Tag Archives: scotland

427. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show

An episode analysing more British comedy, this time focusing on a couple of sketches from Limmy’s Show, an award-winning TV comedy produced by BBC Scotland. See below for transcriptions, notes and videos.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

I was vaguely planning to go through a sort of history of British comedy in chronological order, over a series of episodes, but I just feel like doing an episode today about a series called Limmy’s Show because I’ve been enjoying it recently.

In this episode you’ll get

  • Listening (obviously) but this one’s going to be a little tricky because you’ll be listening to a couple of sketches that might be hard to understand for various reasons.
  • Culture. Since this is comedy, there’s a lot of unspoken meaning which you might not notice. Humour is well-known for being one of the most difficult things to pick up on in another language, which is precisely why it’s a good idea for me to go through some comedy with you on the podcast. Of course, you might not get it. You might not find it funny. That’s fine. What I find enjoyable might leave you completely cold. That could be a question of taste, but it could be a question of cultural context. In fact, in my experience of being a teacher, I’ve noticed many cases of my students just not getting comedy when it’s shown to them. Even stuff that’s considered by the majority of people to be funny, just doesn’t work with learners of English. It’s not until you get to a proficient level of English that you start to notice the unspoken humour or subtlety of a piece of comedy in English. This is because it requires really advanced English skills to notice the nuances that make something amusing, but also because of the difference in mindset or cultural context. You simply might not find it funny just because of cultural conventions. This is why some people disparagingly refer to “British comedy” as being weird, unfunny, very surreal or conceptual. It’s not really that intellectual, it’s just subtle and I think we have a broad scope for comedy. Anyway, I’m not going to get bogged down in trying to explain British comedy, it’s better to just show it to you and try to help you understand it as best I can. But the point I was trying to make is that I want to try and close the gap between what I understand and enjoy about a comedy sketch, and what you might understand and enjoy about it. So, hopefully I can bridge a cultural gap as well as a linguistic gap by doing this sort of episode.
  • Vocabulary – there’s is some good, meaty vocab in the sketches we’re going to hear, from several different registers. You’ll hear some slightly formal spoken English from an executive level business man talking to the police, and some informal English with slang, spoken in a dialect. There will be vocabulary.
  • Accent – the sketches we’re going to study are all set in the Glasgow area of Scotland, so you’ll be hearing some English spoken with Glasgow accents – some quite mild and some really strong.
  • Amusement. Who knows, as well as all this English practice, you might also simply enjoy the sketches! I hope so.

What is Limmy’s Show?

Limmy’s Show is a sketch show which was broadcast on the BBC in Scotland a few years ago. A lot of the sketches from the show are on YouTube and in fact that’s where I’ve seen all of it.

Limmy’s Show is written and directed by a guy from Glasgow called Brian Limond. I think he got his show after getting quite well known from doing a podcast and some YouTube videos. He also did performances at the Edinburgh Festival. Basically, he got a sort of cult following on the internet and that led to him getting his own TV sketch show on BBC Scotland. The thing is, his show was never broadcast in England, only on TV in Scotland, which is a pity for the English because it’s a really good show.

Buy Limmy’s Show on DVD here

I guess that the Scottishness is a large part of the appeal of the show. I think it has a lot to do with it. All the characters in the sketches are Scottish and speak mostly with Glaswegian accents, and the scenes all take place in and around Glasgow.

The sketches feature different characters, mostly played by Limmy. He plays a range of characters from different social backgrounds.

The sketches are often quite surreal, bizarre or dark. Often they feature characters with weird behaviour, or Limmy talking directly to the camera about an aspect of life that he’s noticed. Some sketches just make me think, or just confuse me a bit – but in a good way.
Sometimes they’re laugh out loud funny, sometimes just amusing and sometimes just a bit curious in the way they present quite odd observations about everyday life. Some sketches are a bit disturbing, and others are even a bit sad. All in all, Limmy’s Show is original and refreshingly unconventional, as well as being funny.

It’s worth mentioning again the significance of the accents you’ll hear in Limmy’s Show. As I said, they’re all Scottish, specifically Glaswegian. Some of the characters speak with very heavy Glaswegian accents, and I think that’s part of the appeal to be honest. You don’t often hear those accents on TV. Sometimes they’re difficult to understand if you don’t come from there. Even people from the UK, like people from London struggle to understand the show sometimes, especially when certain characters are talking. There are loads of comments on YouTube from foreigners around the world, including native English speakers in America, saying that they can’t understand anything. Some people on YouTube request transcriptions because they can’t understand the sketches and you can see that other people have written out full transcriptions to the sketches in the comment section on YouTube, and there are loads of other comments from people saying “Oh, thanks so much, I never could have understood this without the transcript!”

