The Guardian, particularly its Weekend magazine, has been publishing a lot of things that relate to transatlanticism these days, and I keep ripping them out and putting them on the 'blog ideas' pile. But here's one that I don't feel the need to say much more about: Simon Pegg on why British and American humo(u)r aren't really that different. His conclusions about our approaches to irony will sound familiar to those who have read Kate Fox's Watching the English.


  1. "Shaun of the Dead" was totally awesome - I saw it in the theater and then bought it on DVD.

    Actually, one of the funniest things about the DVD is that it has a short clip of a cleaned up version of the movie with the cuss words redubbed - so you have them saying "funk" and "prink."

  2. Great article to link to...and I have to admit that I (feeling particular lazy today) copied you and have linked the same article. But I DID give you credit, Lynnequist!


  3. Having just read Lynneguist's previous post about educational terms, I found the following quote from the Guardian article fairly ironic.

    "This isn't strictly true. Although it is true that we British do use irony a little more often than our special friends in the US."

    *grins* Just kidding!

  4. I LOVED Watching the English, especially the bits about sofa/couch/settee and living room/lounge/front room.

  5. The thing about "Watching the English" is that it's written from an upper-middle point of view.....

  6. I had an interesting/strange experience with a piece of fanfiction I wrote, which showed a definite divide between US and UK (and Commonwealth?) humour. And possibly also to do with how reading is taught.

    What happened was that I wrote a Harry Potter fanfiction story where Hermione was complaining that Ron never quite seemed to make the romantic grade when it came to being a boyfriend, but Harry always did everything perfectly for Ginny Weasley. Each couple went out to dinner for Valentine's Day and happened to be at the same establishment, so they decided to push their tables together. When the girls were given their V.Day presents, sure enough Ginny got an engagement ring and Hermione got a pair of earrings.

    But there was a twist. And NONE of the americans who read it - including a friend who was a Masters student in English at the time - 'got it'. They were confused, and not just about non-american English terminology for things such as 'book token'. They just plain did not understand the story, and had not picked up clues littered throughout which lead to understanding the twist.

    However, if I made the twist more obvious, the British (and Australian, NZ and Canadian) readers felt that the humour was gone and 'too much like a sledge hammer'.

    I ended up doing two versions of the story.

    (If you'd like to read them to see what I mean, I'll put links up for you)

  7. Lynne, please encourage alliethekiwi to let us know where we can read both versions of her story.

    I enjoyed Simon Pegg's article. And after reading all the Amazon reviews of Kate Fox's book, I have ordered it.

    Thank you, Lynne.

  8. Many apologies, Lynne, I wasn't intending to use this blog as a place to advertise my fanfiction. Eek. I truly only posted about it as a matter of possible interest.

    Anyway, delete this if you'd prefer it not to be here:

    Plugs and Protection (UK Edition)

    Plugs and Protection (US edition)

    I'd read the UK one first, since it's slightly more subtle. Also, of course, a bit of knowledge about the world of Harry Potter would be an advantage to understanding what on earth these stories are about.

    Please excuse the shoddy punctuation - have just noticed a few things that need tweaking.

    *head desk* Why on earth am I putting these links up where all you learned punctuation and grammar gods can snigger?

  9. I don't mind readers advertising relevant fiction--it's the spammers advertising dodgy real estate that I mind!

  10. An online comic about librarians called Unshelved is riffing on "Just kidding," from a purely Am. POV.


  11. As a Canadian, I read the UK version of the Potter story first, and I didn't understand the twist. I thought that Harry had purchased two gifts for Ginny, the ring and the earrings, and then given one of the gifts to Ron to help him out, because Ron was such an incompetent suitor. So, I couldn't understand why Hermione would be pleased that Harry had tried, and failed, to bail out her boyfriend.

    Only in the US version did I understand that Ron was bailing out Harry, rather than the other way around. Given JKR's characterization (and your own, in this story) of Ron as rather selfish, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing he'd do.

  12. I'm from New England. I read the UK version first, and I understood the twist.

    I did not find it funny or uplifting, though. As far as I'm concerned, you don't DO that. You just do NOT usurp someone's autonomy to decide something as important as when to propose.

    So when I read about the "G" on the earrings, I was..."aghast" might be a little *too* strong a word, but I was pretty surprised and not in a good way.

    I wonder if that isn't the reason Americans need it spelled out: simply that it's so against our customs to do that. I would even say to us (to me at least) it's *wrong* to do that.

    Ron didn't do something romantic, he did something liable to lead to a restraining order. That's an exaggeration, but honestly, only slightly.

    There's another issue too, and that is: from a(n American) girlfriend's POV, it's not romantic to discover your boyfriend cares more about his male best bud than you. "He gave MY ring to his best bud so the bud would have a ring to propose with, so now I can't have the customized ring that was picked out for me and would've been perfect for me" (because, Americans assume, you can't have the exact same *customized* ring as someone you see so often) = VERY MUCH NOT romantic.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)