wisdom to see this great unjust committed on our sons.

I beg and appeal to you. Please release them and shut down the Kamunting detention camp.

Speaking of money

I am always on the lookout for new and interesting categories of words for my collection. I am always seeking to simply learn new information about you as well. In our research categories, we have talked about food, transportation, sex (a lot), and other things, but for some reason, the category of money never came up until yesterday. But money is great subject, don't you think? It is at least deserving enough to warrant having its own special post, rather than simply lumping in with Benjamin Bunny and vomit, one would think.

So, this is the money category post. For starters, would someone who is rather long of tooth explain to Max about the "old" money? Did you see the old movie "Mary Poppins?" I love the song about "Tuppence." What the heck is "tuppence?" Two pence, I imagine. Was there an actual coin for that? Seems like one would simply use two pennies. And "hapence?" Half-pence, I presume. Again, an actual coin? Must be--couldn't saw a penny in half. But tell me about shillings. And crowns. And I myself have just used a word in my 19th century Lord Likely post (upcoming this week, if I can plug it again here)--the word I used was "soverign", but I admit to having no clue as to the real meaning of that word. It just sounded like a coin the Lord would have used back then.

You've already explained quid. What else? This is starting to get interesting. I remember another movie--Doris Day--I think it was "The Man Who Knew Too Much". 1956. God, what a memory that little dog has when plugged into Tom. Anyway, Doris was in a phone booth (or whatever you call them (probably a thing of the past as they are in my own country now) and the operator (this was in England, if you don't remember the movie) was telling her to put in some money, and Doris didn't have the right British coin and she asked the operator, "Can't I just put in a dime? It's the same size..." So cool. But my real question is, what are your coins, current and "old"? [Quickly, the American current coins are: penny (actually "cent"--we don't have a real penny, although everyone calls them pennies); nickel; dime; quarter. We also have half-dollar and dollar coins, but they, for some reason, are not in wide usage anymore.] And this is what they look like, from Tom's pockets this morning, if you have a desire to look at them.

Yes, I know I can google all this stuff, but they wouldn't tell me your anecdotes you remember about your coins (and other money), and you will. Hopefully. Give, please.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Doing my homework

Last night while England slept I did my usual word gleaning and organizing. Here is a word I came across which I had never heard of before. It wasn't in my American dictionary at all, not even under "Brit.": Chunder. And here is what it means, I later found. Revolting. Why do you even have words like that?

And here is a word that I have heard all my life, but have never learned what it means. Now it has been so long, I am ashamed to ask. Maybe one of you will define it for me in a comment so I won't have to ask out loud. It looks like it should mean "four" or maybe "five". Probably not. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with slang for a certain kind of your money. Don't have a clue, though. John Lennon seemed to use it a lot. The word is quid. In the U.S., we only have bucks, fins, sawbucks, double sawbucks, half a C, and C notes. We used to have grands, but no more. Not publicly held, at least.

Here are two words you may be surprised to learn are never used in America. People know what they mean, but they never use them. Almost never, at least. If you ever go to America and really want to be recognized as being British, but you don't want to say the word bloody, then say one of these two words. it will work. They will know right away where you are from: Advert or queue. For the reccord, in the USA these things are ads and lines. Ask Caroline.

I also read some Beatrix Potter last night. A certified wacko, she is. Charming though. Here is a passage I especially liked:

Old Mrs. Rabbit was a widow; she earned her living by knitting rabbit-wool mittens and muffatees (I once bought a pair at a bazaar). She also sold herbs, and rosemary tea, and rabbit-tobacco (which is what we call lavender).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is Max Up For It?

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who read a perfectly awful blog called "The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely" and those who don't.

The incredible Lord Likely is an occasional contributor to this blog. I am more than honored to guest-post on his legendary masterpiece sometime this week.

C'mon—you know you've always secretly wanted to see the pure little angelic puppy dog unleashed. Now's your chance. Ok, ok, this will not exactly be Relax Max at his filthiest (Lord Likely is not THAT obscene!) but the volume will be turned up decidedly.

