Let’s get it straight from the outset that I love the British people. Don’t you? I mean, they always seem pretty classy, they think everything is brilliant, and they not only know how to make scones, they know how to make them so dry that thick layers of jam and something called clotted cream are the only things that make them edible. Their word for dessert is “pudding,” which is a generally awesome word. They made it safe for the rest of the world to noisily slurp tea, and they know a little something about throwing a big fancy wedding.
There’s one thing the Brits do that I find particularly endearing. Like Jeopardy! contestants, they form all sentences as a question. Haven’t you noticed? Rather than stating “it’s a lovely day” Brits will say “Isn’t it a lovely day?” to which someone will respond “Quite, lovely, isn’t it?” to which someone else will respond “Well I certainly think it’s lovely, don’t you?”
This kind of thing will go around and around until everyone in a 5 mile radius has a puzzled look on their face while politely saying “I agree, don’t you?” I don’t know why the Brits need so much reassurance about whether it is or is not a lovely day. And frankly, “lovely” is in the eye of the beholder. So on an 85 degree, 100% humidity day, when someone tells me it’s beautiful outside, I typically respond that it’s disgusting outside; I prefer 65 degrees and a gray-blue sky. Maybe it’s not a problem for the Brits because they only get 4.26 nice days a year, and anything beats cold and rainy. Doesn’t it?
It’s not just the weather though; Brits are seemingly insecure about everything. If they love a book they want to know that you love it too. If they hated a movie they check with everyone around them to make sure they hated it too. If they make broad generalizations that Americans make broad generalizations about British culture, they need to know that others agree.
At the onset of the American Revolution, when Paul Revere was riding around announcing “The British are coming!” the British army was saying “We’re on our way then, aren’t we?” It’s a little known historical fact that the Americans gained independence by doing away with all the uncertainty. The American soldiers would say “Charge!” whereas the Brits said “Shall we charge now?”
Maybe it’s not insecurity but a ridiculous abundance of manners. “I do believe we’ll charge that hill now, if you don’t mind too terribly much?” Maybe it is a form of introspection, or philosophy. Don’t you think? Or perhaps you agree that it is the result of a keen intellectual curiosity?
Of course, we will never know the answer, will we? For now, let’s take a spot of tea, yes? Would you mind terribly if I asked you to pass the clotted cream?