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  1. #1

    Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Hello everyone,

    I’m currently busy writing a story that’s set in Britain and I need to gather as much information as possible on the matter, specifically anything that concerns British culture, traditions and everyday life. Everything is welcome, think blogs about things that are ‘typically British’ (like O Chateau did for Paris), movies that depict the British lifestyle, music, websites etc.

    Also welcome are websites with information on how British people behave and speak (things like saying ‘rather’ and ‘arse’ instead of ‘pretty’ and ‘ass’ respectively, or idioms and phrases commonly used there, for example ‘get stuffed’ or ‘being mad as a bag of ferrets’).
    Of course another thing that would be greatly appreciated, are movies, shows, websites etc. that depict the British sense of humour. (Dame Maggie Smith has always been a personal favorite of mine in that regard.)

    Living in Europe myself (and actually rather close to UK) I do know quite a bit myself and yes, I realize that UK is a modern country and probably less than one percent of its population sticks to these ‘stereotypes’. For example, tea time isn’t what it used to be anymore and they definitely don’t have baked beans every morning. This is why I’m more interested in just those little details that make the difference, the things that define the general population of Britain. I want to understand as much as I can. And yes, I also realize that the best way to achieve this is to visit the country itself, however at this point this is just not an option.

    In any case, everything you can think of would be most welcome, so feel free to post anything that comes to mind.

    Thanks a bunch!

    (P.S.: Regarding the language thing, anyone from UK reading this post is welcome to comment on words/sentences in this post that the British would say in a different manner. The reverse is true as well: Let me know how ‘British’ this post sounds. That’s a ridiculous thing to ask, I know. Then again, I’m rather ridiculous myself, so it probably won’t stain my reputation. ^^)

  2. #2
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I am happy to help however you want.

    On whether your post sounds British, it is impossible to say. Its well written, but the style would not suggest anything - outside of a strong grasp of the language. I would not be able to say where you were from outside of appearing to speak fluent English (from your name I am guessing Czech).

    The one major fault in this post though is that there is a British stereotype full stop. Most of the generalisations made about us are really stereotypes of the English rather than Scottish, Irish or Welsh cultures (let alone to mention our fellow immigrant cultures).

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I'm American and don't know how accurate it is, but this list of words having different meanings in American and British English was interesting. Some words mean the opposite, so there could be much confusion.


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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I say old chap, what a capital idea! All you need to know is highlighted in this poem by Sir John Betjeman - "How To Get On In Society"

    Phone for the fish knives, Norman
    As cook is a little unnerved;
    You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
    And I must have things daintily served.

    Are the requisites all in the toilet?
    The frills round the cutlets can wait
    Till the girl has replenished the cruets
    And switched on the logs in the grate.

    It's ever so close in the lounge dear,
    But the vestibule's comfy for tea
    And Howard is riding on horseback
    So do come and take some with me

    Now here is a fork for your pastries
    And do use the couch for your feet;
    I know that I wanted to ask you-
    Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

    Milk and then just as it comes dear?
    I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones;
    Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys
    With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

  5. #5

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    @pigface You will have to forgive my utter ineptitude, but due to my haste to leave the house this morning, I was unable to have my usual piece of dictionary for breakfast. As far as I have read, this poem is about the bourgeoisie in UK and the differences in speech and behaviour to the upper class, more specifically the aristocracy. Correct me if I'm wrong please.

    @EJMichaels: Thanks for the link, already joint my bookmarks!

    @JohnnyAnger: Thank you for your review. And yes, referring to the English (and the Scottish, Welsh and Irish for that matter) as "British" as a whole really is something I have to be careful about. From what I've heard, they're equally amused by this as Hercule Poirot when being mistaken for French.

  6. #6

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    We love the Royal family and we drink earl grey tea in a small tea cup nice and proper.

    It's tradition here to ride horses too.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I drink mine in a mug, but then i am Scots and rather quaint.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I am typically English and I never drink tea unless it is served as part of a full English tea; sandwiches, scones, jam and cream and cakes.
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    It would help if you specified your setting; it would be no good telling you about Scum if you're aiming for something more like Morse.

    Quote Originally Posted by PrahaGold View Post
    @pigface You will have to forgive my utter ineptitude, but due to my haste to leave the house this morning, I was unable to have my usual piece of dictionary for breakfast. As far as I have read, this poem is about the bourgeoisie in UK and the differences in speech and behaviour to the upper class, more specifically the aristocracy. Correct me if I'm wrong please.
    100 years ago, that could have been middle class. Fish knives are an old byword for social pretence. Probably directly because of that poem. From what I've read of American media, what they consider middle class is just about anyone who isn't either rich or in poverty from childhood. The British understanding of the term is higher than that.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpnice View Post
    I am typically English and I never drink tea unless it is served as part of a full English tea; sandwiches, scones, jam and cream and cakes.
    Aren't you a butler or some such?