So, you get the idea that this is going to be some proper Glaswegian English that you’re going to hear.
For me, that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. I love the accent. It’s awesome. I love hearing the particularities of the way these characters pronounce words and phrase their sentences. In a way it becomes more expressive and characterful, to the extent that the accent and speech pattern is a large part of what makes the sketches so fascinating and enjoyable.

So, let’s enjoy listening to Glaswegian English here.

I’ve got a few sketches I want to deal with, from a couple of characters. I’d like to go through loads of these sketches but I can’t do them all. So, I’ve picked out just a couple of ones that I like and that feature slightly different accents and characters, showing a bit of diversity in the way they speak.

Mr Mulvaney

We’ll start with a sketch featuring a character called Mr Mulvaney, who is an executive level business man from Glasgow.

Here’s how we’re going to do it.

  • I’ll just play the sketch to you first without a lot of explanation.
  • Simply listen and try to follow what’s going on. If you don’t find it funny, then no bother.
  • Just try to work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a little bit of detail at the start.
  • Afterwards I’ll explain what happened and talk about why I think it’s funny.
  • Then I’ll go through it in more detail, pausing after each bit, explaining vocabulary, accent differences and repeating what he says.
  • You can find the videos on my site if you want to watch them again.
  • So that’s the process.

Mr Mulvaney – Creme Egg

The scene
Mr Mulvaney is sitting in his modern looking office. He’s the director of the company. It looks very corporate. He’s in a suit and has grey hair. The company logo shows that this is the Mulvaney Group – it must be a large corporation. Mulvaney looks serious. His office building is open plan, with glass partitions between each section, so Mulvaney is alone in his room but he can see outside into the rest of the floor through the glass walls.

He calls his secretary to order a taxi for later. It’s all businesslike and serious. Then he sees a couple of police in uniform enter the building and talk to someone on reception. At this point, Mr Mulvaney panics!

A summary of the whole sketch

An executive business man overreacts when he sees the police in his office building and assumes they have come to question him about a crime he has committed. It looks like he’s committed a very serious crime, like a murder, and he frantically tries to work out his story by having an imaginary conversation with the police. On his own he practises telling his story as convincingly as possible, even adding authentic sounding questions from the police. It turns out that he hasn’t done anything very serious. He’s just stolen a chocolate bar from a shop, but he’s acting as if it’s a capital offense. In the end we realise that the police aren’t even looking for him and we don’t really know why he’s doing the things he’s doing. He could in fact be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

What I find funny about it this sketch

  • The fact that he’s a high-powered business man who is involved in petty theft is sort of funny because of the contrast between his high status and the low status nature of the crime.
  • There’s a contrast between the serious way he is acting and the pettiness of the crimes he’s committed.
  • Comedy sometimes comes from the reveal of something previously hidden. These scenes reveal something about his personality and what he’s done – he’s the managing director of the company, a very serious role, but his life is on the edge of spinning out of control, like in some kind of thriller.
  • The performance. Limmy’s performance is really funny. He switches between different attitudes quickly: calm controlled businesslike manner, the panic and fear of being caught by the police, him getting a grip on himself, playing the part of the police officer very convincingly, him acting all indignant and shocked when the police suggest that he might have committed the crime, protesting his innocence, the relief of getting away with it, the determination to stop this kind of crazy behaviour and make sure it never happens again.
  • Playing with TV conventions. This is the sort of thing we have seen many times in TV shows, books and films. There are loads of thrillers in which someone in a high status position has committed a crime and when the police come to ask questions they act cooperative and yet completely innocent, while silently panicking on the inside. Every other murder mystery has a character like that in it. This time it’s played for laughs because the crime is not serious at all – it’s just a stolen chocolate bar or something.

Mr Mulvaney – In The Car

Mr Mulvaney – Fire Alarm

Part 2 coming soon…

With analysis of a completely different sketch by Limmy.

