The latest thing in conspiracy theories: It’s the news from Britain

The latest thing in conspiracy theories: It’s the news from Britain

Britain has a special relationship with the US, although Hawley’s Small and Unscientific Survey indicates that only Britain is knows about it. But never mind that. It’s so important that Britain sometimes gives it capital letters: the Special Relationship.

In fairness, Britain hands out a lot of capital letters, so Americans, don’t let that go to your head.

But special relationship or no special relationship, Britain doesn’t like taking second place, even in the production of conspiracy theories, so we’ve come up with a nice one that’s all our own: The security guards who attended King Charles–that’s the monarch formerly known as Prince–at his mother’s funeral used fake hands so they could keep their real ones on the weapons hidden under their coats. 

Well, of course they did. I’ve seen photos circulating on TikTok, and they show the security guys keeping a tight grip on their hands, as if they were afraid they’d drop off. 

Yes, people do stay up nights to work this stuff out.

The paper I found this in seems to have found it credible enough that they trotted out a security expert to explain why that wouldn’t happen in the UK, although it might, of course, in the US.

Isn’t it interesting what people think of the US? We’re a nation where people could, imaginably, hide an extra pair of arms under their coats.

Irrelevant photo: A pedestrian crossing in Camden, London.

But that’s not what the expert addressed. In the US, he explained–and this comes in the form of an indirect quote from the Metro–“close protection officers are more ‘trigger happy’ . . . but the ‘risk is too high’ in the UK.”

In other words, you might be able to run around shooting people at royal funerals in the US (assuming, of course, that you can find a royal funeral), but you can’t do that in Britain. 

No one seems to have asked how long it would take security guys in any country to break their real arms loose if they did need to get trigger happy, but before I’m going to get on board for this one I need an answer. 

But let’s move on

Do you ever wonder why so many conspiracy theories are on the loose lately? It’s a desperate effort to make sense of a  world that’s falling apart. 

That’s not meant as a joke.

So what’s the British government doing to hold it all together? Well, we have a brand new government, cobbled together by the Conservative Party, which still has a hefty majority in Parliament. Already, though, the shine’s coming off it. It–this is the government we’re talking about in case you’ve lost track–announced a new mini-budget that, in the face of a population increasingly desperate about inflation, promised a tax cut for the richest eighteenth of a percent of the population. It would fund that by borrowing money that it would pay back when pigs fly in formation past the Houses of Parliament waving lion-and-unicorn banners and singing “The Marseillaise.”

Why “The Marseillaise”? Irony, that’s why. Their long and less than happy relationship with humans has led pigs to develop a sharp sense of irony.

The pound promptly tanked. That’s the vote that really matters, so the political world came to a rolling boil. MPs in the government’s own party publicly attacked the idea, attacked the prime minister, attacked the chancellor, and attacked Larry the Cat, who in fairness isn’t even in the cabinet. 

Cabinet ministers accused MPs of staging a coup. 

Larry the Cat accused the government of being stingy with the cat treats.

The prime minister said she wouldn’t back down. 

The prime minister repeated that she wouldn’t back down.

The prime minister backed down, but only on the most controversial tax cut, not on other problematic parts of the budget, which I’ll skip over. Come on, do I look like a newspaper? When the details overwhelm the humor, I have to move on.

The prime minister won’t rule out reinstating the tax cut. 

Larry the Cat upchucked a lightly used mouse head on the steps of Number 10.

In the meantime, the government that won’t commit to increasing benefits (Americans can translate that welfare and similar programs) in line with inflation. People–and not just the poorest ones–are seriously worried about how to heat their homes, food banks are deluged, and the National Health Service is coming apart at the seams. 

And we’re hearing a lot of talk about power cuts this winter. 

*

But compassion isn’t completely missing. I recently stumbled over an expensively printed flier with advice on reducing fuel poverty. Some sponsors are in small enough print that I’m not sure if it’s only from the Cornwall Council or if it’s national as well, but hey, if I had anything to do with it I’d want my name in small print as well.