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by Devois View Post
    .......................Aren't you a butler or some such?
    Yes and sorry to disappoint you all but I don't serve tea.
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  11. #11

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    @mike: Oh dear! And here I was, thinking you wouldn't touch anything but Assam. Curiouser and curiouser...

    @Devois: The setting is the area of Dorset/Devon, however most of the characters aren't natives.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Fish KNIVES is awfully middle class. The upper classes, who have innate breeding, would serve fish with two forks.

    Class, as Devois points out, has very little to do with money, and everything to do with heritage.

    And NEVER say 'horseback riding'. "Riding" is all that exists, it goes without saying that it should be upon the back of a horse. One does not want to be though a ruffian, cad or bounder. Frightful!

    One should also watch this "The Frost Report", to learn more of class:
    Last edited by pigface; April 9th, 2015 at 02:51 PM.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Read Harry Potter.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by gsdx View Post
    Read Harry Potter.
    Utter tripe! Read P G Wodehouse.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by gsdx View Post
    Read Harry Potter.
    Quote Originally Posted by unloadonme View Post
    Utter tripe! Read P G Wodehouse.
    I agree about Wodehouse, but if he reads the original British or Canadian versions of Potter, he'll get a good idea of British life, expressions, comparisons, etc. For instance, until I read Potter, I didn't know what 'shufti' was, nor what it meant to 'take the mickey out of someone' - not to mention jumpers and trainers, all of which would most likely be translated for Americans in the American versions. I know the movies were translated.

  17. #17

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    If Netflix is available, you can access several English series, including Mid Summer Murders.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by Benvolio View Post
    If Netflix is available, you can access several English series, including Mid Summer Murders.
    Actually, it's 'Midsomer' (in case he goes searching for it). Excellent series, by the way. (I like it much better than Dalziel & Pascoe.)

  19. #19

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Off-subject: Serviette is so working class that words fail--as rule if a word has been borrowed from French and naturalized in say the last century or two but it has a still common English alternative the user of the French form is working class or a member of the aspirational middle classes (which for these purposes includes the vulgar rich). One interesting thing about well-bred Englishmen is a sort of unapologetic casualness about privilege. It's actually a good way to tell the difference between toffs and the merely rich or upper reaches of the middle class. The latter groups tend to be vaguely apologetic the first group independent of individual politics, personalities, or worldviews tends to be more comfortable in its skin and less inclined to try to sound less posh, less inclined to try to convince you of their non-snobbery by engaging in activities that can only rightly be called slumming. This tends to hold true whether the toff in question is actually rich or not.
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    ^ Listen and learn:

    Serviettes are paper.
    Napkins are fabric.

  21. #21

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Ah, someone knows what Serviettes are!!! I think we are the only people in Florida to use that term. Well, we are from Toronto though.

  22. #22

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by gsdx View Post
    ^ Listen and learn:

    Serviettes are paper.
    Napkins are fabric.
    I know what a serviette is. It's a fussy word though.
    In a British context and among a specific group of Americans (think people who went to a certain kind of school on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States) the word serviette used under any normal circumstance is a tell it's up there with fretting about which fork to use or God forbid burping, scratching, or farting at table. It proves that one does not belong. This is not a personal eccentricity of mine.
    "Baby, I love you, but no. You're too weird, it'll make him uncomfortable."--Logan (who is God)

  23. #23

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...e-buy-M-S.html
    3. Serviette: It’s been suggested that ‘serviette’ was taken up by squeamish lower-middles who found ‘napkin’ a bit too close to ‘nappy’, and wanted something that sounded a bit more refined. Whatever its origins, ‘serviette’ is now regarded as irredeemably lower class. Upper-middle and upper-class mothers get very upset when their children learn to say ‘serviette’ from well-meaning lower-class *nannies, and have to be pain*stakingly retrained to say ‘napkin’.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#ixzz3Ws0dB7Zx
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  24. #24

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Thanks guys, so far you've all been really helpful. I have actually read some of the Harry Potter books in English (the original versions). I wasn't aware though, that they 'translated' it for the American market. Are you even serious about this?

    Thank God that I started watching British tv instead of American tv when I was still learning English. In school we had different teachers; some of them speaking the 'normal' American English (as was expected; non-UK-natives speaking with an accent from the UK were considered rather pretentious) and then there were actually some who did speak with an accent. But all in all we were passive-agressively encouraged to learn the American way. It's a shame really. Only one of my teachers (my favourite one) spoke with a rather genuine UK accent as she had studied in UK, but unfortunately she was my teacher for only two years.
    Regardless, I am glad that I have started watching British television (and yes, I am now referring to all the countries in the UK) and reading British novels. As of now, I'm usually able to tell whether an author is British (English) or American. But there still are a lot of words I have picked up from US English that would be dead giveaways to any person from the UK. 'Seriously' probably being the most obvious one.
    Last edited by PrahaGold; April 10th, 2015 at 01:15 AM.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by PrahaGold View Post
    But there still are a lot of words I have picked up from US English that would be dead giveaways to any person from the UK. 'Seriously' probably being the most obvious one.
    Now I'm intrigued: In how far is "seriously" a serious BE/AE marker?

