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.



  1. I'm not at all sure I can help you with this one. I'm British, yes, but I wasn't born in any of those places, and I've had no fixed abode ever since. A vagrant, a vagabond. Perhaps that's what makes me appreciate the regional differences all the more.

  2. The best way to find the differences between the regions/counties of England is by their food. In Cornwall, they had the pasty for the miners to take to work, in Bedfordshire they had the clanger for the ploughmen. Each would have had meat and potato at one end and some jam at the other with a big wedge of pastry separating them. The men would have use the crimped pastry edge to eat the pasty contents as their hands were not clean and lack of water in their environment.

    Still get the crimp today, but this is usually eaten by people who don't understand the historical basis.

  3. A.-If you appreciate the cultural differences, then you must be aware of what they are. Tell me. You have already told me a little about food (something I wasn't thinking of, oddly, when I was thinking about cultural aspects. Food is a big part of culture.

    I realize this is a hard question. Even overwhelming. Of course you can't explain a country's entire culture to me. But choose some one thing, if you can, and talk about it--something you know, for example, that the Welsh do that is peculiar only to them. Language, obviousl-- but more. Then choose another.

    How is your move progressing?

  4. Sage, thank you for stopping by. It would be great to know where you are from, at least generally, if you care to tell us.

    First, let me thank you for the new words. This system of talking to one another is my best source of inadvertent new words by far. :)

    Clanger. Ploughmen. And "pasty" if that is what you meant to say. (I'm hoping you didn't simply misspell "pastry" because pasty is such a cool word!) Marvelous! Thank you for writing naturally and not trying to write for an American. The words just jump off the page at me. (As some of mine probably do to you as well.)

    And how right you are that regional food is such a cultural aspect! Here in the U.S., each group seems to bring it's own hugely interesting and tasty food to the mix. Yesterday we celebrated Cinco De Mayo here (A Mexican holiday) and in our town we had gorgeously costumed dancers, Mariachi music, and, of course FOOD! I have become addicted to the Mexican and Indian (Native American--although we also have some real Indians as well) foods of my own area since I moved here some time ago.

    The story behind the crimp we have in our pie crust is interesting as well. It was not always simply decorative! I hope you will choose to visit us often.

  5. Hi, dropping at your lovely page. Indeed very well written blog! Love it!

  6. My partner is from Cornwall or Kernow to be politically correct, while I was born in Dorset (officially South-west England) though my Dad was in the army and we moved frequently and often; he was from Bedfordshire which is where we currently live (for now), though I have lived overseas in Malaysia and Germany as well.

    Yes Pasty is correct, it denotes a meat or savoury item covered completely in pastry and was a complete meal in one.

    Drop by my blog at some point in time, you can see more of my scribbles there.. and I will say scribbles I write as I ramble


  7. I would add also that dialect is a good distinction.

    I was going to make a comment similar to what I suppose other people did on your other post, so you are saved! I was too busy rescuing abandoned kitties.

  8. Caroline, So I read on your blog this morning. 3 cheers for the kitty rescuer lady! Hope it eventually finds a good home.

    Dialect is as interesting to me as the mother language. In fact, as you know, this is what I am REALLY researching. Geordie Girl. Aussie. What the heck ARE you anyway???? :) (Joking. I know EXACTLY what you are. And I really like it.)

    Of course you must still comment regularly. It doesn't matter if others have said something similar already. They haven't said it like Caroline would say it.

    You may have to quit one of your jobs. This regular commenting is important. :) How's the weather out in Liberal Heaven this morning? I read that you are now the Heroin Addict Capital of the U.S. now. You must be very proud. :( Love, luv.

  9. Oh my gosh, are we really, I didn't know that.

    I am doing good, I am struggling with the double jobs and all that, but I do keep stopping by, to see whats going on. I just don't seem to be able to stay long. It's quite sad.

    I hope kitty gets a good home too ...

