It’s time to review what the world wants to know about Britain.
How do we measure that? Why, by looking at what leads people to the definitive voice on all things British, a.k.a. this blog. As usual, I’ve preserved the questions in all their original oddity, including the odd spelling and the lack of question marks and capital letters. Where I’ve gotten several related (but equally odd and therefore worthy) questions, I’ve combined them.
FOOD & DRINK
make cross in sprout religious; is there a religius reason we put crosses into sprouts; english eating brussel sprouts
As we edge closer to Christmas, the flow of questions about brussels sprouts gets heavier, but they form a steady drip throughout the year. I can only assume these come mostly from British people because who else knows that brussels sprouts are as essential to the British Christmas as two desserts and eight reindeer?
The crosses at the bottom? The religious justification as I heard it (and don’t ask where because by now I haven’t a clue) is that it was to let the devil out. Or the evil spirits. That may or may not be what anybody in the past actually believed. People have a habit of working backward to come up for a reason for something they see being done.
So why did people start doing it? Probably so the stems would cook as quickly as the leaves. I used to nick the stems but haven’t bothered in years. It doesn’t seem to make a difference and if I’ve eaten any evil spirits I’m none the worse for it. But then, I wasn’t very good to start with and I’m not a fussy cook, so you shouldn’t take my word for it.
But why do the English eat sprouts at Christmas? Because they do. And because they ripen at a time when not many other vegetables can be bothered to.
In 2015 I wrote a post about this and said, recklessly, that the British eat them at Christmas because the Druids worshiped the Great Brussels Sprout. I thought I was very funny and was convinced it was a ridiculous enough claim that no one would take me seriously. Then some blogger linked to it as if it was Truth with a capital R. I still thought I was funny but had just enough decency to also feel bad about it.
In late September of this year, someone else linked to it, this time treating it as Truth with a capital U. So I’ve now prefaced the post with a health and safety warning (the British are big on health and safety warnings; the Druids really did worship them) explaining that no one knows much about what the Druids did, that the article contains a slight exaggeration, and that the writer may contain nuts.
I also sent the other blogger an apology.
The worst of it is that I still think it’s funny. Although I continue to feel bad. I’m sure that makes it okay.
do they have peeps in the uk
That has to be from an American wondering if civilized life is possible outside the borders of the U.S. of A., because Peeps are the measure of civilized life.
Peeps are bright colored, over-sugared, marshmallowy things that have been extruded from some pipe in an industrial kitchen, which forms them into vaguely chickish shapes. At least they look like chicks if your eye’s been trained to see them as chicks. They’re known for giving nutritionists conniption fits. What’s a conniption fit? No idea, but I have it on good authority that you don’t want to have one.
Twenty seconds of research tells me that peeps are sold in the U.S. and Canada. So yes, civilized life is possible outside of the U.S., but only in Canada.
Why did anybody look deeply enough into the question to read whatever I may have written on the subject? Because, people, Peeps matter.
our American beers weaker; compare alcohol content budweiser uk and canada; beer alcolohol content uk vs isa; why does beer in england taste better than usa beer?
The strength of American and British beer occupies a large portion of the internet’s collective mind. And by the time that mind goes online to research alcohol content, it’s addled by all the hands-on research it did first.
That explains the typos.
british peopme chocolate chips; leom drizzle where did it come from
These are what people want to know about once they’ve drunk all the beer in the house.
what do the british call baking-powder biscuits
For the most part, nothing: 97.6% of British citizens have never heard of them. And 93.7% of all statistics are made up. But gasp, wheeze anyway because the world contains people who never heard of baking powder biscuits. The thing is, people don’t just talk differently in different countries, they eat differently.
When I lived in the U.S., my partner and I just called them biscuits, but she’s Texan and we didn’t need to explain what we meant. Now that we live in Britain, we call them baking powder biscuits so that friends won’t expect them to be cookies, because what Americans call cookies the British call biscuits.
londoner never talking about weather and how miserable (x2)
There are two things the non-British think they know about Britain: 1. The place is wet, which means it’s miserable. 2. People talk about the weather and nothing else. Beyond that, I don’t know what the question means but someone does because I got it twice.
why is worcester only 2 syllables
Given the oddities of English spelling and the even odder oddities of British place names, there’s only one possible answer: Because.
are we still called great britain
Yes, dear. It’s a geographical designation and no one’s sawed off a part of the country yet.
widemouth bay pronunciation
how to pronounce river eye uk
I can’t even begin to guess, but I can tell you how to find out. First you have to locate it, which is going to be messy because there are two of them, one in Leicestershire (talk about pronunciation oddities) and the other in Scotland. The Scottish one is also called the Eye Water. And at its mouth is a town called Eyemouth.
You have to love this country. It’s weird enough to make your eyes water.
Once you’ve figured out which river you want, you have to find someone local–preferably someone without a sense of humor–and ask how to pronounce the river. If at all possible, avoid trying to pronounce it when you ask, because you’ll get it wrong. Warning: If you’ve asked someone with a sense of humor, they’ll tell you it’s pronounced “brussels sprouts” and then spend the rest of the year giggling.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
No one without a strong local connection can be trusted to do anything more than guess at the pronunciation of anyplace in Britain. I recently got an automated message reminding me that I have an appointment coming up in Tavistock, which is pronounced TAVistock. The voice pronounced it tavISStock. And Tavistock’s one of the easy ones.
british place names that sound like clothes
Sorry, but I can’t think of any. If you want kitchen appliances, though, Towster is pronounced toaster. The kitchen appliance department is straight ahead, toward the back of the store. The clothing department is hauntingly empty and needs to be filled, so if you know of any pronounced like clothes (or, what the hell, other kitchen appliances or body parts or anything else particularly bizarre), do contribute to the general weirdness by leaving a comment.