The Rev. Qelqoth, the Lovely Miss Claire, and other blogging legends precede me as guest posters while the Lord and Botter roam the Earth. Start reading YESTERDAY if you are not yet a regular reader.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doodle Rabbit

Friday, May 9, 2008

Doodle Monster

Little Debbie. One of them, anyway.

Ok. This doesn't have anything to do with finding British words. At least I don't think it does. But all work and no play makes Max a dull doggie.

I have my reasons. Just be patient...

Time to reveal my reasons.

Like many young (read: "Horny") young American males, I lusted after the coppertone girl (girls--there were more than one over the years, of course) and probably (read: "certainly") had a few magazine ads torn out and hidden in my bedroom for further "study." Please rest assured these later girls were not all little girls, lest you think Max was a young perv.

Anyway, small world, I have had the good fortune to amuse one of those lovely ladies, years later, with this humble blog. I hope to have more about "our" Debbie later, but here are some words from Debbie today (she's still stone-cold gorgeous, by the way. Of course she is not that old, either, so there's that...):


"That young lady still lives in Florida today, I believe in the panhandle portion of the state. Memory escapes me.

Inquiring minds asked, so:

I was much older than she, when I was involved with Coppertone. I was crowned Miss Coppertone at the ripe old age of 18. For the year of my reign I was sent from beach to beach to pose in a swimsuit with people who actually thought that was something worth wasting their film on. Job duties included giving away free samples and remaining tan. Tough duty, but we all make sacrifices in life.

The next year I was employed by Sherring Plough as the youngest sales rep they had. This required actual work and no time for tanning. Needless to say, I had better ideas and left.

I have never fessed up to this with my sons, the pictures are all hidden away. (Along with billboard shots)I guess it is time to let them know a bit more about Mom."


Rest assured Max is hard at work twisting Debbie's arm for semi-naked photos, and will post them here if successful.

Still Later:
After much cajoling and browbeating, our own Debbie finally agreed to let us see a couple of her Miss Coppertone photos. No bikini shots though. I am still working on her for those. But these are darn good enough for me. Wasn't she gorgeous? Still is, I say. Thanks Debbie. I am mesmerized.

One more thing: Coppertone has been around for a long time. There have been many young ladies represent them and appear in their advertising. Debbie was the best, but, for the last time, DEBBIE IS NOT THE LITTLE GIRL WHO APPEARS IN THE AD AT THE TOP OF THIS POST. (And Max is not the dog in the picture pulling her pants down.)

Thank you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

BritishSpeak, the book: Update.

Friday will mark the second month of this blog's life, and, almost unbelievably, I am on schedule with the project. This is pretty amazing because this was a spur of the moment undertaking that I decided to insert, somehow, into my already tight list of writing and blogging projects. (Not to mention earning a living at the same time.) So I am happy with where the book is right now. I had hoped for a fall publishing, and that appears easily within reach.

Part one is coming together nicely. Part one is the collecting of words and phrases that are new or different to me as a speaker of American English. As always, I spend an hour or so each evening "digesting" the new words I have collected for the day. The list is very long now, and I work hard at keeping it organized.

This collecting will continue until Part Two—the stories—have all been written. Finally will come Part Three of my project, organization and illustration. Then will come the uninteresting work, which will go on unnoticed by you, of course, of publication and marketing.

As we "slide" into Phase Two this month, the story writing will intensify until it becomes my only real focus here. Posting will perhaps become less frequent as I spend more and more time on the private production blog BritishSpeak2. But I fully intend to keep this blog active.

I want to also thank those who have been participating in the story writing behind the scenes. Especially, I want to recognize Claire and Ann. You have both been so friendly and helpful. And patient with me. Kelly and Andy will have their arms twisted painfully during Phase Three. And I have high hopes that Linda and Stine and Alison (and perhaps even Catherine at times) will translate my own writings into actual British English. We shall see.

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First, tell me who you are

Yesterday's post opened up many unexpected avenues to explore, and I sense there are special words along each of those avenues. It occurs to me that before I start to make arguments about language and culture, I perhaps should know something about yours.