Other episodes about British comedy from the archive

 

336. Drinking Scottish Whisky at a German Business Meeting While Wearing a Kilt and Playing a Flute… and other stories (with Carrick Cameron)

This episode features another natural conversation with a native English speaker. This time I’m talking to my mate Carrick, who I’ve known for about 10 years now. He is a teacher who used to work in the same school as me, back in London. We have a few things in common, like the fact that we’ve both had strange travelling experiences as English teachers, including the time when he once attended a meeting in Germany that involved not only the usual business work but also the drinking of some very rare and expensive scotch whiskies, which meant that the meeting turned into a kind of musical party with guitar and flute playing, quite a lot of whisky drinking, a late night and then, unsurprisingly, a bit of a hangover the next day. Listen to hear a few anecdotes, some authentic English conversation and more.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]
All this took place in Germany as I said, so you could say that he had a “hangover in Hanover” (Hanover is a city in Germany). Although to be honest he was actually in Frankfurt not Hanover – yeah, I just wanted to use the line “a hangover in Hanover”. Yes, that was supposed to be clever and funny, but never mind. :P

Anecdotes

We also share a few other anecdotes about travelling experiences we’ve had, including the time when I ended up being invited to my Japanese doctor’s house on New Year’s Day to make a kind of traditional cake by bashing a ball of wet rice over and over again with a big wooden mallet while being laughed at by a group of small children. Does that sound familiar at all? Have you ever done that? You might have, if you’re Japanese, or if you’ve spent new year in Japan. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Well, keep listening to find out.

Sound Quality

Another quick thing to say now is that admittedly the sound quality during the interview is a bit poor. I recorded it over Skype because I’m in France and Carrick is in England, and Carrick wasn’t able to get to a computer with a good microphone because he was (and still is) completely stuck to his sofa with a very bad back, the poor guy. He’s got a nasty slipped disc in his back which means he can’t move. So during this conversation he was basically lying on his back, talking to me over Skype with his phone in his hand.

So, yes, I know the sound is not 100% great and it might be difficult to hear his words at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually very common these days to speak English over Skype or on conference calls – like for example if you’re in an international business meeting talking to someone who’s in another country. The sound isn’t always perfect in those situations, is it? So, I think you need to get used to hearing English in less than perfect conditions. So, Audio quality is a bit bad, but don’t give up – you’ll get used to it after a while. It’s good practice.

While You Listen

As you listen, watch out for these things: the moments when Carrick (intentionally) switches from an English accent to a Scottish accent and back again, the way he describes different types of Scotch Whisky including words to describe their tastes and where they are made. So be mindful of vocabulary and grammar that you’re hearing, but above all – just enjoy being able to listen in on this conversation between a couple of mates. You can imagine you’re in the room with me listening to the conversation on speakerphone.

Ok, that’s it for my introduction. I’ll now get out of the way and let you listen to conversation in full. I’ll speak to you again when the conversation is over.

*Conversation Begins*

Talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking.

*Conversation Ends*

So, that was Carrick. I really hope his back gets better soon because it must be pretty miserable for him to be just lying there all the time. I expect all of us sometimes think “Ooh, I’d love to spend 3-4 weeks lying on my back all day watching TV, high on a cocktail of prescription drugs.” (well, not everyone thinks that but you know what I mean) but when that lifestyle is forced on you as a result of an accident, it’s not that much fun is it. So, I hope Carrick gets well soon for his own sake, but also I hope he gets well soon for the sake of his wife and kids too, who might want to actually sit on that sofa and watch TV themselves at some point, and I also hope Carrick gets back on his feet soon for the sake of the kids in his school who are probably missing Mr Cameron in their classes!

More Stuff about Sound Quality (actually, it wasn’t that bad, was it?)

So, this is nearly the end of the episode. I wonder how the sound quality was for you? I expect it was a bit difficult to hear every word but you got used to it. Is that right? What’s that? It was difficult at the start but you got used to it? Ah good, I thought so. Sorry? You couldn’t understand everything – it was difficult and possibly a bit frustrating at times? Ah, sorry about that, but I think it’s good practice because your brain has to work a bit harder to guess the things you don’t understand. It’s good training. What was that you said? You’d expect the audio quality to be much higher in future please. Oh, alright, well – sorry but this is a free podcast right? So, you get what you pay for ok?

No, I agree. It would be better if the quality was always perfect, but that’s not always going to happen. Sometimes when I interview people on Skype the sound might be less than perfect, but as I said before – that’s normal in the real world, sometimes the sound quality will not be perfect when you’re using English over the phone or on a conference call. It’s good for you to get used to it.