I probably get as many questions about wigs as I do about beer. Most of them repeat the ones I’ve already quoted, but every so often a new one comes in. Including this:
attorney living with wigs with you and orange on the bishop hat
Anyone who knows how to answer that, please oh please leave a comment. I can’t do this alone, people.
what do british people think of american accents
Oh, every last one of them thinks they’re fabulous. The British are known for all thinking the same thing. That’s why the two main political parties are so gloriously united.
show me a tricorn hat worn in the house of lords
I could, but it’s not nice to make fun of the sartorially challenged.
Oh, go on, then. You twisted my arm.
what does it mean when it says I hope your birthday is tickety-boo
It means someone sent you a birthday card that’s been around since the 1930s.
do british people say spifing
No. They might, just remotely, say spiffing, but you’ll go blue in the face if you hold your breath till someone does. I also get questions about spiffing. I am now Britain’s formost spiffing expert.
in what way is folk music similar to christmas carols
Well, both are music and as such involve musical notes. They also involve words. Both can be sung either well or badly but you could say that about all songs. A large part of both can be sung by people without much musical background–that’s their beauty and their limitation. They come out of a tradition where people sang because they were having a good time, or at least because they were drunk. Some people were better at it than others, but no one–originally–was a professional. Both lean toward the idea that people will join in.
Christmas carols were originally a folk tradition and for a while were looked down on for it.
Sorry to get all serious on you.
why was great britain named england in victorian times?
It happened back when the country was a teenager and had one of those identity crises that teenagers are prone to. The country thought England sounded better than Britain and hoped that would make it more popular. It changed its name back to Britain after Victoria died and it doesn’t like to talk about it now, so could we move on, please? Show a little respect here. We were all young once. And if you’re still young, you were once younger.
And no, please don’t link to that to explain how to unmuddle the names Britain, Great Britain, England, and the United Kingdom. Try this post instead.
in england, the speaker of the house is not allowed to speak
Which is why he (and at the moment he is a he) is called the speaker.
photograph of cockwomble
A womble is a creature invented for a BBC children’s show. You can hear the womble song here, and I’m sure you’ll be a better person if you have to fortitude to listen all the way to the end. I didn’t, but then I’m not a better person. It’s not, technically speaking, a photograph, since the creatures run around with tubas (have you ever tried running with a tuba while dressed in a womble suit?) and other stuff, but it’s close enough.
The cockwomble was not invented by the BBC and if you’ve been called one you were not on the receiving end of a compliment. You won’t find a photo of one because it’s not an actual thing, as in it doesn’t exist, but you can find images for cockwombles here. My favorite is the ribbon for International Cockwomble Day.
letterboxes invented in uk
Well, no, they don’t seem to have been invented in the U.K. They were introduced in Paris, in 1653. As far as I can tell, the first one in Britain was introduced in 1809.
I haven’t dug into this very deeply, so I’m not 600% sure the dates are the absolute firsts. But the world–or at least the internet, which isn’t exactly the same thing but does exist within the world–contains a pretty large group of people interested in mailboxes. Or letterboxes, which are the same thing in a different place.
I’m not sure why the wording is that they were introduced, not invented but we’ll work with it.
what is causing all the problems with letter boxes in England
It’s true that British letterboxes have been gathering in city centers late at night to guzzle beer and sing Christmas carols. Residents report feeling too intimidated to ask them to keep it down and the police haven’t taken the situation seriously enough to intervene effectively. No one knows what’s causing it. And no one knows why I put this in the incorrect assumptions section.
Don’t link to this either.
england is not britain
It took a while, but we finally got that straightened out.
why is it wrong to say we all came from britian
Just off the top of my head, I’d say it’s because not all of us did. But credit for knowing something was wrong there.
puffing pants; puffling pants
I was baffled by why the phrase was leading anyone here. Other than wearing a random selection, what do I know about clothes? But it turns out that back in 2016 (remember 2016? It came right before 2017) John Evans left a comment that said, “In the recent BBC4 comedy series about Shakespeare (Upstart Crow), there was an episode in which Shakespeare (brilliantly played by David Mitchell) encounters ‘puffling pants’. Ah, life would be so much more fun if everyone wore puffling pants.”
So that explains why questions about puffling pants find their way to me. It doesn’t explain why so many people care, but I got enough question about them, with a variety of spellings, to make me wonder if humanity really should survive.
For a while, I thought they were some current style. I’m dyslexic about fashion, so be a little kind about that, okay?
See what you’ve done, John?
I’ve made no headway in figuring out why this one landed on my doorstep. Lord Google, explain thyself.
onterage goshen ny
Ditto. But that’s probably entourage.
what is hefeweizen
Wheat. In German. Lord Google helped me out with that one, because the only German I know is gesundheit, and by now that’s English.
but he prefers keeping his private life out of the media as much as possible
I can see why he’d feel that way. Whoever he is.
coke fabric yard
I get regular blasts of this question, and I can’t resist quoting it when I review the questions that lure people into my spider web. Unfortunately, quoting it reinforces the link between the phrase and Notes. In another couple of years, I’ll be the world’s foremost expert on whatever the hell it means.
best trader joe’s meats
I’m a vegetarian and probably the wrong person to ask about this.
And with that, I think I’ve enlightened you enough for one week. Stay out of trouble if you can. It’s a very strange world out there.
That was your health and safety warning. Be healthy. And safe.