Mad, Impossible Hypocrites

I bet you didn’t know that the English are mad, hypocritical, impossible, ridiculous, cunning, simple and many other terms that, taken together, cancel each other out.

We also won’t talk to strangers, are only serious about cricket and stamp collecting, and can generally be relied upon to fall asleep after Sunday lunch.

At least this was the advice handed out to US servicemen posted here during the Second World War in the 1944 guide, The English and their Country which is being republished by the Imperial War Museum.

I read about this in The Times yesterday and would have posted a link, except you need a subscription to view their site. There is a Telegraph article though for more information which actually says that we’re not rude, just shy.

But it could serve as a useful guide today. As it says: ‘The English for centuries have been a puzzle to people of other countries’. And a puzzle to each other it seems.

The North cultivates the elementary qualities, the sterner virtues; the South refines upon them and cultivates the graces of life.

The people of the English North are blunt of speech and manner. They say what they mean, even if it offends, and they act without regard to the more fastidious courtesies. They call it honesty.

They surely can’t mean us, can they?

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 13th October 2016

    Northerners are “blunt of speech and manner”? What a load of tosh! Who ever compiled that book was a right tosser! Now ‘scuse me I need to take a massive dump in our brick outhouse. I hope that bloody Trevor hasn’t used all the “Telegraph” squares I rammed on the nail last Friday.

  • Steve 13th October 2016

    LOL! I don’t like talking to strangers either, for the record — and I’m American. We’re supposed to be annoyingly garrulous. Maybe that’s why I like England better.

  • Trevor Rowley 13th October 2016

    Unless I’m mistaken, this booklet was produced by the British Council (whatever that was) for the benefit of overseas servicemen and women (probably mainly Americans, but also likely to be Canadians and other Commonwealth troops). On that basis, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s what the foreigners thought we we’re all about, it’s more what we thought about ourselves. No doubt it was written with some kind of collaboration with overseas officials, which ends up being a “mishmash” of kindly and humorous observations which folk can chuckle about in years to come. Much better to be honest and say what you really mean. For example, “don’t use their outside toilets which are rife with disease, don’t drink their beer which is tepid at best, and don’t kiss their girls or you’ll catch something. Now that’s just the south – for God’s sake, don’t go up north or you’ll not be seen again.

  • Mr Parrot 13th October 2016

    I think you’re right Trevor. I just found Thomas Burke in the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature which lists him as the author. Also that he died shortly after publication: cause of death – strong words from a Yorkshireman!

  • Mr Parrot 13th October 2016

    I found him on Wikipedia too. His short story The Hands of Ottermole was voted the best mystery of all time in 1949.


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