Anglophilia: Not Just For Geeks Anymore


What is this? “Hump a Limey” week? ~from “A Fish Called Wanda”

Even the Queen reads on the throne

In school plays, whether it was Oliver! or The Mousetrap, I always seemed to get a role. It wasn’t that I was the best actress or the best line reader, and I certainly wasn’t the best looking, but I could do a real corker of a RP (Received Pronunciation…what most people think of when they think of a traditional BBC British accent.) From a very young age I loved all things British. I loved their long and storied history, their stiff-upper-lip attitude, their cool albeit anachronistic monarchy, their daring MI5 and James Bond. I even learned to love shepherd’s pie and blood pudding. My mom’s side of the family thought me daft, to say the least (they’re all Boston Irish Catholics…to them, the idea of a neo-Nazi in the family was only slightly less appealing.)  And still do. My Anglophilia, however, remains.

Where exactly it comes from is more of a mystery. Sure, I read all the British literary classics growing up. Most kids of a certain age read at least a few, whether it was Peter Pan, Black Beauty, or one of the shorter works of Dickens. There was a portion of my life during which I was determined to become the female version of Sherlock Holmes. Another found me wanting to renounce my American citizenship and run off to join the RAF (Royal Air Force.) Sometimes when I’d find myself traveling, I’d try out my fledgling British accent on an unsuspecting fellow traveler as I played the role of a tourist or exchange student. They never questioned me, so I figured I was doing a right-ho good job, wot?

Now that I’m a bit older I can look at my juvenile fascinations with a more careful eye. One wonderful thing I’ve discovered about my fellow geeks is that many of them are Anglophiles. I’d say about 90 percent will have at least one geekdom which is British. Doctor Who. Black Adder. Fawlty Towers. The Monty Python crew. Underneath all of them is a rich, dry vein of humor which appeals to only a small portion of the American population at large. Most Americans want lowbrow humor with no irony. British humor relies on puns and hyperbole, historical references and absurdity, straight delivery and sarcasm. It’s not for everyone (though there are notable exceptions to this dryness rule, like the brilliantly anarchic The Young Ones.)

Edmund Blackadder: geek antihero

There’s a bit more to it than just the more intellectually-inclined humor. The Brits, as any Anglophile will tell you, love their eccentrics. In the US, eccentrics are labeled, marginalized, ridiculed, and medicated. In Britain they become heroes (and heroines.) I’ll use the Harry Potter series as an example here, although J.K. Rowling liberally borrows humor and situations from classic British writers from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens to P.G. Wodehouse. Harry Potter’s world is one chock-full of eccentrics: the wise but unconventional Dumbledore, the wonderful Weasley family, Hagrid, the half-giant who loves monsters, the uber-paranoid Mad-Eye Moody. In fact, Rowling’s most despicable characters aside from Lord Voldemort and his followers are the Dursleys, Harry’s Muggle relatives who strive to be as normal and non-eccentric as possible. British literature has a rich and noble tradition of eccentrics as heroes. American literature is more likely to cast these types as goofy sidekicks, if they merit a mention at all.

We are not amused, and not eccentric

But there’s another piece to all of this; maybe the missing piece as to why so many geeks feel a greater kinship with the eastern side of the Pond. The Brits, it turns out, aren’t as shallow and obsessed with things like looks or expensive clothes as their American cousins. I find it doubtful that many popular British stars, from Rowan Atkinson to Dame Judi Dench, might have made it strictly as American actors. Talented as they may be, they’re not what most Yanks would consider sexy. To geeks, they may be. Geeks measure more on qualities like intelligence or pure talent anyhow. (I know for a fact that many of my fellow female geeks have an undying crush on Rowan Atkinson, not to mention David Tennant or Hugh Laurie.)

As for actual visits, I’ve been to Old Blighty only twice in my life, and neither time was nearly long enough. That will have to change. I have a long-time pen friend in the aptly named village of Dorking(!) who would gladly host me. She’s even told me my RP passes muster with her…and she works in theatre for a living. If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is.

In the meantime I’ll have to keep geekworking (geek networking) and discovering new and cool British imports. I can keep recommending the best series on DVD at work, too. Even those of you who think all British television is stuffy, Masterpiece Theatre style, I’d heartily recommend the Jeeves and Wooster series or Absolutely Fabulous. Remember…this is the country that gave the world the Beatles and the Stones, after all. It has to be sort of hip.

Until I win the lottery or receive an inheritance from some unknown relative, Dickens-style, I have to be content with a cuppa Earl Grey and blood sausages. To all my fellow geeks, tally ho, pip-pip, and Bernard’s your uncle (or, in Standard English, until next time.)

I say, old chap, are you a ninja?

Enjoyed this post? Wot, wot…be sure to click “Like” and subscribe so you’ll never miss a future edition of P&Q. Jolly good! If you have any funny British experiences, send them to the author at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on September 29, 2011.

11 Responses to “Anglophilia: Not Just For Geeks Anymore”

  1. I say, jolly good post. I’ve trotted around merry old England a bit meself, and had a grand time. Been watching Monty Python and Absolutely Fabulous since I was a tot, and my life would by bloody awful these days if I didn’t have Doctor Who and Sherlock to brighten my day. Well, I’ll stop my chinwagging and be toddling off. Cheerio!

  2. I was born a Brit and live by the good old River Thames. Jealous?! 😉

    • ‘Course I’m jealous! Living in London must be quite the experience, though I suppose many Londoners might wish they could live elsewhere. Grass being always greener, you know. Would love to come back during the Olympics next year.

  3. Well… we’re flattered that there are talented Yanks who love our eccentricity and dry humour. And it certainly is encouraging that there are some who find attractive qualities in the average Brit. Because I can assure you there are many more Rowan Atkinsons and Simon Peggs to the square mile over here than there are Alex Pettyfers and Christian Bales.

    We would be very proud to have you over here, if you ever again decide to grace our tiny island with your presence. Perhaps we should swap all your anglophiles for our americanophiles. It would certainly be a lot quieter over here.

    P.S. If you truly mean to blend in… we call it “black pudding”. Blood sausage makes more sense I guess.

    • Black pudding…of course!

      I’d much rather have Simon Pegg or Rowan Atkinson than some vapid pretty-boy. There are a few talented and intelligent American actors, but not in the quantities seen in England. I hope to return to London sometime within a year or so and take the grand tour of all the sights I missed the first time (last time I was there for only 3 hours, and Baker Street was the only place I spent any real time.)

  4. Yeah, it’s black pudding where I live, although I prefer to call it pig leftovers…

    As for discovering British imports, it really depends on what sort of genres you’re into. If you Youtube the song ‘I’m Proud of the BBC’ you’ll get a whole list…

    • Hilarious! I had not seen that before, and greatly enjoyed it. I’ll try nearly any British import, though you’re quite right about the black pudding. Certainly an acquired taste (like warm lager.)

  5. My favorite “British import” is the ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL series of both books and the television show. With Dickens’ books a close second. And Alfred Hitchcock. 🙂

  6. Ugh black pudding, pigs bits, whatever. But a good post!

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