What the world wants to know about Britain, part 19-ish

The butterfly net I use to trap strange search engine questions has been filling up quickly, so even though I did a what-the-world-wants-to-know post just a few weeks ago, I can’t let riches like these go to waste. The questions are in italics and appear in their original form, however odd it may be.

The search for important information about Britain

england is not another name for great britain!

A-plus for the answer (or in British, A*, pronounced A-star). But what’s your question? And more to the point, why are you bothering Lord Google about something you already know?

Irrelevant photo: roses.

do brits just talk about weather

Before we can answer this, we have to figure out what it means. This should depend on which word just is hanging off of, but English-language writers dump just into sentences according to what sounds good, then figure that what they’ve written means what they think it means. But any grammar obsessive could tell them that the location determines the meaning. I’m not going to rant about that. The language is used the way it’s used, regardless of what the grammar books say, and I’m on both sides of these issues anyway. Passionately.

Still, it leaves me not knowing what the writer meant. So what are the possible variations here? 

Do Brits just talk about the weather as opposed to doing anything about it? Well, pretty much, yeah. You know how it is. We’re all like that when you come down to it. Talk, talk, talk. And the damned rain keeps coming down.

Or, in defiance of the order the words come in, do they talk just about the weather as opposed to, say, talking about feel-good topics like Brexit and global warming? Well, no. The British talk about all sorts of things. Shoes and ships and sealing wax. Brexit and potatoes and school buses.

Okay, not so much about sealing wax these days. And that’s a Lewis Carroll poem that I’m mangling. His version rhymes.

Or–I’m stretching a point here, but what the hell–do just Brits, as opposed to other people, talk about the weather,? No, it’s  a pretty common topic, given that most of the world’s countries (and therefore people) have something that passes for weather.

I’d go on, but the question only gave me three words to dangle just off of.

I hope I’ve been able to help.

why are we called great britain

Am I the only person who hears something plaintive in this? It has a kind of Mom-why-are-they-callling-me-names? quality.

It’s okay, sweetheat. They don’t mean anything by it. It’s because you’re big. Why don’t we sit down and have  a nice cookie?

Or maybe we should call it a biscuit.

ceremonail position in british government black rod

I’m tired of Black Rod, probably because I’ve heard entirely too much about parliament lately, what with Brexit and all. But yes, Black Rod has a position in the British government. Whether you consider it ceremonial or essential is probably a matter of opinion. Me? I’d call it ceremonial to the point of silliness, but I would, wouldn’t i? 

P.S. You misspelled ceremonial. I nevr misspell anything.

ploughman’s lunch history

It starts as a full plate–cheese, a roll, a pickled onion, chutney, butter if you’re lucky. Three grapes and a twisted slice of orange you’ve gone someplace fancy. Then it gets eaten. Or most of it does and the odd bits get left and someone takes them back to the kitchen and scrapes them in the trash and that’s it. End of history. 

It’s wasteful. I ordered a ploughman’s once or twice because it sounded more appealing than a cheese sandwich, but it’s nothing but a do-it-yourself cheese sandwich. 

characteristics of an aristocrat person how do they act

All aristocrats have exactly the same characteristics, to the point where every morning they call each other to work out what they’re going to wear. 

Okay, I shouldn’t get put off when people ask about this, because I wrote a snarky post about some titled idiot behaving badly and I gave it a clickbait heading about behaving like a British aristocrat. So it’s my own doing if I get search engine questions about it.

But if we’ve established that, let’s go on: Behaving like an aristocrat isn’t about having perfect manners, it’s about (a) considering that your manners, however horrid, are perfect, and (b)looking down on people who don’t behave the way you do–or who try to but who have to learn the secret handshakes from Lord Google.

Lord Google  will never tell us all the secret handshakes, just enough to leave us exposed as wannabes. But even if we find the missing bits and behave exactly like the aristocrats, we were still foolish enough to choose the wrong ancestors so we can’t be part of the club.

Silly  us.

It’s depressing to know (or think I know) that someone out there is trying to play this game. Don’t do it, folks. Aristocracy is a closed and toxic club. They don’t want us in and if we have a brain in our heads, we don’t want in. 

when will we know more about brexit sept 2019

We all wish we had the answer to that. And September’s already well in the past.

does a map show you how narrow a road is

Yes, but measuring the width of the map’s lines to the nearest micro-whatsit won’t help. You have to look at the letters associated with the roads. They won’t exactly tell you the width, but they’ll let you figure out how slow your drive’s likely to be, which is a related question. 

