Saturday, 24 December 2011

Quote of the day

I just heard someone say this about Peter Lawford, on a radio trailer for a programme about him:

'He was tall, ridiculously good-looking, and British, without being goofy about it.'

The speaker was an American. I love the idea of managing to be British without being goofy about it. What can it mean? What form would the goofiness take? Endless quoting of PG Wodehouse? Ostentatious drinking of tea? Constant renderings of Land of Hope and Glory? An obsessive drive to understatement? The breeding of bulldogs?

I'm trying to think of the most British thing ever. What runs into my mind, carrying a Union flag, is the habit of Ordinary Decent Britons to say 'Oh, you know, not too bad,' when asked how they are. This usually means: the dog died, I lost all my money in a Ponzi scheme, my other half has just run off with my best friend, and the roof is leaking. But you know, not too bad.


  1. Thanks for the heads up on the Peter Lawford documentary, will definitely be tuning into that one on Radio 4.

    On the subject of very British things to do, how about our wonderful habit of apologising even if someone bumps into us in the street and our instinct to always form a queue in an orderly fashion no matter what. Such politeness!

  2. Best guess is that the speaker meant that Lawford did not overemphasize his Britishness. Sadly, too many Americans are not very aware of those wonderful British (and Canadian) qualities of politeness, modesty and understated strength. Off the cuff, many think instead of the Oxbridge accent, the finicky manners that used to mark British characters in old movies, etc. Both of those characterizations---or more precisely, caricatures---are still used mindlessly in advertising in the US. Lawford was able to British, but not so much as to scare the horses (by American standards). Go figure.



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