  10. Speaking of pasties, et al.

    You'd do well to do a post focusing on food. No way to get to the heart of a culture quicker. People love talking about it, and food is chock full of other associations you might find compelling. You'd get your most comments so far. Guaranteed!*

    My partner's from Scotland and remembers breakfast being (essentially) boiled all together in a pan... bacon, toast, sausage all bubbling away in an inch of grease. Also, oatmeal you could slice with a knife. He describes it as the most vulgar food you can imagine. No offense to anyone out there who boils their toast in bacon grease. I eat Cheez Whiz (Bright orange slice of Canadiana, that). So I don't think I'm any better off.

    Sorry, this isn't on topic of your post. But I can't stay on topic. You can't make me!

    *not a guarantee

  11. Grumpus, ummmm, I thought we were talking about pasties, you said? (Ok, you should know that that word means something different to an American. Somewhat related to food, though--in a kind of infantile way.)
    1. Do a food post? What a novel idea! I will if you promise to do a post the same day on Mormon Hot Dogs, fair enough? (Ok, ok. Yes, I've done one.) But your point is well taken. The earlier post wasn't in the context of cultural foods like you are suggesting. It was on something like Cotton Candy (which the Brits call dental floss or something like that) so I will work one up. You always get me worked up, you know that, G?
    2. You say your partner is Fat Bastard? How interesting!
    3. Cheez-Whiz has been exported to you gullible folks in the Great White North by your buddies to the south since the 1950s. We chock if full of chemicals too. It will last 12 years unrefrigerated, and with the top off. Promise. Sorry to burst your bubble. You had really thought Canadians had actually invented something besides the snowcone? It is to laugh.
    4. I don't suppose your partner would do an interview? Has he taken photos of you? Or is he just into thick oatmeal, more or less?
    Did I tell you I LOVED L? Sooooo cool. Would never trifle with her on the road, though.
    This part is serious: I will do a cultural food post. You must participate with stuff like you just gave me, only about Canada. No Cheez-Whiz and no Canadian Bacon. Deal?

  12. toast fried in greese is really quite scrummy, don't knock it till you try it.

  13. Caroline, I wasn't meaning to sound like I was knocking it. I'm not. :)

    I was only pulling Grumpus' leg. Or antenna, as it were.

    I think you and I should go out and eat toast fried in grease until our asses won't fit through the door. Are you game?

  14. I am from Up North, which is anywhere north of Birmingham usually.

    I live in Widnes, pronounced Wid-Ness. It was formally part of Lancashire but now is part of Cheshire.

    Chips and gravy are part of the staple diet here.

  15. Of course I should also mention that my good friend A. did a guest post about food as well recently, called "Gone Shopping" and gave me some good insights on some of those words having to do with food that are so different than the American versions. But what we are looking for here on THIS post, I think, is more about specific regional foods or ethnic foods. You should still read A.'s post though, if you haven't already. :)

  16. Claire, thanks a lot for that. The American is confused as usual, though. You put gravy on potato chips?? Doesn't that get them all soggy? Just askin'... :)

  17. And an Italian from Brooklyn would say, "You put spaghetti sauce on potato chips!??" Except he would call it macaroni gravy...

    So cool are even the differences even within the U.S., much less between you and us.

    I think I know what you mean by chips though. Here we have fast food places that serve authentic British Fish "n Chips, on newspapers, for some reason. So by chips you must mean "french fries" right? Gravy over french fries?

    Then...what are "frits"? Like our Apple fritters that we stole from Austria? But you would put gravy on those, even in Cheshire, would you?

    I'm leaving now...

  18. Oh, God, I just rememberd, Claire. I live in New Mexico, as you probably know, and the Mexican and Indian (Native American) influence on food is really great here. Especially out in the sticks where I live. And we have this thing where you put french fries in a little cardboard container and put a kind of chile gravy over it, red chile with broken up hamburger meat mixed in it, and then pour melted nacho cheese on top of all that and throw on a bunch of really hot slices of jalapenos. To die for. Only about a buck, too. You would love them. Keeps you blowing farts all afternoon. It's great. You just sit there with your tongue and throat on fire and tear running involuntarily down both cheeks, with a silly grin on your face. That, I guess is Max's contribution to ethnic food day. I probably don't do it justice with my feeble description. I will tell you about Indian fry bread tomorrow, hand-mixed and kneaded dough pounded flat on a board with your fist instead of a rolling pin, and then fried by a granny Navajo in a big black cast iron pan filled with bubbling pig fat. Lard. Pork fat rules! You get that same silly grin as the hot grease burns your tongue and runs down you chin.

