Pronunciation is Everything.

The Boffin, The Sprog, and I are currently researching venues for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah.  I was looking at a site that had an 80s arcade and saw that they had a favorite game of mine, Galaga.

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Seen here with another favorite of mine, Ms. Pac Man. I lost hours of my life with these two. Photo courtesy of Brian Katt at the English language Wikipedia

Upon mentioning this to The Boffin, his response?

“Which one? The game or the guy with the watermelons?”

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It took me a few seconds to figure out who he was talking about since Gallagher had not crossed my mind in years.

Now I am waiting for him to bring up The Gong Show and Charo.

A Cup of Tea

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By Ian Pegg – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23313600

I know we have been seeing a lot of bad news, conflict, and general mess wherever we go lately. I am not trying to trivialize any of it, but I just want to offer the virtual form of the British panacea to show that there are still bits of comfort still there in the world to be cherished.

Pretend it is coffee, if you don’t like tea.  I aim to please.  You can look up pictures of your favorite biscuits to go with it.

I Mumble; Therefore, I am Angry.

After 15 years of marriage, The Boffin and I still cross our communication signals like all couples do.  We join the Mutual Irritation Society over my mumbling.  It’s simple.  I mumble to myself to process my thoughts.  He automatically assumes something is wrong and asks if I am OK.  I get annoyed that he assumes that I am angry yet again.  He gets annoyed that I am annoyed that he is looking out for my welfare.

And so it goes.

When it happened yet again this morning, we knew it was a blog post.  The Boffin said, to him, it’s an environmental thing.  Where he grew up, muttering to yourself meant that you were angry, and he can’t escape that social conditioning.

There is a popular Twitter account called Very British Problems that has even turned into a TV show.  It discusses the stages of anger.

The Boffin thinks that needs to be compressed a bit.

In order to severity:

1) Look everywhere else but at the person

2) Shake your head slowly, outside of their peripheral vision

3) Mumble

4) Tut

5) Stare aggressively at the back of the offender’s head

6) Invade the offender’s 2ft personal space radius

7) Engage them in polite conversation. Persist until they leave.

I can’t help but think his being in America so long has him resorting to the nuclear option of engaging in polite conversation.  And I am not sure where writing letters falls into this.

Regardless, back to our marriage, he knows when I am truly angry because I am a slow burner who goes silent.  I can control my temper very well, and someone can intervene to keep me calm and reason with me when I am on the edge.

But when I go…well, as far as having a “fight or flight” impulse, The Boffin has stated that there is not much flight in me.  I mostly have “grenade or baseball bat”.  Let me put it this way, whenever I take a The Big Lebowski personality quiz, Walter Sobchak always shows up.

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And no, I don’t roll on Shabbos either because I can’t bowl to save my life.

It is a case of my husband knowing my true personality vs. a conditioned response.

Some will say we are perpetuating stereotypes by proposing this idea. It is a valid comment. Of course, not all Britons mumble when they are angry and not all Britons would interpret mumbling as anger.

However, we are also talking about communication and how society agrees on what gestures and actions mean. Verbal language is hard enough, and we have dictionaries and other reference materials as guides. The Boffin is not the first British person who has interpreted my mumbling as “She’s in a strop,” which is something I have never encountered on this side of the Pond.  My mumbling has been interpreted as confusion over here, which is a different stereotype altogether.

So I can only give you my narrow experience with this, and I know it is not definitive. It would be interesting to hear how others have had their actions interpreted internationally.

Quality Street and the Advantage of the Tall Tin

It’s the time of the year when many people are fortunate enough to receive tins of chocolates.  But the truth of it is that most of us cave and buy them in November even though we have piles of Halloween candy left over.  At least, that is the way it works Stateside.

Well, the Nestlé Quality Street tin is one of the British national favorites and is available year round.  John Mackintosh first started making his toffees in his sweet shop in Halifax, West Yorkshire back in 1890.  His business grew so much that he opened his factory in 1898.  Unfortunately, it burned down in 1909, and Mr. Mackintosh ended up buying an old carpet factory and started again.  To make a long story short, after Mr. Mackintosh’s death, his son, Harold, inherited the business, and rebranded the toffees as Quality Street after a J.M. Barrie play.  It was a play off the words, “Quality Sweet”.  Nestlé bought Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988 and have maintained its deliciousness ever since.

As you can see from the French text, I imported ours from Canada with the custard powder.  There was a reason for this.  They had the tall tin.  The tall tin is very important.  The tall tin has the ever important guide.  We got the wide tin last year, and it didn’t have one.  Being that I am the American, I still don’t have the wrapper colors memorized, and I didn’t want to keep bothering The Boffin.  (“Which one is the green one again?”)

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The only other option is to get this tattooed on my arm.

Secondly, the tall tin is a good lesson in sharing for The Sprog because it forces her not to hog her favorite chocolates and leave the rest for us. As you can see from the opening, it prevents the person from rifling through to hunt for the “good” ones.

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And we can easily catch anyone who dumps the tin out. Because someone who hogs one particular kind of chocolate is a nobhead. And the worst thing is if you are left with the one chocolate that nobody likes because the others hogged the good ones. We don’t want our daughter to be a nobhead.  We are a family.  Family means being kind to each other and sharing the good chocolates.

And with that notion, I hope your friends and family share the good chocolates with you too.