Just because I don't know this information would not necessarily stop me from spouting off, normally, but here I find that I have a strange genuine desire to learn more about those islands over there off the coast of France. So, why not argue from an informed perspective? I said to myself.

And here you are, just gagging to make a comment and share all your knowledge and experiences, right? Or was it just the Aussies who gag to do things? I forgot already.

I want to know about each—England, Wales, Scotland, and NI. Think that's all nowadays. I'm not going to be so anal as to take them each in turn (sorry A.), but instead you may talk about your own, or your favorite, or the one whose culture you feel familiar with, as you choose, all mixed up together.

As for England, I have discovered there are several distinct regions. Silly me, I thought only the U.S. came in distinct regions. So perhaps some of you can get rather specialized for me. Quickly, he adds, so as to avoid indignant unrelated comments, it is suspected that EACH comes in unique distinct regions, not just England.

I find that, as I scour my meager memory for information about the UK taught to me as a child in primary school, I can retrieve very little, I'm afraid. I don't know why they taught it so early on when I was in school, maybe 5th grade it was, but that's the way it was and now my ignorance is really showing. Help me out. Hell, it's probably all different now anyway, right?

Of course, judging from past quizzing, you folks know very little about my country either, so that makes me feel a little better.

All I can see in my mind's eye right now are snippets: mimeographed maps we had to put names of cities on. Draw boundary lines. Birmingham. Cutlery. Coal mining. Loch Ness. Loch Lomond. Loch being lake, I take it. Wee Bobby Burns. You take the high road. Comin' through the rye. Childhood songs. How Green Was My Valley. London Bridge is falling down (did it really, I wonder?)

It's all jumbled together in there. Need to sort it out again. Help me, he cries in desperation. Then I will come back and argue with you about the need for preservation of individual cultures.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Culture preservation? Death of a language? Should you care?

There really seems to be a lot of uproar about making people speak the same language. Not just English, but other languages as well. This debate is not confined to the U.S., of course--it is happening in many other countries as well. And not just language, but other "cultural aspects" that various governments are trying (mostly in vain) to protect.

I don't think anyone would argue that people should not learn the language of the place where they live. But in parts of the U.S., people who have moved here from foreign lands sometimes attempt to preserve their culture to the point of refusing to speak English, or at least they live in their own segregated neighborhoods where learning English is not possible or needed. What do you think about this ever-growing problem in the U.S.? Or is it not a "problem?" Is it something the various state governments should do something about? Under what constitutional pretext might the U.S. federal government get involved?

Personally, I don't see it as a problem. If you want to communicate with someone, then learn the language. If you don't, then stay away from each other. And, if you know me at all, then you know I wouldn't want to see any government involvement in any way whatsoever. I believe in people handling their own challenges. But that's just me, and I could be wrong.

There is an old-fashioned theory that America is a sort of big "Melting Pot" of some sort, where immigrants move in, learn the language, adapt to the new culture, and, over a couple of generations, become fervent flag-waving Americans. This, of course, has not been even remotely true since the end of the white European and white Asian (Russian) immigration era that ended largely with the advent of World War II.

Today, a person who immigrates to America from, say Guatamala, or Haiti, or Viet Nam, or Iraq, is hardly going to assimilate, or even WANT to assimilate into traditional American white culture. As a result, there are many "sub-Americas" within our boundaries today. Some people see this as a problem. I am not sure why this would be a problem unless your goal is to preserve (read: "force upon") a certain cultural identity of one group over another.

There have always been many more cultures in America than simply the white European culture of course. Africans in America, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics in America, Hispanic-Americans, and of course Asian-Americans, have always had their separate traditions and cultures. So this is hardly a new phenomena. However, they are no longer being ruthlessly suppressed by the white culture, as it becomes less and less dominate, and so the differences become more obvious than before.

Is this a problem? No. Is America going to retain a traditional national identity? No. That traditional identity has already been lost, if it ever existed; I don't think it ever did exist--not in the sense of of the cultureal identity of European countries.

