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  • Me fail English? That’s unpossible!

    by Rohin
    9th January, 2006 at 4:48 pm    

    The BBC reports:

    Stonehenge, the FA Cup and the red Routemaster bus are among England’s most popular icons, according to a new poll. But what do the choices say about the English? And what about the rest of the UK?

    To John Major it’s warm beer and cricket. To the Sun newspaper it’s Jordan’s chest and chicken tikka masala.

    Apparently ol’ Blighty isn’t such a United Kingdom. /shock. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have their national identities clearly defined.

    Scotland: Headbutts, haggis Loch Lomond, Edinburgh Castle
    Wales: Leeks, Charlotte Church, Sheep Severn Bridge, Millennium Stadium
    Northern Ireland: IRA, leprechauns, liver cirrhosis The Giant’s Causeway

    But Inglande is all confused. A Portrait of England is a two year, one million pound white elephant which seeks to find the things the English cherish most. The first round of shortlisting, drawn up by professors and academics (i.e. normal folk) includes Alice in Wonderland and the SS Windrush. People were not eligible and as such, Diana, Churchill, Newton and Zippy were not on the list. Most shocking of all - no PUB!

    Rather unfortunately for a student of St. George’s, the man himself was not included either - although he was, most probably, Palestinian or Turkish.

    The BBC poll run with the 12 choices looks like this so far:

    Cup of tea (NB: An Oriental import, from China via India)


    Routemaster bus (fare thee well beautiful friend, your spirit lives on)

    Jerusalem hymn (because Jerusalem is situated on England’s green and pleasant land)


    FA Cup

    King James Bible

    Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII

    Alice in Wonderland

    Punch and Judy (they should’ve nominated RICHARD and Judy)

    Angel of the North

    SS Empire Windrush

    (5470 Votes Cast)

    What’s your English Icon? A red pillar box, Big Ben, Black cab, Chicken tikka masala/going for a curry, Winnie the Pooh, Binge drinking…?

                  Post to

    Filed in: Culture,Humour

    55 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. Robert Sharp

      English Icons: Cliche and innaccuracy

      My nominations: The Gettysburg Address, Waltzing Matilda, The Simpsons… and The Indian Parliament.

    1. Vikrant — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:11 pm  

      Undoubtely Sun’s Page 3.

    2. Col. Mustafa — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:13 pm  

      Hmm, i dunno.

    3. Vikrant — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:19 pm  

      voted for Spitfire though!

    4. BevanKieran — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:21 pm  

      Cuppa tea

      For reasons of drinking them + anecdotes.

      Do you know it was Britain’s insatiable appetite for tea which lead to the Opium wars.(We were giving the Chinese far too much silver in payment for tea, proceeded to balance the deficit by drugging their population and then started a war when the Chinese complained. Doesn’t it make you proud!)

      Also in the middle 1700s Gin was produced ans presumably consumed at six times the level of beer, stabilising the London population. Satirised at the time by Hogarth (Hounslow lad, in spirit a rude boy) in Gin Lane and Beer Street.

    5. Rohin — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:23 pm  

      This is the most asinine list I’ve ever seen.

    6. Col. Mustafa — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:29 pm  

      Early head hurlers.

    7. El Cid — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:32 pm  

      Sunday roast, Friday night punch up, fish n chips, the Gherkin, every takeaway possible from every country under the sun, tattoos, Asian doctors, chaotic transport system, streetfashion, the Jam, urban parks, Dizzee Rascal, pork pies, chilli con carne in a jacket potato, fryup, amateur football on Hackney Marshes…

      Hackney Marshes — that’s the one. Men of every colour/religion imaginable playing footy, aggressively. Quintessentially English.

      P.S. Amusing that the BBC couldn’t say Jordan’s breasts/tits/bosoms/boobies.

    8. Col. Mustafa — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:33 pm  

      In battle, head hurlers throw the heads of fallen foes coated with quicklime. These missiles are both dangerous and loathsome. Head hurlers combine the practical and the macabre in equal measure - they collect the heads of fallen enemies and preserve these by dipping them in quicklime. The limed heads are used as disgusting missiles in battle, flung into enemy ranks at surprisingly long range. As missiles the heads are heavy enough to cause injuries (and have an undoubted impact on morale) but it is the lime that really does the damage, causing nasty burns.

