Old folk at lunch

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' day


Mothers' day seems to be celebrated in all sorts of different days around the world but today was the day in Australia.

Susan and Paul put on a small lunch at their place to honour Jenny and Nanna -- to which I was also invited.  So I was among three mothers!

Susan cooked up some excellent roast pork with roast vegies and a potato bake.  And followed it up with a rolled pavlova that included banana.  I thought the banana went particularly well.  I probably disgraced myself a bit by having a big second helping.  As he sometimes does on these occasions Paul over-ate and was groaning from a too-full tummy at one point.  But with such good food, you could hardly blame him.

We had some very animated conversations -- mostly about England.

A large part of our conversation was an attempt by me to explain England to Paul  -- a rather optimistic enterprise considering the oddities of the English.  The pesky thing about England is that there are important things that everybody knows but nobody mentions.  You almost have to be born there to be "in the know".  I was trying to fill Paul in on such things.

I was particularly keen to get Paul familiarized with the shibboleths of the Home Counties.  Paul has been to Britain in the past but mostly visiting relatives in regional England.  And, as even the English admit, North and South of Watford are rather different places.

"Rather different places" is a Home Counties way of putting it.  If I were an American I would most likely have written "worlds apart"!  They even pronounce "butter" in the German way North of Watford.  Such pronunciation would always be greeted with silence South of Watford but it will be silent contempt!  I was, inter alia,  trying to help Paul hear such silences.

And as for the Northern pronunciation of "bubble gum" (booble goom where "oo" is as in "look") subsequent washing out of ears is almost required. And "Home Counties" has become a somewhat unmentionable expression these days too!  Complications!

Paul was naive enough to expect that hard work would be respected in the upper echelons of English society.  I had to disillusion him and tell him that it is in fact effortless ease which is the desideratum there.

And use of Latin expressions always earns cautious respect there!  Latin is redolent of public schools and Classics at Oxbridge.  No Englishman will ever ask you for a translation of a Latin expression, however.  He would feel crushed to admit he needed one!  See here.

And the English are right not to challenge Latinists. For instance, I sometimes use in my writings the phrase Sui generis so it is possible that I might use it in speech one day. If I did, I would pronounce "generis" with a hard "g", which is not the most common pronunciation. If some poor soul challenged me on that, with the claim that the G should be pronounced as a "j", I would say: "Ah! You are using the church pronunciation. I prefer the Augustan, myself". It seems a small point but in England the humiliation of my interlocutor would be massive.

Even if the person knew nothing about issues in Latin pronunciation, the steady gaze of my bright blue eyes upon him accompanied by a small smile would tell him all he needed to know. The English are very sensitive to manner and a quietly confident manner is a hallmark of the upper class. And arguing with the upper class will generally earn nothing but scorn



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