    We are messy out here, I guess. Sometimes if you are way out on the reservation where there's no water you have to eat with dirty hands too, so there's that added flavor as well..

    Claire: Caroline, I told you Americans were pigs. P.I.G. PIGS!!! How can you live with them????

  19. Well, hell, I guess I told you about Fry Bread today. Not tomorrow after all. Never mind.

  20. Chip are a lot fatter than french fries and I love onion gravy with mine. Its normal meaty gravy with onions in it :)

  21. OOOOOOh lawwwwwdy!! Miss Clawwwdy! Claire, you are making me hungry all over again!

    What else?

  22. "The Author"

    I have checked out this smart young woman's blogs and they are delightful (so are her gorgeous kids!)

    I am so glad you stopped by, and hope you will come again. Best of luck to you and yours.

    I am only sorry that you have had to witness Max's near-total literary breakdown here today. Not so well-written, after all, eh?

    But we all have sooooo much fun, my dear!

  23. More than one pasty (what sage was talking about) = pasties. I am not clicking your link and spoiling my virtue.

    Cheez Whiz: I am aware that it is American (you guys seem to have cornered the market on neon-coloured food); in stating it is a piece of Canadiana I meant only that it is VERY VERY IMPORTANT here. Like Sezme Snaps, which are also a part of our culture, particularly bus stop culture as you can buy a 33 cent pack in order to break your $5 so you have change for the bus. Convenience store clerks see our type coming. Sezme Snaps are made in Poland.

    Candy floss isn't food, per say. It is carnival fare. Fare is not food. You put it in your mouth but it is no where on the nutritional pyramid. It is in it's own special category with mini-donuts and deep fried Mars bars (don't get the British started on those, I hear).So no, you haven't done a food post. JUST to let you know. Maybe I should go back and read the comments again though. Because you have the most nonsensical comments area ever, BTW.

    My boyfriend fortunately has no place in his gullet for deep fried breakfasts any longer, however he has turned me onto the delights of a pint, chips, and mushy peas. Google mushy peas and your American tummy with roil surely.

    There is no explicitly Canadian food, per se, I can talk about. It's a dismal hodge-podge here. Oh wait. I just thought of one thing. I will save it for your food post ;)

  24. So you are less interested in moither/mither and more interested in a dod of haggis and neeps?

  25. United Kingdom
    4 Kingdoms - England, Ireland, Scotland and the Principality of Wales.

    England has 34 shires - or counties if you prefer - the origin of the meaning of shire was that it was managed by a sherrif or Shire Reeve to give it's uncorrupted name.

    Hence Bedford-shire, Hertford-shire etc...

    Each is grouped into 9 regions, so South-West, East Anglia, South East, North West etc.

    History plays a big part in some cultural differences, particularly the now friendly rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire stems back to the fight for the English throne from the two Duchy's (territories or fiefdom) and were the sources of some bloody battles.

    God's own country, wherever lays your heart and family = some refer to it as a county such as Cornwall, or an entire country such as Wales.

    Many of the emigrants to other worlds such as South America, Australia, Canada took parts of their culture and history with them; particularly that of the Welsh community who went to Argentina and have dual nationality road signs..

  26. Grumpus, there is much written about mushy peas in this blog. At least there is as much as I personally would like to hear about them. But that's just me. Were I to actually taste this British delicacy, I am sure I would soon become addicted to them. Like hell I would. Even Cheez-Whiz sounds better. Wish I had some British Bacon to try now. Sigh. I will begin searching specialty food shops now.

    And your guarantee disclaimer sucks big time.