Marital Codes or Why We Don’t Have Many Friends

The Boffin and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary on December 28th. And I realize, like many couples who have been together a long time, we have come up with our own code words and phrases that make sense to us but classify us as weirdos to the general public. I thought I would share a few in the spirit of making us just a little more understandable.

Lord Lucan 1 – “Lord Lucan” has become a long lost object: the forgotten leftover in the back of the fridge, the screwdriver that had been misplaced, that important piece of paperwork that was needed a month ago, etc. You get the idea. “I’ve found Lord Lucan!” is the tip-off sentence.

John Mills 2 – The ideal of masculinity that I jokingly thrust upon the Boffin.  I even have John Mills’s picture as the avatar for the Boffin’s contact info on my phone.

John Major voice – The Boffin is good at the former prime minister’s voice and characterizing this person. It is the voice of the overly educated, pedantic Englishman who complains about the most nitnoid things. (I don’t want to hear a word from the Boffin’s family.) It is the voice of the worst letters sent to Points of View. It is the person pointing out the blatantly obvious who is taking everything literally. The Boffin just wrote this letter as an example.

Dear Sir,

After 15 years of almost daily use, my Worthington Bishop 12oz teapot recently met with an untimely accident.  As a result, I found to necessary to procure a new teapot.  However, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that the Worthington Bishop no longer is made in the 12oz size, and I was therefore reluctantly force to buy the Worthington Bishop 16oz pot.  However, I have discovered that because I only fill the pot with 12oz of water. In order to compensate for the additional evaporative cooling resulting from the larger headspace, I have had to raise my house’s thermostat by 0.1°C (not an easy feat as it generally increments by only 1°C).  Assuming that this pot also lasts me 15 years, and similar issues are happening in every household in the United Kingdom, I have estimated that this will force us as a nation to consume the same amount of energy as Huddersfield consumes in about 1 minute and 23.2 seconds.

In keeping with the Government’s environmental policies, I suggest that you reintroduce the Worthington Bishop 12oz pot and, perhaps, bring out it’s Eco-qualities in your marketing campaign.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Herbert Q. Pedant

George and Mildred 3 – The elderly couple cruising at 20 mph in front of us.

Tom and Barbara 4 – Whenever The Boffin and I are in a gardening or, more likely, in an us-against-the world mode.

Woody and Tinny Words – Woody words are pleasant sounding words. Tinny words are harsh sounding ones.  Thank Monty Python for this one.

“My Hovercraft is Full of Eels” – Our response to a nonsensical statement. Of course, we have to attribute this to Monty Python too.

I like cheese. – Code for “My brain hurts. Let’s talk about nice things.”  Sylvester and co. are our friends.

PEOPLE! AAAAH! – Quoting Gossamer from the Bugs Bunny cartoon. Our “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” exclamation.

So, do you and your partner have any odd phrases you want to share?

1. To make a long story short, John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan disappeared in 1974 disappeared upon having a warrant for his arrest for the murder of his children’s nanny and the assault of his wife. To those in America, chances are, you haven’t heard of him. He was quite an interesting character to say the least.

2. If anyone has heard of Sir John Mills in the U.S., it is usually either as Hayley’s dad or the father from Swiss Family Robinson. Meanwhile, from the 1940s to the early 1960s, he pretty much epitomized English film masculinity: stiff upper lip, courage under fire, wry humor, knowing when to break the rules and when to conform. The running joke is that nobody has seen the beginning of Ice Cold in Alex in years because they happen to catch it while channel flipping and remain stuck watching it until the end. Sir John Mills never mattered to me until I met the Boffin.

3. George and Mildred was a spinoff sitcom of Man about the House. It was the equivalent of The Ropers being the spinoff of Three’s Company.

4. From the sitcom The Good Life or Good Neighbors, depending on where you live. Tom and Barbara Good, played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall respectively, were a couple living in the London suburbs who decided to become self-sufficient by growing their own food, raising livestock, and bartering to meet their needs.  The disconnect between the two worlds made for some classic comic moments.

Something for Next Year for “Guy Fawkes Day”

Unfortunately, I did my grocery shopping too late, so I missed a chance to utilize these helpful suggestions on how to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night according to one of my local grocery stores.

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Hey, it turns out that Guy Fawkes lead the conspiracy and not Robert Catesby.   Who knew?  And Guy Fawkes also did some time travel too because the Kingdom of Britain did not exist until 1707.  I thought it was still the the Kingdom of England and Wales in 1605.  He must have used the TARDIS.  The Doctor never seems to go anywhere apart from London, as far as I have seen.

Regardless, so what are Americans supposed to do, since there are no fireworks, bonfires, nor parades around these parts (although there used to be in early colonial days in New England)?  Well, it looks like we are supposed to drink Irish tea with chocolate covered digestive “crackers”.  Perhaps we can snack on baked beans on top of Irish beer-flavored potato chips.  Sounds pretty lame.  Is that all?

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The grocery store also gave an idea for a meal to fix along with some more specials.

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Ah!  It’s Cinco de Noviembre!

Considering we have some of the best Mexican food in the Chicagoland area, this could work.  Instead of the bonfires, we can make Guy Fawkes into a piñata, fill him with a lot of that leftover Halloween candy, and have the kids hit him with sticks.  And we are always looking for reasons to set off fireworks and explosives.  This is America.

What do you think?