What people really want to know about Britain, part 20ish

The currents of the internet wash search engine questions to all shores, but here at Notes we (and by we, of course, I mean I) read them through to divine what it is that people really want to know about Britain. 

What do you need to know about these questions? Most of them are boring and repetitious. We’ll skip those. A few aren’t boring but are repetitious. If I can find some new way to answer them, I will. I don’t guarantee accuracy. I don’t even guarantee sanity. Enter at your own risk.

I assume that the people who ask these things don’t stick around to find out what I have to say, so I won’t hurt their feelings if I’m a wiseass. If they do, I’m going to gamble that they won’t remember what they asked so they’ll think I’m being a wiseass about someone else’s question. And if I’m wrong about both those things, I apologize. I type equally odd things into search engines and wash up on different shores.

I’ve reproduced the questions in all their oddity.


Britain and England

why do people call britain england

Because when England got married to Scotland it changed its last name. That was the tradition back then, and this was before anyone now alive was born, so don’t feel bad about not being invited to the wedding. I didn’t get to go either.

But England had mixed feelings about the name change and used England prominently as a middle name, as people sometimes do when they don’t want to outright challenge tradition but do want to make a vague gesture in the direction of maintaining their own identity. The result has been all sorts of confusion. Quid est demonstrandum, which is Latin for I’m going to the demonstration. Do you have a quid so I can put some petrol in the car?

A quid is British for a buck, which is American for a dollar, only the British are talking about a pound, even though no one measures petrol in pounds and ounces, only in gallons or liters.

And petrol is British for gas. Gas is British for–

Never mind. 

You can tell how old that translation is by its assumption that you can get anywhere on a quid’s worth of petrol. 

I hope I’ve cleared things up.

when was england called great britain

If the search engine questions that wash ashore here are anything to judge by, just about daily, so that’ll take the present tense, please.

reson of great britain being called

Need of its attention gotten being. 


Debtors prisons

why were people sent to debtors prison in 1600 england

Well, it’s complicated, so let’s simplify it: They were in debt. And couldn’t pay. And whoever they owed money to got touchy about it. And the law allowed them to have people tossed into prison for debt, so they did.

debtors prison jobs

You’re too late. This is no longer a viable career option.


The mysteries of British culture and history

why is it offensive to put 2 fingers up

That depends in large part on what you put them up. Please send details and I’ll explain.

free printable notes for king alfred the great

King Alred the Great is dead. He’s no longer accepting notes–free, paid, printed, or hand lettered on vellum. If you read the fine print of the handbook Once You’re Dead, it explains all this. And, oh, so much more. 

If, however, we’re talking about notes in the British sense, as in paper money, you should understand that they’re free and printable because they’re not legal tender. In other words, you can’t buy anything with them–no cigarettes, no ice cream, no face masks. But as long as we’re clear on that, I’m sure we can find some washing around the internet. You can find everything on the internet.

Finally, if we’re talking about notes as in what you should’ve written down in class so you could pass the test, then (a) you should’ve written them down in class and (b) you might want to break with tradition and find a decent book (or even a decent encyclopedia entry) instead of gamblling on someone else’s notes. 

why are we called great britain

Because we have (somewhere, although I haven’t gone looking for any lately) free printable notes for King Alfred the Great. It doesn’t get any greater than that. 

why do british have dogs

So they don’t have to bark themselves. 

Or is this a trick question? 

how to develop a british sense of humor

If you have to ask, you can’t.

britain went metric

It did. And froggy went a-courtin’. Is there a connection? A lot of people out there would like you to think there isn’t, but it looks awfully convenient to me. 

king john hawley

He wasn’t a relative. Sorry. My father changed his name from Hurwitz twenty-some years after an immigration official on Ellis Island changed his father’s from Gurievich. That’s as far back as I can trace the sequence, but I’m sure it made other twists and turns without ever getting us close enough to a king for us to have given him Covid-19, or whatever its era-appropriate equivalent was.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that there never has been a king named John Hawley. Anywhere. 

how to be an aristocrat

Get born in the right family.

upper class people don’t drink coffee

For all I know this could be true, although I doubt it. Either way, I’m proud to say they don’t hang out with the likes of me. Or vice versa.

how did the catholic church feel about women in medieval england

It had a built-in problem with women. On the one hand, it wasn’t crazy about them. They were (almost) everything the (theoretically) celibate males who ran the church weren’t supposed to think about. The rest of what they weren’t supposed to think about? Men. Children. Animals. Footwear. Anything else their hormones might suggest in an appealing way.

But it was women who officially represented sex, which–forget my earlier list–is really what the (theoretically) celibate males who ran the church weren’t supposed to think about. So when the (theoretically) celibate males sang “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things,” women weren’t low on the list, they didn’t get onto the list at all. Because it would mean they were thinking about them.

But according to the church’s holy book, god told humans to go make more humans, and the male half of humanity couldn’t do that without the female half. And just to complicate things, their god’s mother had been a female. 

So yeah, they had a hard time with this.  