What does it advise us to do?

  • Keep warm
  • Have regular hot meals and drinks
  • Keep moving 
  • Look after yourself
  • Take care of your neighbors

Thanks, guys. I don’t know what we’d do without you.

To be fair, they also give us a handful of phone numbers to try, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about any of them solving people’s problems.

So what does the Department for Fiddling While Rome Burns say?

The government’s addressing the important stuff, though. Therese Coffey–the new health secretary who sports an accent in her first name but I can’t be bothered searching the depths of Word to find it–has taken a tough stand on the Oxford Comma. 

The what?

I’m not exactly British, so I’m not the best person to ask, but back in that big country on the other side of the Atlantic, I learned to call it a series comma. By either name, it’s the comma you either do or don’t use before the final item in a list. You know, when you write to the health secretary and say either, “I find your advice odd, patronizing, and trivial,” or “I find your advice odd, patronizing [no comma, you’ll notice] and trivial.” 

C’mon, this stuff is important.

I won’t try to explain why that’s called the Oxford comma in Britain, mostly since  I don’t understand it either, but Coffey’s agin it. (She wouldn’t approve of agin either, which is why it made its way in here.) She’d no more than located her new office and hung up her coat than she told civil servants to “be positive” in their communications with her, to avoid double negatives, and to not use the Oxford comma. 

After that hit the headlines, her departmental flak-catchers jumped in and acknowledged that the memo was real but said Coffey hadn’t written it. 

“There may have been a bit of over-eagerness” in the content, he, she, they [Oxford comma ahead], or it said.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they were half as eager to shorten the lists of people waiting for medical treatment, fill the National Health Service’s job vacancies, or fix hospital roofs? But those things take money. Oxford commas? They come cheap.

Yeah, but why’d the Conservative’s get a reputation as the Nasty Party?

Gee, I don’t know. I wasn’t here when it happened, but it’s not helped by people like Daniel Grainger, chair of the Young Conservative Network, who arrived in Birmingham for the party convention and tweeted that it was “a dump.” 

He’s stepped down pending an investigation, although that may be over a different tweet–one that, sadly, hasn’t hit the headlines.

How’d the party conference go?

Well, a recent study reports that dogs can sniff out whether people are stressed. I haven’t read that the conference center was surrounded by stress-trained canines, but then I haven’t read that it wasn’t. And for all I know, those hands really were fake. Can you prove they weren’t?

Can we go back to economics, please?

Sure. The Ig Nobel Economics Prize went to Alessandro Pluchino and his colleagues for a mathematical explanation of why success so often goes not to the most talented people but to the luckiest. 

Irrelevantly but irresistibly, the prize for medicine went to Marcin Jasiński and colleagues for showing that patients treated with cryotherapy–a form of chemotherapy that dries out the mouth, gums, and tongue–have fewer harmful side effects when ice cream replaces the ice chips they usually suck on.

They used Ben and Jerry’s, although I expect the improvement would carry over to other brands. 

31 thoughts on “The latest thing in conspiracy theories: It’s the news from Britain

  1. My own conspiracy theory is that the Conservatives put the worst candidate into Number Ten in the expectation that the next leadership contest (for which we might not have to wait very long) will bring Boris Johnson back. I mentioned this in the pub last night and it turns out that I’m not alone.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. We do have a Special Relationship. The moment most Americans hear that British accent there’s an assumption that the speaker is more intelligent, educated, worldly, and well behaved. I’m sure there are idiots in Britain, but our idiots are even more idiotic. And did you notice how I used the Oxford comma in the second sentence? However I did begin that previous sentence with a conjunction. I’ll stop now.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s the best thing about the rules of grammar: They give us pleasure when we break them.