Things to remember about learning a language (encouragement)

Just remember these things: learning a language is a long-term project and you will encounter various obstacles but you mustn’t give up. One of those obstacles might be that you can’t understand every word in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, or in a conference call. So, even if you didn’t understand all of that. Don’t give up. I realise I’m preaching to the converted here, because if you’re listening to this it means that you listened to the whole conversation and you didn’t stop. So, well done you.

Shall I do an episode in which I explain the vocab, like in episode 335?

But really, I wonder if you’d like me to record a follow-up to this conversation in which I explain and clarify the content, like I did after the Craig Wealand interview. If you would like me to do that, let me know by leaving a comment or giving me an email at luketeacher@hotmail.com. I value your feedback.

italki

Don’t forget to use italki to find a native speaker for conversations or a teacher for lessons. It really is a great way to push your English to higher and higher levels. Visit teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and when you make a purchase italki will give you 100 free credits which you can spend on lessons in the future.

One tip: use the “search teachers” function to find the right teacher for you, and that includes special skills like Cambridge Exam preparation and business English. teacherluke.co.uk/talk or click an italki logo on my website.

italki teacher search page

A couple of comments at the end, just before we finish up here.

  • If you’ve sent me an email recently, or ever, and I haven’t responded I am sorry. I can’t respond to them all but I do read them all I promise! I also send emails to people and don’t get responses and I know how it feels. I’m a huge fan of Greg Proops and Adam Buxton. I met Greg Proops at a book signing in Paris, shook his hand and exchanged a few words (I told him I was a comedian and he nodded sagely). I wanted to talk to him for hours, but I just said “nice one” and left. I then wrote him a long email, telling him how much I enjoyed his podcast called “The Smartest Man in the World” and I wrote a very British invitation to join me on an episode of LEP some time. I never got a reply. I also tweet comments to Adam Buxton all the time, who I am sure is an absolutely lovely person but I never get a reply or a retweet or anything, but that’s ok of course, I don’t mind, but I feel a little bit ignored, you know? Again, I don’t feel entitled to a reply or any attention at all because his part of the deal has already been done – he’s already given me hours of lovely talking on his podcast so he can’t be expected to respond to every tweet or email. Totally fine with it. So, anyway, thanks for your comments, messages, emails, tweets and so on – I appreciate your thoughts very very much.
  • Again, thank you to my Japanese doctor if he’s listening (I doubt it) for not only saving my skin when I was sick by taking care of me, giving me medicine and arranging for me to spend two weeks in Kinugasa hospital. I liked the video you played to me when we were both drunk on that New Year’s Day (at about 4.30pm I believe) in which you and your band were playing a live version of “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers. It was awesome.
  • Hello to anyone who likes whisky – I hope you enjoyed this episode.
  • Hello to the people of Scotland – I hope you choose to stay in the UK, but I’d understand if you choose to leave. I hope you don’t though. (I didn’t ask Carrick about Scottish Independence – maybe that can be a future episode)
  • Hello to a Japanese LEPster called Satomi who recently came to one of my shows here in Paris. Satomi, it was very nice to meet you and your friends after the show and I am very glad that you chose to introduce yourself to me. Give my regards to Yoshi – that’s a French guy who she was with, who called himself Yoshi, and not the cute dinosaur who is friends with Super Mario. Yes, I had a Yoshi at my show. In fact, not long ago I had a Luigi at the show too. I’m yet to have a Mario there, but let’s hope so. I wonder what it would be like to have Mario in my audience. I wonder how he would laugh. Maybe he’d go “wawawawawa” (Mario noise), or maybe if I talked for too long without making a joke he’d heckle me by saying “Letsa GO!” and I’d say – “can you stop heckling?” and he’d say “It’s MARIO time!” and I’d say, “*securty* remove this man from the room please he’s disturbing the performance”.
  • Hello to the lovely Argentinian couple who listen to this podcast and who also came to another one of my recent comedy shows. It was lovely to meet you too!
  • Let’s go back to Japan for a moment – Hello to all my Japanese listeners. I love Japan very much and I miss it a lot. Whenever I see pics of Japan on Facebook or listen to music from that I used to listen to when I was there I always think “ah 懐かしい” – “Nihon Natukashii ne!” which roughly translates as “Ah, good old Japan!” That phrase is used to express feelings of nostalgia. You know those waves of nostalgia that you feel when you remember something? You might see a photo, or perhaps smell some food that brings you right back, or you might actually go to the place and immediately feel a kind of comfort in being there. That’s exactly how I feel when I drink a really good cup of Yorkshire tea or something, like “Ah, good old Yorkshire tea”, or “Yookusha tea natsukashii da-yo ne?” So, hello Japan, I know you’re listening – “O genki desu ka?” which is a bit like saying “alright?” in English. I do plan to visit Japan with my wife – I must show her around the place a bit, I think she’d love it and I’d be able to say “natsukashii”, “heeee” and “hooooo” all the time. It would be nice to go drinking (in moderation of course) in an izakaya or something. And perhaps someone might go red in the face and fall asleep after having a couple of beers. Look after yourselves, ok!
  • Photos – check below to see some pics of Carrick’s funny experience at the German business meeting in Frankfurt at Deutche Bahn. If you work at Deutche Bahn – get in touch! Perhaps you know someone who was at the meeting. It’s possible. You should also find a pic of me hammering a ball of rice with a wooden mallet to make mochi, while wondering what was going on in my life! (I now realise what was going on – I was having a lot of fun indeed).
  • You’ll also find the names of Carrick’s favourite whiskies and the other brand name whiskies we mentioned in the episode, in case you want to check them out.
  • Thanks again for listening. :)

