I’m posting this a day early and joining 350.org and WordPress’s digital climate strike. But before that happens, it’s time to find out, yet again. what people want to know about Britain. The search engines have been kind to me lately, pouring a rich mix of oddity onto my stats page. Put on your absurdity goggles and let’s go.
I get a lot of questions about cockwombles. I’m thinking of seeing if I can’t get paid gigs talking to conferences on the subject. I don’t know much about them, but that doesn’t stop other conference speakers so why lose sleep over it?
As for this particular question, I shouldn’t make fun of it, although I will. I regularly have to look up the difference between etymology (the study of words) and entomology (the study of bugs). I look it up, I remember it for a while, then the magic wears off and I have to do a stealthy recheck on the difference between bugs and words. However, fairness isn’t going to get in my way: The womble is not a bug. It’s an imaginary creature from a long-gone TV show, and the cockwomble is an insult based on it. If you’re interested, Lord Google will lead you to websites where you can buy cockwomble mugs and tee shirts or listen (I assume; I didn’t bother) to songs about them.
Isn’t the internet wonderful? And no, I’m not giving you a link. If you want cockwomble mugs, go find your own.
similar to cockwomble
I don’t know of anything similar to a cockwomble. Why is the internet awash in cockwombles lately? Is this political commentary?
urban slang like cockwomble
You could argue that this is urban (as opposed to what? rural?) slang, but I wouldn’t advise strutting down the toughest street you can find and thinking you’ll intimidate someone by calling them a cockwomble. It doesn’t have the punch you’re looking for.
does the house of commons have air conditioning
Nope. It has crumbling pipes, so many fire hazards that it has a constant firewatch, stonework hurling itself to the ground at unpredictable intervals, and little ribbons where you can hang your sword (although, let’s face it, they’re not there for you or me, they’re for someone more important, who also doesn’t have a sword). But it does not have air conditioning.
The shape the building’s in, it’s doing well to have air.
mps who wear stockings
I’ve had a run of questions lately about MPs wearing stockings. Does some group of people have a thing about MPs in stockings and are they hoping to find a community here? Do they spend hours on the internet, panting over photos of them? We humans are a strange species, and the older I get the more fully I understand that.
Still, it sounds harmless as long as they don’t inflict their obsession on any actual MPs.
I’m not sure what kind of stockings the people who type this into Google are looking for. Those white stockings that men wore with knee breeches a few centuries back and which, given the British gift for resurrecting outdated clothing on ceremonial occasions, can still show up here and there? Or the kind women wore before the invention of what Americans call pantyhose and the British call tights?
If it’s the second, I’d bet a sum of money in the low single digits that no one wears them, in Parliament or anywhere else. They’re ridiculous, uncomfortable, and several other adjectives. They’re also (I’m reasonably sure) not made anymore. Or if they are, they’re hard to find.
So I can’t answer the question, since I don’t know quite what it’s about, but I can inform you, irrelevantly, that what Americans call a run in a stocking/pair of pantyhose, the British call a ladder in a stocking/pair of tights.
Yes, friends, I’m here to educate, even if it’s not necessarily on subjects you want to learn about. Think of it as a grab bag. You click your mouse and–look, we’re learning about medieval fireplaces this week!
berwick as part of ussr
No, no, no. Even if the rumor about Berwick-upon-Tweed being at war with Russia had been true (unfortunately for lovers of absurdity, it isn’t), it never included anything about Russia or the Soviet Union having annexed Berwick. So just to be clear: At no time was Berwick-upon-Tweed part of either Russia or the Soviet Union. It was once part of Scotland–it’s one of those places that moved back and forth between England and Scotland without budging an inch. The border did all the traveling. Berwick’s now English, and Scotland, in spite of anything you may have heard and in spite of being way the hell up north, is not Russia. There’s talk that in case of a hard Brexit (or any Brexit, or–well, who knows these days?) Scotland might well leave the U.K., but no one’s suggesting that it will annex itself to Russia , much less the U.S.S.R., which is hard to join since it no longer exists.
There’s even less reason to believe that Berwick is planning to annex Russia to itself.
How’s that for starting a rumor by denying it?
worcester pronunciation of wasp
Of wasp? The one word in the English language that you can look at and have a running chance at pronouncing correctly?
And why Worcester? Do we have any reason to think they pronounce it differently there?
Sorry, I haven’t been more helpful here. I do try, but this one mystifies me.
how to talk trash in the uk
If you need instructions for this, don’t do it. Just say something you can handle. You’ll be fine.
do british people really talk about weather most
Most what? Most days? Most as in more than any other group of people? Most as in more than other topics?
Finding what you want on the internet–not to mention in life–starts with figuring out the right question.
derby pronunciation darby
It’s reckless to guess about the pronunciations of British place names, but I wouldn’t write this trash if I weren’t at least a little reckless, so here we go: I’m reasonably sure that the Derby pronunciation of Derby is Darby. That’s the way the rest of the country pronounces it and why change something that’s traditional and makes so little sense?