To me, America has always been more of an idea than a country. And that idea was to provide a place on earth that people could come and live in peace without having to worry about having their heads beat in by some despot because of their personal beliefs or the color of their skin, or the language they spoke. Further, I am convinced that the more America tries to be a traditional European country, the further from this idea--this American Dream--they will drift.

I think this fact is why so many Europeans seem puzzled at Americans. They don't quite understand the precepts of America, where so many people of different cultures live together in such seeming turmoil and divisiveness, but yet seem to always get it done together in the end. They don't understand that America's strength is not in a common language or a common culture. These are European concepts. No. America's specialness lies in its LACK of one particular definition of what an "American" is. Paradoxically, but truly, America's strength lies in the very diversity that seems to always be tearing it apart.

We fight. We beat each other up. We call each other names. We pull this way and we pull that way. But it is a family fight. And whenever we get attacked from the outside, as many despots and dictators from decades past have learned the hard way, we suddenly come together. When it is over, our family starts fighting again. Don't feel sorry for us. There is no cure, and no cure is desired.

Personally, this writer could not give less of a damn about preserving traditional white culture, or preserving historical countries. Instead, I am concerned about children getting fed and receiving medical care. Politics I don't care about and haven't for a long time.

As usual, it is obvious I am busting my head against a brick wall. But that has been going on for me for a very very long time. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote in modern times. But then, somebody like Marmelade comes along, and I get cheered up. There may be hope for us someday after all.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Finding more of your words now. You have just hidden the very best ones in your children's books.

Kentucky Derby

(Photo: Favorite "Big Brown", shown with workout rider.)

As this is written, the 2008 Run for the Roses is only minutes away. Aren't you excited?

As always with these pop quizes, you will be disqualified if you Google the answers. I have my ways of knowing who cheats.

1. What racetrack hosts the Kentucky Derby?
Answer: Churchill Downs

2. The race is billed as "The most exciting 2 minutes in sports." How long (in miles) is the Kentucky Derby?
Answer: A mile and a quarter.

3. How old are the horses in the Kentucky Derby?
Answer: It's a race for 3-year-olds.

4, How much weight must each horse carry?
Answer: 126 lbs. for colts, 121 lbs. for fillies (includes the weight of the jockey, of course.)

5. A few horses have gone on to win American horse racing's "Triple Crown". Can you name one?
Answer for me: Yes. Answer for Brits: Probably not.
Real Answer: They are few and far between, maybe a dozen in 134 years. I can remember Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Others before my time that I have heard of were Whirl-A-Way in the 1940s and I think Man O' War. A few more. Not going to look them up since you don't really care. :)

You probably don't even know what the Triple Crown of American racing is, do you? The three big races are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.

6. British Royalty are big fans of the Kentucky Derby. Has the Queen ever personally attended?
Answer: Although Her Majesty has visited Kentucky on 5 occasions, she never attended the Kentucky Derby until last year when she happened to be here in May for the 400th anniversary celebration of the founding of the first British Settlement. (Jamestown, in Virginia.) I think I will now start putting some hidden questions in these answers that you should know, since we are really bombing out on the regular race questions. So here goes. Many of the East Coast place names were named after British Monarchs and also for British towns or other places. (Our mutual ancestors were not very original.) Who was Jamestown named after? (Start with an easy one.) Who was Virginia named after? Who was Georgia named after. duh. Charlotte is the largest city in Virginia. Who was it named after? You people better be getting these easy ones.

7. What important American river flows by Louisville?
Answer: the Ohio River (which drains the Ohio Valley and flows into the Mississippi.)

8. Today is the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. Of the 20-horse field, "Eight Belles" is a filly. Has a filly ever won the Kentucky Derby?
Answer: of course. several. The first was "Regret" in 1915. "Eight Belles" would probably have won it today if it had been a little longer race; she was closing hard on Big Brown at the finish. I wonder if she was wanting to keep running his ass down when her jockey pulled her up? We'll never know.

9. What famous olympic and professional boxing champion is from Louisville?
Answer: Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay in the Olympics.) And it was the Ohio River that he threw his olympic medals into, frustrated with racial prejudice.