Carrick’s Top 3 Single-Malt Scotch Whiskies

1. Lagavulin
– from the island of Islay
– It’s delicious
– It’s smokey
– It’s filtered through peat

2. Macallan
– It’s from the Highlands
– It’s got a smooth, creamy texture
– It’s like very alcoholic milk (although it doesn’t look like milk of course)

3. Caol Ila
– It has a subtle flavour
– It’s like Lagavulin but more delicate

Other types of whisky
Blended scotch whisky – it’s made from a blend of different whiskies, it’s cheaper and is easy to find in supermarkets. Typical brands: Teacher’s, Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal.

American brands of bourbon whiskey (they’re not Carrick’s ‘bag’ = he doesn’t really like them, they’re not his cup of tea)
Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark.

That Japanese “best whisky in the world”
I think Carrick was talking about this one – Nikka Whisky (it doesn’t begin with a Y, unless you mean “Why?” – and the answer is – “Because it tastes so good!”) www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/nikka-whisky-taketsuru-pure-malt-17-years-old.13912.html

Photos

Other useful episodes of LEP

This episode featured several anecdotes. Click here to listen to an episode about how to tell anecdotes in English.

Click here to listen to the full story of how I got sick in Japan. 

262. What is Britishness? (Part 2)

Welcome back to part 2 of this episode in which we are exploring the subject of Britishness. In this one we are looking at how the Brits define and understand their own national identity. [Download]


Image: Gene Bible www.genebible.co.uk
Small Donate ButtonHow do British People define “Britishness”?
When you ask the average British person to define “Britishness” I find that they always give certain ‘stock answers’ to this question too. As we know, it’s hard to truly define this concept, so you end up listing various associations, which don’t fully deal with the whole subject in a satisfyingly complete way.

Video
I found a video on YouTube called “What is Britishness?” by Rebecca Devaraj. It’s a short video exploring Britishness for her final-year university project.
It looks like she spent the morning in a local park, asking passers-by the question “What is Britishness?”
Listen to the audio. Can you guess which answer I think is the best?

Some vocab from the video
Having a stiff upper lip and getting on with things
Being accepting and just getting on with it
Bulldog – it has connotations with Churchill, and the advert… www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbz-IsEOCKo
Bad weather – torrents (torrents of rain) ***I’ve just realised that they said “tolerance” not torrents! Did you notice that?***
Progress
We get behind our sports teams
You just are British – that’s it really. If you’re British – you enter the mix.

The best comment?
For me it’s the guy (Professor Jeremy Black, author of “A Short History of Britain”) who says this:
“I would have thought that Britishness defines the characteristics of whoever are the citizens of Britain, whatever their origins at any one time. Ordinarily, we would argue that Britishness is linked to notions of liberty and freedom and in fact the very diversity that makes it difficult to define what Britishness means”.