    Back to you with much, MUCH more diatribe later today. Be here. Be prompt. Pasties will be discussed in great detail, among (amongst) other things. (How are you this morning? :) :)

    A.-I don't know. Not really. Want both. And more. Confused by Grumpus. You were not here yesterday long enough to protect me from her telepathic input. Grumpus is from Saturn, you know, and controls the minds of Earthlings. Much like Claire. Except with Claire, you are not aware you are actually doing her bidding until it is too late. So please stay closer with me today if possible. I am interested in both. I think. Pretty sure. Food. Language. Customs. Other culture items. That sounds right. :)

    Sage, thank you for that. Finally someone who actually gives me a succinct list of helpful information without feeling the need to screw with my mind in the process. I DO appreciate it, and I will be sure to make a record of it. More, please, in bite-sizes like this. :)

    Claire, I think you are right, this site looks really cool and informative from what I have been able to check out so far. You are so well-traveled on the internet! It is still only 7:30 where I am, so I stubbornly still say good morning. Good morning. (Ha-at first I thought you were recommending ettarose's new blog "thevoicesofthem". And I was going WTF??? :) :) :)

  27. I'm so sorry not to have been there for you yesterday ;) But I'm all yours this day, bearing in mind that mine is starting to wane.

  28. A. - Then you will be staying up very late tonight, won't you? :)

    Please set all your clocks to Mountain Daylight Time, and begin living your live accordingly. I thought surely you had already done this. The Mr. probably already suspects you might be a little off your rocker, so there should be no harm done in that regard.

    I DID miss you. :)

  29. NO problem at all with MrA. :) He's been convinced I'm a fruit and nut case for many a long year.

  30. Without wishing to be argumentative, I would say Sage's definition of the United Kingdom is a historic one. Ireland became independent in 1922 and some years later the United Kingdom officially became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain itself is made up of England, Scotland and Wales.
    Ireland, is often referred to as the Republic of Ireland, did not gain complete political (dirty word, sorry) independence until 1949. This is why I have British nationality, but also why until relatively recently I was stopped and searched at every airport I passed through.

  31. A.-Thank you. You can be direct an informative when you wish to be. Although bullets would be appreciated in comments of this nature.

    The Mr. is right of course. For the record, you would not be stopped and searched if you came to my country. We apparently allow fruitcakes to come an go as they please here. :) Although the reason you WERE search has missed it's mark in my poor feeble brain. Do you speak with a thick Russian accent? Do you carry large backpacks that smell of gunpowder? You must not be oblique with ignorant Americans. You must tell me what the hell you mean.

    Please? :)

    Oh, wait! You are saying your father was Irish, of what is now the Republic of Ireland, and since (I hesitate to say this, but I think you just said it first) you were born before 1949, you used to get searched. (Still wouldn't understand why.)

    God. You wear me out woman. You make me act like Sherlock Holmes. :)

  32. Ooh, I do so like to wear a man out :)

    1. Born in the Republic of Ireland
    2. British passport
    3. Look innocent (I do, I do, honest I do)
    4. Could be a member of the IRA

    No I know I wouldn't have been searched in your country. I have a very good friend whose father WAS in the IRA. He hasn't been allowed visit his daughter in England (possibly would be now - I don't follow these things) but has been living somewhere over the Atlantic for years.

    My son, on the other hand.... Oh this is a long story. He finds an Irish passport much better than the UK one he had.

  33. 1. Where on earth did you get that map of Wales?! It's not accurate by anyone's standards in terms of boundaries (except maybe for the Wales Tourist Board brochures and they all had silly names; I know, I used to work for them).

    2. A's definition of the UK and its recent historic formation is bang on.
    Also, anyone born in Northern Ireland has, since the Good Friday Agreement, been entitled to an Irish passport as well as a British one. I'm a card-carrying Brit, being Welsh, but my NI-born partner has an Irish passport. Even some of the Northern Irish who normally wouldn't claim themselves as Irish have Irish passports for, erm, neutrality purposes (in the same way as some US tour groups are advised to claim they're Canadian in certain parts of the world).

