Ask the Brit bloke

I figured it’s about time I cashed in on this thread style.

Go on then, ask away. Any question answered, even if it’s about Benny Hill, morris dancing or tea.

Just what the heck is morris dancing?

And any ideas on why Brits have such funny television (Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Whose Lines Is It Anyway?, Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served, etc.). Or do we only see the good ones in the US?

Brit Bloke,
I dig beer, especially stouts and porters. When I visited London a while back, I went to several pubs looking for “real ale”, but they didn’t have any. Where can I get real ale next time I go?

Is there any kind of bias against Japanese cars? I’ve never been to Britian, but from what I’ve seen in the media and in movies, I hardly ever see one.

JeffB - morris dancing is a very, very silly type of English folk dancing. I think it’s something to do with summer and fertility, but it basically involves middle-aged men dancing with bells and handkerchiefs tied to their extremities. Click here for more details. And silly pictures, no doubt.

As for comedy, I think you just get the good ones, just as we (for the most part) just get the good American ones. Be thankful you never saw “Grace & Favour”, “Oh! Doctor Beeching” or “Birds of a Feather”. Or any British version of an American sitcom (especially the shortlived remakes of “Married with Children” or that '70s-based teen sitcom). FWIW, the papers here always bemoan Britain’s lack of US-style comedy show writing teams.

goboy - London pubs aren’t the best for real ales, mostly because they’re either major chain pubs owned by breweries more interested in profits than quality, or else they’re tourist pubs. There are some exceptions. Pubs in the Hogshead or Firkin chains usually have two or three “guest” ales (especially in the Hogshead chains). Your best bet for decent beers are in small, out-of-town pubs (especially in villages) which aren’t affiliated to particular breweries.

vandal - none at all. Japanese manufacturers use Britain a lot, so the economy does rely on Japanese cars. I think maybe they’re just regarded as not very cool. Because it’s so easy (compared to the US) to get European cars - BMWs, Mercedes, Alfa-Romeos etc - your average Nissan doesn’t look quite so hot. On the other hand, I know a couple of people who love their MR2s.

There’s also an element of jingoism; Britain has traditionally had a very strong and very good car manufacturing heritage (Rolls-Royce, Rover, Land-Rover, Range-Rover, Jaguar etc), and as this has been in steep decline (and, indeed, foreign ownership) since the 1970s I think some people get a bit uppity.

Do you like haggis?

Are most of the British TV programs based on “rich” people, or are some actually about “common” people?

It seems to me that most of what makes its way across the pond is set in the manor of some landed gentry.

Did Winston Churchill really reply to an accusation of being intoxicated, “Yes, Madame and you are ugly. In the morning I shall be sober.”?

Oooh, Britboy, you’ll be sorry, as I’m writing a biography of one of your countrywomen . . .

• How long did it take London to recover from WWII? Rebuilding, etc.? Transportation?

• What were the abortion laws in England in the 1950s, and how easy or hard would it have been for a well-connected woman to get one?

• When did television really start to catch on with the British public? Early 1950s? Late '50s?

Thanks, toots!

What the hell is the deal with the Brits and transvestism?

Your opinion on two concepts, please.

It is a common theory that the British ruling class (meaning not royals, but educated, well meaning intelligent people who would have made good leaders) were killed by the droves as officers in trench warfare in WWI and in the Royal Airforce in WWII.

The British Empire did not recover from WWII. Again, Mr. Churchill upon India becoming it’s own country, “I did not become Prime Minister to oversee the dissolution of the British Empire”. After the contribution the Empire made to the war, there was really no choice but to let them become independent.

I hope I haven’t offended you, I’ve wondered for some time about those ideas.

Okay, one at a time.

Mjollnir - haggis is a peculiarly Scottish thing. Despite living in Edinburgh for four years, and having a Scottish family on my mother’s side, I’ve only eaten it once, without the sheep’s stomach lining. It was lovely - basically mincemeat and oatmeal, with potatoes.

About the TV…I think “class-based” comedy was more a product of the late 1970s and early 1980s (from “The Young Ones” to “To The Manor Born” etc), when politics wasn’t quite as “centrist” as it is now. Since the early 1990s, when the then Prime Minister John Major declared the Britain was now a classless society (riiiight), it hasn’t played nearly so much of a role. Comedy now seems to be divided between “Friends” clones (“Coupling”, “Cold Feet”), lad-comedy (“Men Behaving Badly”) and trendy 20-something comedies about people with a far larger disposable income than me. Not that I’m bitter.