Wikipedia Definition

Britishness is the state or quality of being British,[2][3] or of embodying British characteristics,[3] and is used to refer to that which binds and distinguishes the British people and forms the basis of their unity and identity,[4] or else to explain expressions of British culture—such as habits, behaviours or symbols—that have a common, familiar or iconic quality readily identifiable with the United Kingdom.[5] Dialogue about the legitimacy and authenticity of Britishness is intrinsically tied with power relations and politics;[6] in terms of nationhood and belonging, expressing or recognising one’s Britishness provokes a range of responses and attitudes, such as advocacy, indifference or rejection.[6] Macphee and Poddar state that although the designation of the two differing terms, Britishness and Englishness, is not simple as they are invariably conflated, they are both tied into the identity of the British Empire and nation, since these last two are altering considerably as Englishness and Britishness do too. Thus the slippage between the two words can be seen as a play between these changing dynamics.[7]

That’s interesting.

So, in summary that means it’s:
– Whatever distinguishes British people and culture from other nations, whatever is unique to the UK.
– It includes habits, behaviours, or symbols that are specific or familiar to the UK
– This conversation usually ends up with references to the power structure of the UK – politics and monarchy.
– Expressing Britishness provokes a range of feelings. For example, waving a British flag might cause people (in the UK) to go “Yey!” or “whatever” or “I find that offensive”.
– “Britishness” and “Englishness” are different things, but they are often used to mean the same thing – Britain from an international point of view, especially as an empire.

So, what’s the difference between Britain, and England? (and indeed Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
Why would it be offensive to wave a British flag?

Generally in England it’s less offensive, but in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you might meet people who put their countries before the union of the UK, and in fact feel that the UK was forced on them in some way.
What about waving an English flag?
In England, the UK flag is associated with unity, inclusion, multiculturalism and so on. The English flag on its own is more associated with English nationalism, which in turn is associated with empire building, colonialisation and also football hooligans. Generally, the English flag is displayed when there’s a football match, and the behaviour that goes along with that.

In terms of how Brits define Britishness… This Guardian Article Sums It Up Rather Well
www.theguardian.com/uk-news/guardianwitness-blog/2014/jun/09/scottish-independence-10-things-that-sum-up-britishness

What about the Scots, the Welsh & the Northern Irish?
I’m English, and British, so when I talk about Britishness, I’m also talking about Englishness to a certain extent, but Britain also includes Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland. Do they feel included in all this talk of Britishness?
Not necessarily. Some people in those countries feel strongly about independence and resent being ‘lumped in with England’. They believe their countries have unique identities too, which are not always represented when people talk about Britishness. Some would rather not be part of Britain at all, as we say recently in Scotland with the strong independence movement.
Personally, I think Britishness is quite a flexible term, and it does include Scottishness, Welshness and Northern Irishness, but I can understand they get pissed off that their culture is not always represented in this kind of discussion. Personally, I was born and raised in England, and so many of my British associations are also English. I’d like to get more Scottish, Welsh and Irish people on my podcast.
Also, it’s worth remembering that most people don’t feel all that strongly about it. I reckon most people just want to get on and don’t want too much fuss. I’m proud of that too – usually resentment between countries in the UK does not result in violence these days, although that’s not to say violence has not occurred in the past, particularly regarding terrorist attacks related to the troubles in Northern Ireland, which is a subject that deserves to be covered fully in a podcast in the future.

What I think / What I’m proud of
When my students were brainstorming their British associations, I did too. Here’s my list, of personal British associations (in no particular order).

Tolerance and acceptance (although there seems to be a
Freedom (although this is a growing movement against immigration and about taking back the country from unwelcome foreign visitors – that British identity is being lost due to too many foreigners, and the fact we’re run by the EU. Those are views held by a fairly marginal political party called UKIP, who are having a big effect on voting patterns and the political landscape in the UK)
Fairness -“It’s just not cricket” (but are we really fair?)
Pragmatism – getting things done
Humour
Resolve
Music
Comedy
Literature
The land itself
Cricket, Rugby (football too?)
The diverse accents
The NHS
Diversity & Acceptance of Diversity
Certain inventions
Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson
Drinking Tea with milk, the proper way
Pretending to be proudly British!
Taking the piss
Pubs
Liverpool, Birmingham, London
A slight sense of guilt about Scotland, Wales, Ireland etc – but knowing that is also nonsense, but it’s there a bit.
Tolkein
Monty Python
Ali G
I could go on…

When I came back from Japan, I saw the UK with fairly fresh and objective eyes. I remember the greenness of the place, the relaxedness, the small mindedness. It was very Tolkienesque.

Some things I’m not proud of, like certain racist or small-minded people, poor public services, corruption and elitism, blind national pride, etc…

All in all, I hope that Brits, and English people too, remember that our countries are diverse places and that is what makes us strong.