    9. Col. Mustafa — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:41 pm  

      Fucking buses, and fucking trains. Or is that just a London thing.
      Obviously the weather and how shit it is, and also how every human being in england complains about it regardless of race or religion.
      We get it, its crap weather.

    10. Jezza — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:45 pm  


      fish & chips


      & nhs

    11. Don — on 9th January, 2006 at 5:56 pm  

      Musn’t grumble.

    12. Rohin — on 9th January, 2006 at 6:06 pm  

      “Asian doctors, chaotic transport system”

      Erm…isn’t that anywhere in Asia?! ;) Chicken tikka masala is purely British, in contrast.

      BBC - good nomination. I’m very proud of the BBC, it’s such a great establishment. I’m someone who doesn’t grumble about the fee. But I think their website should start running ads. Perhaps pretty desi newsreaders will become as ubiquitous the desi doctor - the BBC are doing their best!

      Head hurlers? Consider me educated.

    13. FOB — on 9th January, 2006 at 6:28 pm  

      From an Indian perspective:

      Big ben

      london bridge

      Lords cricket ground

      Those red guards with the furry hats outside Buckingham palace

    14. Vikrant — on 9th January, 2006 at 6:44 pm  

      You missed Southall, Hounslow and Richmond!

    15. SKye-Vee — on 9th January, 2006 at 7:57 pm  

      “one million pound white elephant”

      Well I aint seeing any of that money. I don’t see why I should do their bloody work for em. They get all that money just to set up a poll. Not like it’s gonna benifit me in anyway.

      It’s the millenium dome and wembly stadium all over. Someone is pocketing that money. But that is the English way. Like the Indian way but more intricate.
      Let me guess a panel of highly paid consultants were put togther and they decided to do a poll. A 10 year old could do that.

      I refuse to vote in this poll. Just another waste of time.

      So I’d thought I waste my time with this response instead.

    16. Old Pickler — on 9th January, 2006 at 8:13 pm  

      Dwarf tossing

    17. El Cid — on 9th January, 2006 at 8:27 pm  

      I think our weather is underrated.
      We get a relatively mild winter thanks to the Gulf Steam, Ireland gets most of the rain before we get it, and thanks to global warming our summers are getting nicer.

    18. El Cid — on 9th January, 2006 at 8:28 pm  


    19. j0nz — on 9th January, 2006 at 8:55 pm  

      Warm cosy pub, pint of finest Ale, crackling fire, and Elizabeth Hurley playing footsie with me.

    20. Vikrant — on 9th January, 2006 at 10:00 pm  

      I’m very proud of the BBC, it’s such a great establishment.

      Are you serious???

    21. Rohin — on 9th January, 2006 at 10:26 pm  

      SkyeVee, the poll is by the BBC - using the study’s choices. The study itself is some bizarre thing that takes 2 years. Vote, it won’t do you any harm!

      Yeah I am proud of the BBC. If you don’t like it then of course you have been brainwashed by rabid right wingers who have no appreciation for education. Look how many websites link the BBC everyday, AFAIK it’s the most visited website in the world. I could check that up, but you get the point. Sure criticisms about it being a bit uncool are justified, but around the world only one media organisation is as well known. The cachet the BBC has is second to none, a reporter suddenly becomes worth talking to if he or she says they’re from the BBC.

      The World Service is the most broadcast channel, reaching billions of people a day, their documentaries are world-famous, their news-gathering incredibly diverse and thorough, their radio stations reach more people still and in the UK all the best radio stations are from the BBC.

      Auntie is a bit doddery and has been in need of an overhaul, but as a monumental institution it is a world leader and has been for more than half a century.

      Why Vik, why would I NOT be serious? What are your objections. I’d like to hear them - provided they’re your own and not something you’re regurgitating.

    22. coruja — on 9th January, 2006 at 11:48 pm  

      Paddington Bear
      Fish & Chips
      Wisden cricket Almanac
      London Underground
      The Avengers
      Robin Hood
      Brighton Rock
      Carry on Camping
      Morris Minor
      Soul II Soul

    23. squared — on 9th January, 2006 at 11:52 pm  


      OK no, tea.