Requests for Cross-cultural Information
do the british think of the americans as brothers
Let’s turn that around: Do the Americans think of the British as brothers?
Are the Americans aware that not every British person is male?
To the best of my knowledge, no and yes.
Do they understand why the second question is relevant?
A lot of them, no, and some subset of them would find it offensive.
do british people like tourists
Oh, yes, every last British person loves tourists. Especially when the aforesaid tourists arrive in swarms, butt into line, and expect to be the purpose of everyone else’s day.
americans arw blunt brits
Possibly, but they don’t spell as well.
why are the roads in france so small and no strips
Wrong country, but isn’t it interesting how people take whatever they were raised with (a road should be the width I’m used to; a grownup should eat the way I was taught to; people should talk the way I do) and then compare the rest of the world with that standard. And silly thing that the world is, it doesn’t manage to meet it. It eats with chopsticks, or the delicate fingers of the right hand. It drives on roads that meet a whole different set of needs. And it doesn’t check with us before doing it.
What is it thinking?
does bell rining strain yiur back
I’m going to have to admit ignorance on this. I’m not a bell ringer. For many reasons. One is that dedicating a fair chunk of time to pulling on a rope doesn’t ring my bell. Another is that bell ringing’s a church thing, and I’m not only Jewish, I’m an atheist. That makes me a bad fit. In my lack-of-tradition, we may ring the occasional doorbell but that’s about the limit of it.
I have never strained my back ringing a doorbell. Have I been living too cautiously?
I know: The question wasn’t about me personally, but I thought it might be good to explain my ignorance. My best guess is that it doesn’t strain yiur back, but that comes a footnote saying, “If you do it right.”
Bell rining can, however, strain yiur spelling.
I shouldn’t make fun of people’s spelling, but when people shoot anonymous questions through the blogosphere, all normal rules of good behavior are suspended.
can bellringing damage your shoulder
are englands roads all narrow
No. Has the price of apostrophes gone up?
Questions Too Deep to Answer Fully
british understatement make others silly
It doesn’t have do. Becoming silly is a choice we make, independent of other people’s under- or overstatements.
Damn, that was profound. I may start one of those blogs where I advise people on how to live their best lives, regardless of what a hash I’m making of mine.
Cat ate sticky toffee pudding
I’ve had a run of questions about cats and sticky toffee pudding lately. On the odd obsession list that I’ve started keeping, it’s right up there with MPs and stockings. Here’s what I know about it:
- Our resident cat, Fast Eddie, does not eat sticky toffee pudding. He doesn’t request sticky toffee pudding. He doesn’t recommend sticky toffee pudding to other cats.
- The store where we buy Fast Eddie’s food doesn’t carry sticky toffee pudding. I’ve never asked if they recommend it for cats and as a result they still–silly people–consider me sane.
When I put those two observations together, I’m inclined to think that most cats don’t eat, or want to eat, sticky toffee pudding. I hope that helps.
The more I write about cats and sticky toffee pudding, the more Lord Google will funnel these questions to me, since no one else out there is brave enough to discuss it. Given the opportunity, most people will dodge controversial topics. And the more Lord G. funnels them to me, the more I’ll be convinced that it all means something.
And the more I’m convinced that it means something, the more I’ll write about it.
Did I mention somewhere that the internet’s wonderful?
Still, if no one was out there asking the question, Lord G. wouldn’t have anything to send me. So it’s not entirely a self-contained loop.
I started out assuming this was a typo and that the word was supposed to be crotchets. We’ll come back to that. But just to be sure (I don’t know everything, much to my surprise), I tossed it, as spelled, to Lord G., who sent me to WikiWhatsia, which told me it was a noun, masculine, meaning a young cockerel. In parentheses, it said, “Jersey,” so I’m going to guess it’s a word used on the island of Jersey rather than a young chicken in a sweater. It’s from the French coq (English equivalent, cock–as in bird, wiseass) and –et, a French masculine diminutive. So a young rooster.
A different site says it’s Norman, so French-ish, but old. Or to put that another way, an old young rooster.
Then Lord G. sent me to a site about last names, which told me that the origin of the name Cotchets is unknown and left the meaning blank. I asked Lord G. to tell me about a few random first name/last name combinations involving Cotchet and couldn’t find anyone to match. Which could explain why the origin’s unknown: There are no Cotchets. I think the site will accept anything as a last name–hell, it could be possible–but if it’s never seen it before it gives out no information.
So we’re talking about young vegetarian roosters on Jersey or young roosters on Jersey made of vegetables.
And a crotchet? It’s a bit of British musical notation. Americans (and I think Canadians) call it a quarter note.
the guardian brits and their dogs
This is a good demonstration of why commas matter, although search engine questions almost never use them. If this is “the guardian, brits, and their dogs,” we’re talking about three things: a guardian, brits, and a group of dogs hanging around mysteriously and belonging to one or both of them. But if it’s “the guardian brits and their dogs,” then we’re talking about some equally mysterious brits who guard something–with their dogs.
None of it makes any sense, mind you, with or without commas, but at least we know what it is that we don’t understand.