Brussels sprouts

from what country did brussel sprouts originate

The one that plays host to Brussels.

+where did brussell sprouts get it’s name from?


brussel sprouts and christianity as a religion

Christianity is a religion. Brussels sprouts are not a religion. Next question.



how do us mailboxes work

Well, you drop a letter in and someone comes along in a truck and picks it up, along with all the new friends it’s made, and they all get carried to a sorting station. As long as your letter has a stamp and an address, it gets separated from its friends, who are going other places, and gets sent on its way. This is sad, but it makes new friends on the journey, so it’s not too sad.

Or did I misunderstand the question? I answered how do U.S. mailboxes work? but maybe this was a mailbox asking how do us mailboxes work? Apologies. Everything you need to know is in Section 41B, subsections iii through xvi of the Mailbox Handbook

Technically, though, that should be, how do we mailboxes work? 

Have you ever wondered whose bright idea it was to name a country us? It’s as bad as naming a newspaper i–which someone has–so that to quote it you have to write, “i says,” or, “According to i.” 

Anyway, since you’d say “we work,” not “us work,” you’re supposed to say how do we mailboxes work? not how do us mailboxes work?

You’re welcome.

tulpan i kruka

I didn’t recognize the language here–in fact, I wasn’t sure it was language, as opposed to gibberish–so in my relentless search for blog fodder I asked Lord Google about it and he told me it’s Swedish and means tulip in a pot. 

Well, of course it does. We talk about that all the time here.

Interestingly enough, when I typed in the phrase that led some hapless soul to Notes, Lord G. didn’t refer me to myself. That’s not unreasonable, since I never used the phrase, don’t speak Swedish, had just failed the do-you-recognize-Swedish? test, and don’t have much to say about tulips in pots, so I rank low on the list of experts. 

About many things.

Still , Lord G. did refer someone here using that key phrase. I have no explanation to offer. 

birds speaking english

No matter where birds are born, human speech is at best a second language for them. Mostly, they speak bird.

birds speaking english for sale

Oh, hell. This is starting to sound ominous.

63 thoughts on “What people really want to know about Britain, part 20ish

  1. I always love these posts, and right now needed the chuckle it gave me, so thank you. I suppose I should thank the people who asked the questions too, since this post wouldn’t exist without them, but they probably aren’t around to be thanked, and likely aren’t interested in my grattitude for starting my day by being amused by their questions anyhow. If I’m wrong though, and they happen to be here and care how I feel… Well, then they can have my thanks too. Right now I have enough of it to go around, since there’s quite a shortage of things to be grateful for these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If they are around, I should probably send them an apology along with your thanks. I convince myself that they swoop through and leave, which leaves me free to be a heartless wiseass.

      Sending whatever good wishes and cheer I can scrape up around here. Take care.


    • It all makes perfect sense if you know a bit of the history. Or the geography. If you don’t, though, and if you don’t think to dig that out, you look at a country with multiple names and think, “Why don’t they make up their minds?” And that, too, surprisingly, makes a kind of sense–at least if you’re inside it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tha Catholic church and how they feel women … sorry, how they feel ABOUT women … what a cracking post Ellen, that particular segment had me in stiches. I do love how you weave humour through your posts. If I were on ‘Desert Island Discs’ my luxury item would be, ‘The Complete Works of Ellen Hawley’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1. It’s the most important topic in these perilous times.

      2. There’s always someone new, and they need to know.

      3. Everyone else on the internet has enough sense not to write about them, so they all come to me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. British humor is easy to understand they may have developed it while attempting to make sense of British history. English history is a subject of which the more I read the less I know, all the studying accomplishes is discovering how much more there is to learn. Then again it becomes almost an addiction, I may put it down for a few months but I always end up continuing; only to find out how little I know each evening while watching Jeopardy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “reason of Great Britain being called” was obviously submitted by Yoda. Some of the rest, I believe, came from recent speeches in the Rose Garden, We much preferred your answers !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The very last line made me laugh out loud. Just what I needed. The previous chuckles had warmed me up for it. Obviously, the person wanted a talking bird, but not one that spoke Italian or French or… OR some guy who calls women birds is … well, way too dumb to get matched up with anyone. But really, why would you want a bird that was already talking English? it might say things you just didn’t want to hear. The weirdest thing I ever heard was a big parrot of some sort at an Italian animal park near Lake Maggiore making announcements it had heard over a speaker with static and all…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Talking of notes you do know the fiver has a picture of Churchill on it. You can see a pic on Evening Harald Bank of England regrets outsourcing printing of Churchill £5 note.
    By the way, what tea do you drink?
    Con, previously conaristocracy. I wanted a shorter name but con-veying the same idea. I am not a conservative- best not to create con-fusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your writing. I am a lonely American in Northamptonshire. I was in Cornwall last when it opened camping. It was glorious. I moved here in November and it has been eye-opening even after visiting every year since 1998. I sure could use some advice on surviving over here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: #82 Senior Salon ~ Esme Salon

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