M roads–they have an M before their number– are motorways, the best roads the system offers. A roads–A followed by a number–come next. Some of them are hard to tell from motorways. They’re divided highways with a 70 mph speed limit and make a nice straight line from wherever you started to wherever you’re going. And other A roads are nothing like that. They’re two lanes, and they run through the middle of every town along the route. But they’re better than what comes next: B roads, which may be two lanes but may have one-lane stretches.

Then there are roads that no one bothers to give numbers to. Or they give them numbers but don’t bother to tell anyone what they are. In the summer, in touristed areas, they’re lined with nervous visitors who’ve plastered their cars to the hedges, letting the oncoming cars figure out if there’s room to pass.

There almost always is.

how do british cars pass on such narrow roads?

On the narrowest ones, everyone gets out and disassembles the lighter-colored car, moves it past the darker one, and puts it back together.

Why the lighter one? It’s a simple, non-judgmental way to choose, and it saves time-consuming arguments. 

And if they’re both the same color? Well, that’s where your arguments start. We need a better system. Everyone agrees, but we have to settle the Brexit mess first.

what was uk called before great britain

England, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall. Unless you want to go back to Latin, the Celtic languages, and Anglo-Saxon. And Pictish. For part of that time, though, we’re dealing with micro-kingdoms and it gets messy.

why do british people eat brussle sprouts at christmas?

Because it gives them the strength to face Boxing Day, that extra holiday that comes on December 26.


The search for important information about everything else

what is the actual date of 2019/09/04

I can answer that: It was 2019/09/04. 

But let’s talk about dating systems, since someone’s brought them up.. The American system starts with the month, follows with the day, and ends with the year, making 04/09/2019  April 9, 2019. The British and European system flips the first two elements, so the same numbers give you 4 September 2019. 

Isn’t this fun?

The British and European system doesn’t use a comma before the year. Or after, in case the sentence straggles on. The American one does.

Moving back and forth between the two systems means that you can’t be sure what date anyone–including your own bewildered self–is talking about unless they name the month or bring in a day that’s larger than twelve.

I don’t know any dating systems that open with the year, so I have no way to tell what, if anything, the date in the question means. I asked Lord Google for help but he told me I wasn’t asking the right question, so I ended up as fodder for someone else’s post about strange search engine questions.

Lord G., as is his way, wouldn’t tell me what the right question was. Dealing with Lord Google is like being trapped in one of those fairy tales where bad things happen because bad things happen and the world doesn’t reward the just and kind.

So what’s the actual date? My best guess is that it doesn’t exist.

is a vigilante sticking up for someone

It never rains weirdness but it pours it down by the bucketful. Is a vigilante sticking up for someone? Not as often in real life as in the movies. Has someone seen too many movies? Probably. Is a movie watcher having trouble finding the line between fiction and reality? Most definitely. 

For what it’s worth, friends, if you’re facing injustice and overwhelming odds, don’t look for a vigilante. And for pete’s sake, don’t become a vigilante. Vigilantes can propel decent shoot-em-up plots–or if not decent, at least popular–but in real life they end up as lone nuts with guns who leave grieving families in their wake. Try organizing. It’s slower and it’s less dramatic, but it spills less blood and it just might do some good in the long run. 

I have no idea why that question came to me. 

how to respectfully decline an award nomination

Be nice. Explain your reasons. Say thanks. Shut up. 

whats cultural about brownies

They like literature and classical music. They’re not much on visual art.

medieval catholic teaching sex

All the medieval Catholics are dead. So are the medieval everybody elses. That means none of them are teaching sex anymore. But they weren’t much good at it, so don’t worry about having missed out.

83 thoughts on “What the world wants to know about Britain, part 19-ish

  1. My favourite roads are ‘unadopted’ – the council
    Is not going to repair them for you, but as they haven’t actually been made into roads in the first place this doesn’t matter. They can usually be spotted as gravel tracks with a quirky selection of houses. Though they have to drive over huge potholes or tiptoe round big puddles, the inhabitants regard themselves as superior to the masses living in ordinary suburban streets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We live on an estate that was built in three stages, I’m told, and for no reason that I’ll ever understand that means that some of the streets are adopted and some aren’t. And that, in turns, means that when that half of the estate had trouble with the sewers, they had to pay for the work. Which all of a sudden makes it look a lot less charming.