Billy Bragg – England, Half English (Live)

Lyrics

My mother was half English and I’m half English too
I’m a great big bundle of culture, tied up in the red white and blue
I’m a fine example of your Essex man
And I’m well familiar with the Hindustan (This is an Indian English-language daily newspaper)
‘Cause my neighbors are half English and I’m half English too

My breakfast was half English and so am I, you know
I had a plate of Marmite soldiers, washed down with a cappuccino
And I have a veggie curry about once a week
The next day I fry it up as bubble and squeak
‘Cause my appetites, half English and I’m half English too

Dance with me to this very English melody
From morris dancing to Morrissey
All that stuff came from across the sea

Britannia, she’s half English, she speaks Latin at home
St. George was born in the Lebanon, how he got here I don’t know
And those three lions on your shirt
They never sprang from England’s dirt
Them lions are half English and I’m half English too

Le-li, umma le-li-ya, le-li Umma le-li-ya
Le-li, umma le-li-ya, bledi g’desh akh! Le-li-ya

Oh, my country, what a beautiful country you are.

The conclusion (of sorts)
Britishness, like any cultural identity, is always changing. These things never stay the same. There is always a sense that the culture is being lost. That’s just the sense of the present order slipping away and being replaced by the new one, at every moment of every minute – things are changing and nothing will stay the same. That brings some sense of fear and panic – the idea that we’re going to lose the good things we have.

People also need a clearly defined culture in order to feel secure, so they know where they are and they can trust the people around them. People tend to prefer the things they know and distrust things they don’t know. It’s quite easy to blame others for that frightening sense that things are changing for the worse.

I think this is why a lot of people have fear and hatred of immigrants and foreigners. They’re scared of the unknown agents of change who look and behave differently. I suppose it’s human nature, but it’s sad and unnecessary when it ends up in violence and suffering. Obviously, we shouldn’t tolerate certain behaviour.

Where am I going with this?

What I mean is – there is no such thing as true “Britishness” unless it is just a snapshot of what is happening right at this moment in Britain. What is going on? What are most people thinking and doing? It’s almost impossible to comprehend the subtlety of what Britishness really is at any moment, because it’s so complex. That’s why the question invites the standard mind-numbing responses, like “It’s The Queen, tea, strawberry jam, Monty Python, a game of cricket, 9 pints of lager and a fight outside the chip shop” – people just list things they associate with the UK because there’s no other way of explaining it. Just a bunch of associations.

Britishness is negotiated
Also, I believe that Britishness is not an absolute concept, it’s something which is negotiated. Everyone has their own version of Britishness, and in fact Britishness changes depending on who is in power, who’s got the money, the influence and the cultural capital. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you say that Britishness is all about cricket, when hardly anyone plays cricket any more because there’s no money in it.

Britishness is a blanket term which is supposed to incorporate all the diverse elements of multiculturalism.
Britishness means diversity, inclusivity and a celebration of the success and positivity of multiculturalism. So, in that sense, Britishness is something which is supposed to unify us, provide us with a sense of pride and therefore duty and obligation to the country we belong to. We’re less likely to smash the system if we believe in it.

Britishness is a unifying force which just keeps everything together
After the 2005 terror attacks, the government were keen to reinforce national pride, to promote the British brand to its own people, in an effort to fight back against the destructive forces behind the attacks. The idea of a Britishness day was suggested, but it didn’t really go anywhere. What could that be? A day when we argue about what Britishness is? Also, it’s all a bit close to nationalism, and we don’t like that in the UK. Nobody wants to be associated with facism, so often people have a defensive attitude to national pride, usually along the lines of “I think it’s fine to be proud of Britain” or “I AM proud of Britain and there’s nothing wrong with that.” It’s usually that sort of thing.

What about all the bad things done in the name of Britain? Are you proud of them too?
Most people seem quite happy to pick and choose which aspects they are proud of. They usually will ignore the atrocities in our colonial past, proudly declaring their pride in English tea – despite the treatment of India during the colonial era.
I’m wary of being too proud of my country because I know that we’ve done some pretty bad things in the past. Also, I think national pride can be blinding, and ultimately quite destructive. It’s good to be proud of your roots, but there is a more important thing to remember – that there is a bigger picture – and that is that it’s stupid to think that one nationality is intrinsically better than others.