      And secret agents. Our secret agents rule.

      Lots of old stuff.

    24. Rohin — on 9th January, 2006 at 11:53 pm  

      Paddington Bear’s from Darkest Peru! (yes yes I know it’s a British book)

      Thing is, one of the key objections made by the Celts etc is that people use English to mean British and vice versa. A lot of the things we’ve mentioned, including me, have been British as opposed to traditionally English.

      Tea is English, cricket, Brighton rock are English. I suppose the NHS, royal family and BBC are British.

      Oh yeah Vikrant, how come you included Richmond in your Indian area list? They don’t come much less Indian than Richmond.

    25. JOKER — on 10th January, 2006 at 2:06 am  

      Are you joking stonehenge that lump of shit bricks good for nothing. They are saying they still dont know what it is….its all a big mystrey………………..basically a bunch of gypos were hauling bricks along and couldnt be bothered anymore so just left them there

      Can you beleive it made the 21 short list on

    26. Rohin — on 10th January, 2006 at 2:46 am  

      BBC being cool: Just saw a BBC4 documentary called I, Samurai. Coolest thing I’ve seen in ages. I wish I was a ninja. I’d kick any samurai butt. Now, it is late and I must retire to my Zen garden.

    27. sonia — on 10th January, 2006 at 4:03 am  

      perhaps it may be useful to know that it was the British who introduced tea to India as a cash crop. our old friends the East India Company. ( and the potato/aloo as well..) i bet you most indians think drinking chai is an indian thing.

      and the Routemaster buses are great. i wish they didn’t have to phase them out.

      james bond

      i think its much easier as a foreigner to define english ‘icons’.

      and who is this joker insulting stonehenge?? stones not bricks.

      pretty difficult thing to do define what’s british whats english whats global stuff gets appropriated so why the hell can’t sth be british or english or both or everything

      its like the thing about people thinking how can asians be british> and about asians born in england feeling like they cant say they’re english cos there’s some identification of english with white.

    28. sonia — on 10th January, 2006 at 4:06 am  

      yeah it appears to be a tradition to slag off the weather and whilst it might be grey i agree it could be a whole lot worse. why london’s quite warm generally ok so last dec. the gulf stream went away for a couple of days and it was freezing but it appears to be back again. i talked to my mother in Jessore which is in bangladesh and its 3 degrees there. hmm so there you have the comparison.

      british weather ain’t that bad is it.

      i’d say the ‘balti’ ought to be a british icon!

    29. Vikrant — on 10th January, 2006 at 5:50 am  

      Oh rite.. i’m not a Londoner afterall! actually since most of my family resides in Twickenham-Richmond area i kinda tend to regard it as an Indian area….

    30. Vikrant — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:02 am  

      well i forgot to add Leicester and…. Bradford!

      P.S Does Hendon qualify for an Asian area?

    31. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:12 am  

      To look someone in the eye when you talk to them.

      Or maybe that’s just generally a western thing?

      Although I have heard that in some places in America
      that’s an arrestable offence (for more than 10 secs).

      Erm.. Fox hunting.

    32. Vikrant — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:35 am  

      Fox hunting sans the hounds aint British.

    33. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:37 am  

      With hounds :-)

    34. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:37 am  

      And those silly clothes they wear.

    35. Sunny — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:56 am  

      To me, and others (in America), the UK is all about:

      The BBC
      cute accents (they love the British accent here in the USA :D )
      fish and chips
      erm…. and err.. The Tube? (I never appreciated the tube as much since I came to frikking car crazy Los Angeles).

    36. Vikrant — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:21 am  

      Norah, it has been banned!

    37. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:23 am  

      It’s still British!

    38. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:29 am  

      English! I meant english!

      Brits abroad in Faliraki. Now.. THAT’S english.

      Hey, do the Greeks complain about the Scots, the Welsh or the Irish?

      Or are they all just english?

    39. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:29 am  

      P’s and Q’s.

    40. El Cid — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:33 am  

      great call on Soul II Soul Coruja

    41. sonia — on 10th January, 2006 at 11:12 am  

      heh heh Sunny good one. living in LA means afterwards the concept of public transport appears to be a godlike one.

      norahjones- sounds like it seems to you apart from westerners noone looks you in the eye when they’re talking??! that sounds a bit strange!