  2. An added point on Brussels sprouts: to be fully ready to sustain us through Christmas the sprouts should be given plenty of time to cook. If you haven’t already got yours on the hob I fear they may not be ready for the big day 😉


  3. I’m laughing here at all of this, but specifically at your definition of an aristocrat. Spot on, that one.

    I also like your line: Try organizing. It’s slower and it’s less dramatic, but it spills less blood and it just might do some good in the long run. Words to live by there. Would that more people would understand this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Christmas dinner just isn’t Christmas dinner without Brussel sprouts. I always hide one under Sam’s Yorkshire pudding. He knows I’ll do it every year. He eats it, grimaces, and then gets on with the rest of his dinner. However, if I have to get up for something, some years I end up with one more sprout on my plate than was originally there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your digression into the previous iterations of great britain leads to a multitude of questions. England, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall… did Monty Python originate in Cornwall ? And did the other areas build the wall to keep Monty Python out ?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe the question was about what “Brits just” talk about. As opposed to “Brits unjust”. There’s could be two groups of Brits, Brits just and Brits unjust. In fact, I am sure of it.

    I sometimes will eat a cheese sandwich. But a pickled onion? Not so sure. And I don’t even want to know what
    chutney is.

    Have a good week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You could be onto something. A country divided against itself on the basis of the weather. It’s not half as crazy as the reality.

      Chutney is Britain’s punishment for having ruled India for so long. I’m sure it works with Indian food (okay, I’m not sure, but I don’t know that it doesn’t), and I do know people who think it works with British food, but I haven’t been converted.


  7. I am very tired today and apparently in a puerile mood because that last query and your response made me chuckle. The dates thing comes up for me all the time because, even six years on, I still have to translate the way to communicate the date from UK to US format. I must look like a total dipstick whenever I am asked to give my DOB, as if I don’t know my own birth date, but really it is just that I translate and either double check or second guess myself before I respond.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This has got to be the best thing I’ve read all day: “On the narrowest ones, everyone gets out and disassembles the lighter-colored car, moves it past the darker one, and puts it back together.” Haha! What a great idea. (But could it be done without an interdimensional portal?)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lord Google is somewhat of a fickle fellow. He giveth good answers, and then he taketh them away. And then where does that leave the rest of us?
    On an unmarked road in Cornwall trying to figure out how to disassemble our car.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You’re so much fun, Ellen. :)) But, a slight bone to pick (sorry) with your last comment. Imagine a kid is given some old books (say, written by medieval Catholics, and which do mention sex), inside a relative vacuum of other material/information. In that case, the old books might act as teachers on the subject of sex.

    Just a thought that came up. Nitpicking your quip. :)) #FeelingSerious #ButAllMoodsPass. ;))

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There should be a system for the narrow roads that classifies them as narrow, superskinny, and “like trying to pass a kidney stone”. What passes for a road in Wales is something my GPS would call a walking path! And Canadians mostly just talk about the weather too–must be something we inherited!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The last bit gave me a LOL :)
    So this — “nervous visitors who’ve plastered their cars to the hedges, letting the oncoming cars figure out if there’s room to pass” will be me. I do not do well here when the road is a car wide, or a car-and-a-half wide. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about narrow room for two or four lanes either. So when I get to England, although perhaps Ireland first, who can say, really, I am going to have a lot of nervous panic. Fortunately, valium has the same name in the UK and I will ask my dr for a month’s supply before I depart.
    Is the UK to big to cross on foot in 10-days? Just kidding :P

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We eat brussels sprouts, and not only at Christmas. Himself loves them, so much does he love them that he calls them Fairy Cabbages – I kid you not. I don’t mind them at all – they’re a pleasant enough green vegetable when properly cooked. They’re not an sociable choice though ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Mistaken identities in the (partially British) news | Notes from the U.K.

  15. Am I late responding to this. So…
    Firstly Scotland has A roads that are single track with passing places. I like that, and if anyone then we can no longer be friends. I don’t make these rules.
    Second I always put the date – starting with the year then the month then the day at the start of file names so (and here’s the clever bit) chronological order is the same as alphabetic order and the newest files are on the top of the list. Many people have told me that there are better ways of achieving this and I’m still not listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pretty sure Bill said he does the same thing. Since all numbers look alike to me (that is to say, terrifying), I’m not a likely convert to the system.

      Thanks for the info about Scotland. I should probably have limited what I said to England, since I don’t know Scotland or Wales well enough to pontificate about it and I’ve never set foot in Northern Ireland at all. Of course, if Brexit lands on our heads and Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland think of better things to do with their governments and geographies than stay in the UK, I won’t have to specify anymore. Talk about thin silver linings.


    • And thanks for all the work you do to keep it going. I hope to be back, but it’ll depend on whether the follow button I hit sends the blog to my email or to the WP reader, which I haven’t looked at since before the invention of writing.


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