You can be whoever the hell you want to be
It doesn’t matter where you pay your taxes you can just define your own identity as you see fit. Just as long as you don’t go out of your way to hurt others, go ahead and be whatever you like. That’s the main thing. Just try to be a good person. The rest is just fluff.

LEPSTERS – What’s it all about?
Leave your comments, thoughts and opinions in the comments section, and practice your English!

Related Episodes
If you found this episode interesting, check out these ones too:
261. What is Britishness? (Part 1)
128. Luke’s Stand Up Comedy Show – Featuring jokes about British food, weather and our Royal family – Now fully transcribed
131. Rickipedia – Conversation with my Dad, in which we answer various questions from listeners, including some things about British culture.
British Slang (A-C)
British Slang (D-G)
British Slang (H-M)
British Slang (N-Z)
156. British Comedy: Ali G
172. British Comedy: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore
177. What Londoners Say vs What They Mean
192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Part 1)
192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Part 2)
195. British Comedy: Monty Python’s Flying Circus
199. The UK/USA Quiz
202. British Comedy: Monty Python & The Holy Grail
219. Scottish Independence – Key notions of national identity

56. British Accents and Dialects


Right-click here to download this episode. 
First in a series of episodes about accents. Learn differences between accents from the UK. This is information that all learners of English need to know!

Click here to listen to my previous episode about British and American Pronunciation.

Here are the notes which I used to record this podcast episode. It’s not a transcript, but I do read from these notes during the episode.

Accents and Dialects:

I’m going to do a series of podcasts about accents. I’ve already done one about British and American accents, but I think accents are fascinating and a lot of fun so I’m going to do more. They are also very important for you, because:
-You need to be aware of different styles of English
-You shouldn’t listen to just ONE style of English because there’s a wide range of ways to say the same thing
-You need to be aware of the different sounds in English and what they mean
-You need to choose the accent you want, and then copy it
-You need to be able to understand different accents when you hear them

One of the most interesting things for me about accents is what and accent can tell you about a person. When I hear someone speak, their accent immediately gives me lots of associations. Just the sound of someone’s voice might tell me; their social class, which part of the country they are from, if they’re from the town or countryside, what their background might be, what their attitudes might be.

Obviously we shouldn’t judge people by their accents, and these are just pre-conceptions but the point is, I get all these associations but learners of English don’t. They can’t tell if someone is from the north or south or what social class they might come from. Native speakers usually can.

I’m interested in bridging that gap between what a native speaker knows/understands about accents and what a learner knows/understands.

Firstly, what is an accent and what is a dialect. A dialect is the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people. An accent is the way in which a language is pronounced. So, dialect is differences in vocabulary and accent is differences in pronunciation.

Secondly, how many accents can you find in the UK? There are lots! At least 10.

How many accents are there in the world? Again, there are lots. Between different English speaking countries, and also within those countries. There are lots of ways of saying the same sentence in English!

Is it true that there is such thing as a British accent and an American accent? It’s not true that there is just one American or British accent. There are so many in America and so many in Britain but you can group accents as ‘British’ because they share many features and come from Britain. You can do the same for America too. But there is not just 1 British accent or 1 American accent.

There are general differences between British and American accents, and I’ve been into this before in previous podcasts. Click here to listen to my previous episode about British and American Pronunciation. . The differences include the /t/ sound, the /r/ sound, the /ɑ/ sound and the fact that American English often sounds more nasal.

If we focus on the UK we can see lots of different accents that are linked closely with different regions and cultures in the UK.

The standard accent which is used by the BBC World Service, Oxford & Cambridge dictionaries and the commonly used phonemic chart is called RP (received pronunciation) or BBC English. This is a standard form without a specific region. It’s traditionally associated with educated people who speak ‘correctly’. These days we’re more politically correct so any accent is ‘correct’ but RP is considered to be clear and non-region specific. I would say that it is more common in the south. I would also say that I speak with an RP accent with a few traces of accents I have picked up, particularly the Birmingham accent, because I lived there for a few years.

Then there are regional accents. I can’t go into great detail, but I will run through a few. There will be more podcasts in which I play you real samples of these accents. Here’s a list of different accents from the UK: Cornwall, Bristol (South West), London, East Anglia, Midlands (Birmingham), Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, Yorkshire, Newcastle, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland.

In the next few episodes I will play you extracts of different accents and highlight their features. Hopefully you’ll get familiar with a range of accents.

An interesting video in which an actor goes around the map of England, doing the different accents:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8k7ajlq0eI&fs=1&hl=en_US%5D