I have to be cautious here, because I’m not a jingoistic patriot at all. I’m a Lancastrian first and foremost. That by definition makes me English. But in a tight corner I’d declare myself to be British. That’s because Brits are quite astonishingly bonkers and I like that.
I’m not talking the mad bastards who make up the BNP, or the mad bastards at the tabloids huffing and puffing because three of the highest judges in the land came to a verdict that the redtops disapproved of. I’m talking about the gentle barminess that underlies a lot of British life.
I give you, for an example, the existence of the Earthworm Society of Britain. This, as you might predict, is a society dedicated to all things wormy. The president, a charmingly enthusiastic woman by the name of Emma Sherlock, was on the television on Friday gushing about Dave, a Widnes-found Lumbricus terrestris who weighed into the ring at a record breaking 40cm.
Dave alas is no more, having been put to sleep and preserved for posterity. He had his fifteen minutes of fame though.
By the way, when I was at an interview for Aberystwyth University, I was asked how many species of earthworm there are in the UK.* I only knew of two, so said, ‘Well, more than one.’ My interviewer then said, ‘Your biology teacher must be Welsh.’ As it happens he was, but I don’t have a clue what that had to do with it.
Now the thorny problem of ‘When is a sandwich not a sandwich?’ I’ve not lost any sleep over this, but according to Jim Winship it’s when it’s a hotdog. Mr Winship knows these things, as well he should being the director of the British Sandwich Association.
No, I didn’t know about this august organisation either. However, Jim and his merrie band are up in arms because the rival merrie band at Merriam-Webster have defined a hotdog as a sandwich. I see the M-W viewpoint here, since a sarnie is in its very essence some filling between two or more bits of bread or in a roll.
The plot thickens though. The BSA doesn’t rate burgers as sandwiches either. Cold wraps, yes, they’re fine. Sandwiches as espoused by John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, yes. Sandwiches with warm fillings (eg a proper pastrami on rye, or a humble chip butty), they’re on the list so can get into the club.** But hotdogs and burgers are out in the cold with their noses pressed up against the glass.
Oh brave new world that has such people in it. People who obsess about earthworms and sandwiches. Gotta put a smile on my face.
(On a non-Brit note, Pittsburgh Pirate baseballist Josh Harrison also claims that a hotdog can’t be a sandwich because its orientation is primarily vertical, and a true sandwich is horizontal. So now we know.)
*The answer is 14.
** I know it was a bad joke, but I couldn’t resist it.