10. Does it upset you that Americans call many of their horse races Derbys instead of Darbys?
Answer: Very much. But you are too proud to admit it. You think that kind of stuff is beneath you. But you ARE bothered by it.

[WINNER: "BIG BROWN" 2:01 4/5]

[The filly, "Eight Belles", finished second but was injured badly, breaking down after the finish]

[Update on injury: both front ankles broken. Extreme pain. She was destroyed immediately.]


"When we passed the wire I stood up. She started galloping funny. I tried to pull her up. That's when she went down," a distraught Saez said.



Eight Belles record for tuneup races this year leading up to the Kentucky Derby:

The next day: Complete story. Eight Belles euthanized in the dirt where she had just galloped to greatness. Caution: graphic photo of Eight Belles' final moments.

Max has suddenly found another cause to campaign against. It isn't that this is an isolated case. It happens all the time in horse racing. Read the story. Write a letter to someone who can change this.

Been there, done that...

A passionate ignorance.

Just in case you are not getting why the above picture of anti-China Olympics protesters is funny (or at least ironic)...
You should know that there WAS an Olympics held in Nazi Germany. You should also be made aware that, during those Olympics, Adolf Hitler's Master Race got it shoved up their asses by American Jessie Owens and others.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Lord Likely: Kidnap Victim?—Or Dashing Time-Traveler?

Lord Likely himself in modern times? Could it be?

Or is there some OTHER sinister plot afoot?

Queen Victoria Herself? HOW COULD HE!!

And the good-hearted, partially reformed lady of the evening, can she prevail over the wicked forces?

These answers and much MUCH more in mere days.

OH! The horrors--and ecstasies!--that await...

Astonishing, indeed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Canadian Bacon—Fact or Fiction?

A Canucklehead recent post has got me thinking.

That in itself is a pretty dangerous concept, but, even worse, he has me thinking about food instead of hockey and/or beer. Which is all he usually talks about. Hate hockey. Used to love beer. Love other things now. Hockey and beer are pretty much what Canada seems to run on: hockey is the motivator, beer is the fuel.

But there is also a legend that they have a special secret kind of bacon.

I asked Canucklehead about this, but he won't answer. He just keeps babbling on about something he calls Greek Easter. So I thought I'd throw the question out to the all-knowing Brits. Unless Grumpus stumbles by and edifies me, which isn't likely. She knows everything. At least I'm pretty sure she does. Or maybe my favorite book lady. What's her name. The pretty one in Northern Ireland that claims she has mastered roundabouts. Not much chance of her showing up either, eh? (Yes, Catherine, I am aware that you can live in N. Ireland and still be a Brit. Don't throw the book at me.) A. would probably know. Or would lie to me authoritatively. Either way.

Claire wouldn't have a clue, but would be happy to talk about llamas or blow-up dolls. And I'd be happy to listen, too. You bet. Marmelade? She's either swearing at me right now because of my subject matter, or is simply screaming with her hands over her ears. Pork, you know. Sorry, my lovely orange one. You know I would never eat the stuff—I only want to know what it is. Ok? Marmelade?

Anyway. Every time I order breakfast in Canada, they bring me the same stuff as I get down here to the south. Same stuff exactly. When I ask them if it is really Canadian Bacon, they look at me like I'm stupid. "Sure it's Canadian Bacon, idiot. You're in Canada. Get it?" But I think they lie. (I don't actually eat it when they bring it, Marmelade. Nor the eggs. I only eat the grits and drink a little orange juice. I only order the bacon to see what it looks like. And the eggs just seem to come with it automatically. Go figure.)

So, is Canadian Bacon real? Or is it just a legend? Is it really just ham? Has anybody ever truly SEEN Canadian Bacon? If so, does it come in rashers or just plain American slices? Is this a real set of words I can add to my list? Or simply a myth? Is anybody listening to me?

Happily, I think M permits beer. At least I hope she does. Probably not hockey, though.
[Black bar over drunkard's eyes indicates this picture was
stolen from somebody else's blog, and identity of lush is being kept secret.]


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