Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two British Peculiarities

1. When Barbara and I were in England recently, we were amazed at the number of pages in English newspapers. One Sunday paper had 110 pages, with three additional separate supplements. Imagine the Sunday edition of the "New York Times" every day...

I also noticed the strange British habit of treating the names of football teams and county cricket sides as plurals. For example, (imaginary): "Villa seek new manager". I can interpret the shorthand names of teams (in this case "Aston Villa"), but I still find it very strange to see a singular subject and a plural verb. I suppose the logic (if you can call it that) is that sports teams necessarily involve a number of players, and the singular noun becomes an implied plural.

Most American football teams have a "coach", normally paid much more than the General Manager. In UK soccer, the "Manager" does the coaching, usually with several assistants.

2. Important features of British life are the two annual "Honours Lists". One of these is issued as the New Year opens, and the other is the so-called Birthday Honours List. This is issued on the Queen's "official birthday". It is also an occasion for celebration and pageantry, all good for the tourist trade. (A supplementary List may be issued on the resignation of the Prime Minister, etc.)

Not only politicians are featured in the Honours Lists. Movie stars, sports figures, and many other people from all walks of life are recognized. Few new hereditary titles are added, although occasionally an existing hereditary Baron (say) may be raised to a Viscount, and so forth. There are many Life Peers being created, however.

An exception is made for Royalty. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William & Kate) are wildly popular, and their wedding was the Event of the Season.

The Queen's actual birthday is on April 21, in the early spring. In some years that will be a bright sunny day, with displays of daffodils in the many London parks and elsewhere, but there is the old saying that "April showers brings May flowers", and the ever-present threat of rain often makes it unsuitable for parades and picnics. Also, there aren't many tourists around in April - they are more likely to be spending "April in Paris".

I don't know who invented the concept of an "official birthday" at the time of its origin in 1748, but I hope the clever person who came up with the idea received a suitable award in one of the Honours Lists.

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