      You’re right about British accents, but the thing is that Americans tend to think there’s only one, just like people think there’s only one New York accent. Or one Southern accent. I was in a roomful of white Southern women once, all making fun of each other’s accents and laughing wildly, and for me the funniest part was that, Northerner that I am, I couldn’t hear the differences that were so obvious to them.

      Where were we? I think you’ve kind of made my point about the special relationship: In Britain, it’s a political relationship between the two countries–something just short of an alliance. In the US, it’s about accents and being vaguely impressed for silly reasons.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think generally the snob appeal of accents has more to do with clear enunciation than the actual pattern of accents. (Generalization based on what I’ve ever managed to figure out about the status hierarchy of Virginia accents–there used to be several, and differences mattered, which is why people now try to speak either NBC or BBC or, in my case, some compromise between those.) Dropping some sounds is more or less fashionable at certain times.

        “British” used to seem to presuppose precision with T sounds. Newer British recordings show that, in addition to cockneys swallowing their T sounds, many people in Britain soften them into D’s or TH’s in the same boring low-status way Americans do. I always wonder if it helps fend off the more annoying sort of anglophiles.

        “Southern” apparently used to presuppose dropping most or all final R sounds. Older people with high-status accents really did that, though the Greatest Generation had pared it down to a few special phrases like a reverent reference to a departed Mothah or Fathah. Too much of it was heard as an affectation that had become embarrassing due to association with places like Mississippi. The town that fills in the diamond shape of the Nation’s Capital is still Ahhlington to residents, possibly because so many of them are immigrants from the North who thought that pronunciation was cute. Further west even Arlington usually gets a clearly enunciated R.

        In my youth dropping the H sound from the WH words was associated with Brooklyn and therefore very low-status. Newer US recordings show that it’s spread across the nation and even broadcast executives no longer make people recite things like “he wot not what to wear where.” I still feel that it may be acceptable to type “Y not?” because cell phones, but in speaking, if one says “why” like “Y,” one should at least grin.

        I hear some British accents as posh, some as low-status, and some high-status pre-BBC recordings (Lewis and Tolkien e.g.) as “Americanized”–even though obviously Lewis and Tolkien were no such thing. And, sorry to disappoint hopeful men, but the accent isn’t the key to sex appeal–it’s what they say.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You make a good case, but I can’t help wondering if the status comes first, clarity and the number of sounds that get dropped second. A large swathe of English British drops the R in most situations. It’s not completely silent. You can kind hear where it used to be. The Scots get a lot of teasing about actually pronouncing them. Clarity, I suspect, has to do with familiarity as much as pronunciation.

          Like

          • Yes, when someone influential says a word a different way it becomes trendy and familiar. Then people who carefully enunciate the other sounds drop or blur the one the influencer dropped or blurred, and carelessness with that particular sound becomes a mark of insider status.

            I like your description of the not completely silent R’s.

            Liked by 1 person

      • So true about the variety of Southern accents; there’s the Georgia lilt, the Alabama monotone, the French influenced Cajun accent of New Orleans, and my paternal grandparents were born in Arkansas which has its own regional accent that it shares with Oklahoma and East Texas.
        I always thought there were three basic categories of British accent; upper class, middle class, and Cockney. But I’m sure it’s more varied than that. Funny thing about the US is this sense of pride over victory in the American Revolution but also an embrace of British rock stars, actors, and musicals from the West End that helped keep Broadway afloat during the ’80s and ’90s. Plus a lot of famous American TV shows were based on British shows.
        Time for me to return to my writing, got some grammar rules to break! :-D

        Liked by 1 person

        • Get busy. Breaking the rules of grammar doesn’t happen by itself.

