I am very grateful to The Times for drawing my attention to this.
Back in 1944, the British Council decided to prepare a sort of user’s guide for American serviceman about to be overpaid, oversexed, and over here. Since many had never set foot outside the US, the Council decided in its wisdom the GIs might struggle a bit with the English way of doing things. They were fairly accurate, if a bit heavy-handed.
They did a good job on tackling the North/South divide. Most Americans assume that because England is smaller than Texas by quite a long way (as any Texan will tell you with monotonous predictability) the population is homogeneous. This is not so.
‘The North cultivates elementary qualities, the sterner virtues; the South refines upon them and cultivates the graces of life.’
Clearly Eastenders had yet to put in an appearance.
‘English North are blunt of speech and manner… They call it honesty. The South calls it uncouth. The North retorts by calling the manners of the South so much fuss and nonsense.’
No, we from the North refer to this as bollocks.
The English and their Country starts off in fine form right from the introduction. ‘…The English have been called mad, hypocritical, impossible, ridiculous, cunning, simple and many other terms that, taken together, cancel each other out.’
What, no shopkeepers? I’m offended.
Then we get onto the WDLSAE syndrome.
‘Enter a village inn and the company of farmers and workers will ignore you.’
Not to mention the mob of Pringle-clad stockbrokers and barristers.
‘Address them and you will get a word in reply; no more.’
Think of a saloon in a 1950s western when the Black Bart walks through the swing doors. That’s about right.
Then there were other cultural conundrums the Council felt might disadvantage our American cousins. Do we all go grouse shooting? Is it a rule to drink sherry before dinner? Must you Mind Your Own Business? Big ‘Yes!’ to that one, apparently.
Read this booklet and you’ll find that after Sunday lunch we fall asleep over our stamp collections or while watching cricket on the Green. Stamps and cricket are the only things we take seriously.
You have been warned.