According to a quick web search, quite a few sites say it was part of a conversation between him and Lady Nancy Astor.

I can’t confirm this at, but I did find this:


All of these are based on either my (semi-educated) WAGs or some brief web searches.

(1) Can’t say. I’ll let you know if I dig up anything new. TomH, London_Calling, anyone want to help out here?

(2) Can’t say either. This link might be of some brief help.

(3) Late 1950s, according to my parents. My impression is that most people couldn’t afford TV sets until comparatively later than people in the US, and that the radio was always regarded as a pretty damn good source of entertainment. However, some digging gave me this link:

pldennison - I’ve no idea; that’s a new one on me. WAG: if there is a “deal”, it probably has something to do with the whole “stiff upper lip” stereotype of sexual repression and not showing your true emotions in Britain. Plus, more tenuously, (a) Britons have traditionally shown a more open mind to “eccentrics” and (b) male public school culture has a stereotyped history of homosexuality and feminine affectations. No cite, sorry.

carnivorousplan - no offence taken.

(1) May well be true. Well-off rich lads would normally be expected to go into the officer corps rather than rank-and-file infantry (usually via the still-present academy at Sandhurst). I would guess that, given the suicidal charge-across-open-land style of trench warfare favoured by British generals in World War I, casualties among officers leading these infantry charges (from the front, with a whistle and a revolver a la Blackadder) would be very high.

Being a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (as it was then) was a notoriously short-lived profession. New technology, very skilled opponents, cavalier attitude as tactics had yet to really come into play.

(2) Sounds a fair point. I think most Brits were inwardly-focussed after the war; rebuilding, returning troops, families, etc, were far more pressing concerns than empires. The construction of the National Health Service and the importance of building a solid infrastructure would, in my WAG, have outweighed international problems. Plus, Winston Churchill’s rhetoric suited a war situation perfectly, but he wasn’t a particularly notable peacetime leader.

Hey great! I was just about to start a thread with a question.

In a few of Terry Pratchett’s books there is a character who is a take-off on Seventh Day Adventist type evangelists–always trying to convert people and pressing pamphlets on them and so forth.

His actual name is Visit the Ungodly with Explanatory Pamphlets (or something like that), but everyone calls him Washpot.

Washpot? What’s the joke?

Sorry, cher3, no idea.


Alright, here’s a few questions:

  1. To what extent do the British object to the term `Limey’?
  2. What ever happened to Kenny Everet?
  3. How are you guys getting along with Germany these days?
  4. Do you think, theoretically, you could take France?
  5. Could the average Britain distinguish an American Southern accent from a Midwest accent or a Brooklyn accent?

Last questions for today!

cher3, sorry. I’m not a big Pratchett reader.

Johnny Angel:

(1) Not much. It would be like you being offended by my calling you a Yank. I suppose it depends on the tone of voice, really.

(2) He died of an AIDS-related disease many years ago. He’d pretty much disappeared from the media spotlight (not regarded as cool or funny) apart from an infamous Conservative Party conference appearance where he semi-jokingly urged the government to nuke Russia.

(3) Politically? Very well indeed. Germany’s new Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, is a Tony Blair-clone - all spin doctors, public/private economy divides and style over substance. They get on like a house on fire. Socially, well, as usual. The tabloid media-fuelled hatred of all things French and German continues pretty much unabated, and the recent England-Germany football match saw the usual round of jingoism. We’re better than in the 1980s, though.

(4) No. France have a larger, better-equipped standing military and, I believe, far more nuclear weapons (land and air-based). They would also be defending, with all the advantages that entails (morale, fortifications, terrain etc). Of course, we wouldn’t actually want to…

(5) Yes to the southern accent, probably to the Brooklyn accent (Janice from “Friends”? Is that about right?). Probably not to the midwest accent. I personally have no idea what that sounds like.

Thanks anyway, matt. Actually, I took my lazy self to a search engine and discovered that:

  1. It’s an insult derived from an obscure biblical reference.

  2. Stephen Fry is very popular on the internet.

Hi mattk,

It is beleived by nearly everyone in the US, all along the political spectrum, that a government that is not limited by law must inevitably become a totalitarian regime. This seems to be the case in your government and yet totalitarianism has not taken place.

I would appreciate your perspective on this. I will probably have follow up questions to ask as well, if I may.

Thanks for your attention.