  26. #26

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by otters View Post
    Now I'm intrigued: In how far is "seriously" a serious BE/AE marker?
    Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy? It's pretty much the catchphrase of that show, so instead of saying 'Oh my God', 'Oh dear', '(fill in expression of shock/disbelief)' I automatically go 'Seriously?!?'. It seems so eternally American, though perhaps that's just me. But I have NEVER heard a person from UK say it - at least not in the same context - whereas I've heard numerous Americans (IRL and on tv) use it in that exact same manner.

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    ^I understand what you mean, in that context i say "are you serious?".

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by PrahaGold View Post
    Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy?
    No.
    Quote Originally Posted by PrahaGold View Post
    It's pretty much the catchphrase of that show, so instead of saying 'Oh my God', 'Oh dear', '(fill in expression of shock/disbelief)' I automatically go 'Seriously?!?'. It seems so eternally American, though perhaps that's just me. But I have NEVER heard a person from UK say it - at least not in the same context - whereas I've heard numerous Americans (IRL and on tv) use it in that exact same manner.
    IMHO, the dictions in question are non-exchangeable, irrespective whether BE or AE:

    a) "'Oh my God', 'Oh dear', '(fill in expression of shock/disbelief)'" does sound a bit meanly, to my ears. Mocking, at least.
    b) "'Seriously?!?'" is rather an expression of scepticism, and much more sober-minded.


    Quote Originally Posted by medic1 View Post
    ^I understand what you mean, in that context i say "are you serious?".
    Exactly. Or, in a much more informal context: "Are you kidding me?"

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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Quote Originally Posted by otters View Post
    IMHO, the dictions in question are non-exchangeable, irrespective whether BE or AE:
    read: not interchangeable

  30. #30

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Well, I see what you mean. 'Oh dear' and 'Oh my God' might sound a little mocking (especially when an American uses the first one) but it can also be used the other way around. All of these can be said with different intentions. I do understand though and yes, 'Are you serious', 'Are you kidding me?' or (more popular in England - at least from what I've read) 'Are you having a laugh?' are much more similar to 'Seriously' in their definitions.

    Regardless, this was merely an example of a phrase I haven't heard from British people a lot (read: ever). Or any English speaking individual outside of North America for that matter.

  31. #31

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Well, I see what you mean. 'Oh dear' and 'Oh my God' might sound a little mocking (especially when an American uses the first one) but it can also be used the other way around. All of these can be said with different intentions. I do understand though and yes, 'Are you serious', 'Are you kidding me?' or (more popular in England - at least from what I've read) 'Are you having a laugh?' are much more similar to 'Seriously' in their definitions.

    Regardless, this was merely an example of a phrase I haven't heard from British people a lot (read: ever). Or any English speaking individual outside of North America for that matter.

  32. #32

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Sorry for the double post. My browser isn't cooperating as well as usual. (That's probably also the reason it doesn't display the Edit post button.)

  33. #33
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Don't go to Somerset, the villages there have an incredibly high rate of murders. These small places where everyone knows everyone, soon rubs up against those nosey busybodies who know too much and decidedly, they get hacked to death as personalities clash. It's a seething nesthole of vipers, the ugly side of British life. True story bro.


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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    ^ Does Jessica Fletcher live there now?

  35. #35

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Well, the story has a murder in it, so perhaps it's just as well.

  36. #36
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Just watch Catherine Tate.
    They are stereo typical British.


    NEVER LISTEN TO A ONE SIDED STORY AND JUDGE.

  37. #37

    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    Hello everyone,

    First of all I’d like to say that I’m sorry for digging this thread up and once again I’m very thankful for all the helpful comments that have been posted so far. But I would like to tell all of you that I have recently read a very useful book and for anyone who might also wonder about the English, I would readily recommend reading it. It’s called ‘Watching the English’ by anthropologist Kate Fox. It provides very thorough and insightful observations about the English and Fox explains most of their peculiarities in great detail. She points out that many of the stereotypes about them are actually true (at least to some extent) but she goes deeper than that and explains most of these oddities and habits.
    After reading it I was still left with some unanswered questions, although I dare say they will remain so forever.
    Has anyone read this book? If so, what did you think? Any Englishman with thoughts on this by any chance?

  38. #38
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    Re: Bloody hell, a spot of tea!

    I'll read it and get back to you. Promise.

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