  34. I'm from Yorkshire, which is of course, God's Own Country... Yorkshire, now split into smaller administrative areas, was the largest county, or shire, of England. It was historically split into three 'ridings' which may be a corruption of 'thryddinges', all centred on the walled city of York.
    Whilst it's true there is ancient rivalry with Lancashire, the much smaller county to the west, we consider our neighbours as fellow northerners, and regard soft handed southerners with a mixture of scorn and pity. Though we quite like the Cornish, because they held out for a long time against the rule of london, even, under Trelawney, mounting a rebellion against the crown.
    In truth, as I travel about britain, I see beauty, pride, and character all over, but.. yorkshire is my home, it's where I always return, to high limestone hills, heather moors...
    Where I live was once the kingdom of Elmete. This morning I was walking over fields where Penda of Mercia's armies fought those of Oswy of Northumbria in A.D.655, on Whinmoor, it is said the little stream ran red for a week, and is still known as killing-beck.
    Penda was one of those who didn't survive, by the way.
    All around are scattered the remnants of Roman occupation, my friend Bob, rebuilding a dry-stone wall, a couple of days ago, spotted a shiny disc in the earth. It was a Denarius, of the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, about AD70, the denarius was about one day's pay for an ordinary legionary.
    Food? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with roast potatoes.
    Fat Rascals, a kind of bready thing, full of fruit and spice, with butter, in Betty's Cafe.
    Pork Pies, from Middlemiss' butchers in Otley. And of course, strong tea.
    Yorkshire, for all its being the biggest county in England is still of course a tiny flyspeck of a place compared to most american states.

  35. Hello soubriquet, and welcome to our little corner of the mid-Atlantic!

    The soft south is it? Hmm... Could we keep our little local difficulties quiet here? We're trying to impress the colonials :) They're proving more intransigent than I expected.

    So you're in Leeds? I can cope with that. Some of my best friends come from Leeds ;) But how can a Yorkshireman not mention flat caps, pigeons and Ilkley Moor as part of the heritage?

    For Max and you others from overseas, a little sample of Yorkshire-speak from the well-known song, On Ilkla Moor Baht' At. After you've read it, you may perhaps have some understanding of the great north-south divide. We don't understand each other.

    Wheear 'ast ta bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
    On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
    Wheear 'ast ta bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
    Wheear 'ast ta bin sin' ah saw thee?
    On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
    On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
    On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at

    Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane
    Tha's bahn' to catch thy deeath o` cowd
    Then we shall ha' to bury thee
    Then t'worms'll come an` eyt thee up
    Then t'ducks'll come an` eyt up t'worms
    Then we shall go an` eyt up t'ducks
    Then we shall all ha' etten thee
    That's wheear we get us ooan back

  36. Well mentioned.. My grandfather (or grandfeyther, as they say in these parts), was a flat-cap wearer... Along with his weskit (waistcoat) and leather gaiters.
    Ilkley (Ilkla) moor, oh yes, with its druid stones and mystical markings...
    Well, no, not really. They were most found in the coal mining regions, and never really seem emblematically Yorkshire.
    Fish and Chips, I'm no expert on, being allergic to fish, but of course, it was Yorshire's Harry Ramsden who built the worlds largest and grandest fish and chip emporium, more recently franchised around the world. Hong Kong, for instance...

    Ilkla moor baht 'at:- usually translated as Ilkley Moor baht=without 'at=hat.
    In fact it makes more sense translated as baht aht (or owt) meaning without anything=naked
    Tha's (you have) been a-courting Mary-Jane, on ilka moor, baht owt, etc...

  37. @Soubriquet, thank you for stopping by. And thanks for the information. I especially liked the historical stuff. Very interesting. I hope you visit us often.

    @a.-Don't you have a spell-checker on your computer?

    And Soubriquet, again: you actually understood that? Well, that's cool. But please don't encourage her, ok?

  38. @a was speaking my language, why would I not understand?
    I'd say "Wheare hast tha bin sin a saw thee?", but the difference is minor, and across Yorkshire, accent and dialect vary, indeed, end to end of Ilkley Moor people speak differently.

    I've been browsing, you have all made me laugh a few times. I like language, and the fact that we have so many variations.... One day I'll get round to writing a post at my blog on the subject, as I keep getting confused visitors trying to tell me there's no "U" in colour.

  39. I don't have a clue, my friend. But I am pleased you have chosen to spend some time on my rambling blog, and that you have been amused from time to time. You are most welcome here.



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