          British accents have overlaps of regional and class differences, and they’re a minefield. I’ve often been grateful that my own accent puts me off to one side of it. And if the accents aren’t enough, an assortment of words signal your class and region. One of them is what you call meals–tea, supper, and dinner can all mean the same thing and as far as I can figure out they spend their time leapfrogging over each other in what they tell people about your background.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the idea of security guards having fake hands but wonder how they manage the going for a piddle thing.
    Oop North here commas are mostly invisible, but I originate from Doon Sooth, so devised the Wardley Comma, which means reading back aloud what you wrote with the invisible ones, and sticking a comma in when you have to take a breath.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll bet your system would match up pretty well with the strict grammarian’s. For years, I went light on commas, but when I was preparing for a reading recently I had to pencil some in so I’d know where the sentence was heading and when my next breath was coming. I may need to rethink how I use the little devils.

      As for fake hands, that’s a problem I hadn’t thought of.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow ! Those are Some Exciting Conspiracy theories. And unlike the ones Over Here they don’t all seem to lead to overthrowing the gummint completely (just the prime miinister) or killing lots of people. (“gummint” and “big bidness” being examples of the Ahia accent promoted by our former gumnor Jim Rhodes.)

    In journalism school we were taught to cut corners on everything we could when writing to save column space. Then I had a professor who said “If it’s correct in writing (he didn’t call it the Oxford comma, but that was what he meant)then use it when you write !” That extra comma, of course, inserted an extra half-space into whatever you were writing.

    One reason I listened to the Queen’s services was to hear the various accents. And, yes, the bagpiping.

    I have limited experience with regional accents…It took me several days in SW Georgia to realize that “Mar yetta” Georgia and “Marietta” Ohio are spelled the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love regional, ethnic, and class accents but I don’t, unfortunately, have a very good ear for them. I do know someone who does–she’s a dialect coach for actors–and can shift seamlessly (and to the extent that I know the accents, accurately) through a range of accents in a single monologue. It’s impressive–and very funny.

      Like your professor, I’m a fan of the series comma. Since leaving it out means you have to think each time about whether you need it for clarity, putting in that half space does mean you save time and a half space in your brain, where I say it’s more expensive.

      Of course, I’m not paying for the newspapers paper, so what do I know?

      Like

    • Burning garbage is a great frugal Green way to heat and cook, except that one seldom generates enough garbage in a day to boil a pint of water. That’s even with the modern toilet that converts all solid wastes into dry fuel overnight. You need about an acre of woodlot to get the biomass burning to keep a warm (electronics-free) room warm. Urban neighborhoods have to depend on some source of heat for which we don’t yet have the infrastructure to dispense with fossil fuels.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m sorry, I can’t keep up with all this grammar chitter-chatter as I’m still tittering at “the monarch formerly known as Prince”.

    Larry the Cat for Prime Minister says I. We couldn’t do worse….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with this: “Do you ever wonder why so many conspiracy theories are on the loose lately? It’s a desperate effort to make sense of a world that’s falling apart.” It’s a tried-and-true deflection tactic when it comes to taking responsibility for anything and some people are really good at profiting from it too.

    I’m surprised you weren’t advised to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Here in the Pacific Northwest we like puns and its common to see a sign around here (usually in a seafood restaurant) that says, “Keep Clam and Carry on”. This little niche pun sign can be found from Vancouver, British Columbia all the way down the western coast to Newport, Oregon based on my personal observations. I really should journey over to the Eastern seaboard someday to see if this phenomenon infects Nova Scotia and the US New England states as well. BTW, I like John Oliver. I’m so glad he abandoned England to come live with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your Keep Calm pun reminds me of the time I was at the opticians and they had some FCUK glasses displayed in the window. The woman I talked to swore an elderly lady had come in and told them, quite seriously, that they’d misspelled it.

      Speaking as a foul-mouthed and officially elderly woman, if not a lady–

      Oh, to hell with it. At my age, you can make a lot of not particularly interesting things either funny or shocking. I try to make the most of that. I like to think that the “elderly lady” who stopped in at the opticians did too.

      But yes, all that aside, we really are facing the breakdown of so many things we take for granted. It’s frightening–it sure as hell scares me–and a certain number of people will always go for simple explanations. And you’re right, there’s profit to be made from them. And careers.

      Liked by 1 person

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