    42. Jai — on 10th January, 2006 at 12:07 pm  

      Sonia beat me to “James Bond”, dammit ;)

      Cockney accents.

      “The Queen” (there must be thousands of queens worldwide — no, not that kind, Rohin — yet people everywhere know who you’re talking about when you mention “The” Queen).

      “Lady Di”.

      Stiff upper lips.

      “Don’t frighten the horses.”

      Posh totty.

      Suicidally-excessive political correctness.

      Punjabi-dominated immigrant Indian culture (at least amongst the 2nd-generation).

    43. coruja — on 10th January, 2006 at 12:25 pm  


      First and foremost Paddington Bear is an immigrant and a refugee. He was thought to have been inspired by newsreel footage of eastern European refugees after the second world war, shabbily dressed trudging along with suitcases tied with ropes and seeing children at Paddington station being evacuated out of London a with labels tied around their necks.

      He had an unpronounceable foreign name so his adopted family called him Paddington; he is forever trying to fit in to life in England and he constantly harassed by Mr Curry who basically represents all things mean, intolerant and bigoted - a counter-balance to the Brown family’s kindness and acceptance. His mentor is another immigrant, the Hungarian Mr Gruber who has an antiques shop in Portobello Road. He has a batting average of 14.

      Paddington Bear is really about the British immigrant experience and thoroughly a British character.

    44. Rohin — on 10th January, 2006 at 12:37 pm  

      Wow coruja, I’d forgotten all of that about ol’ Paddington, if I ever knew it. What a cool allegory. And he’s shooo shweeeet.

    45. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 1:54 pm  

      “norahjones- sounds like it seems to you apart from westerners noone looks you in the eye when they’re talking??! that sounds a bit strange! ”

      Funnily enough, I first heard about that when I was doing a mental health awareness thing with regards to south asian women. We were told not to expect eye contact and it totally fascinated me so yeah, I guess I’ve been paying attention as to whether people look me in the eye!

      Got taught about it for personal safety and then again in my equal opps training.

      I dunno.

    46. FOB — on 10th January, 2006 at 2:40 pm  

      Yeah its true about us Indians avoiding eye contact.Its contrued traditionally as a sign of disrespect.

      Most Indian companies offer body language training to software guys (like me) before shipping us overseas and we are specifally told to always maintain eye contact in the boardroom.

      In America, eye contact with stargers is considered rude.If perchance you do make eye contact, you have to throw in a “How ya doin” or “How bout those Red Sox” :)

    47. NorahJones — on 10th January, 2006 at 3:15 pm  

      I knew it!

    48. Don — on 10th January, 2006 at 3:40 pm  

      Ian Drury covered a lot of the ground;

      but most of you whippersnappers will be too callow to get half of it.

    49. El Cid — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:54 pm  

      On the matter of eye contact: it didn’t almost every man staring at my wife when we were in Cochin on our honeymoon.
      Maybe they weren’t looking at her eyes but I couldn’t tell.
      She wasn’t scantilly clad either. Any thoughts?

    50. El Cid — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:55 pm  

      damn! sorry, should be “it didnt stop almost every…”

    51. El Cid — on 10th January, 2006 at 6:57 pm  

      i guess we should add oxbridge and magna carta

    52. FOB — on 10th January, 2006 at 7:53 pm  

      El Cid,

      Well , they may have stared at her, but they probably looked away as soon as she made eye contact .

      Indians will stare (esp if its a firangi female) but are unlikely to make eye contact.

    53. Rohin — on 10th January, 2006 at 9:47 pm  

      I agree FOB. Indians tend to turn away if you stare back. Which is why Japan was so odd. Its cities are such bustle but in the rural areas, unseen by Western media, a thousand miles from Tokyo’s neon, people stare. I was in a tiny town with an IBM mate and he is 6’6″, white and has long hair. People stared - but when I stared back, they never looked away. It was a strange feeling. Not nasty or sinister, but weird. They always out-stared me.

    54. El Cid — on 14th January, 2006 at 6:40 pm  

      I swear they stared so much that it was frankly irritating. Maybe my wife didn’t look at them in the eye, but I certainly stared back.
      I’m a big fellah and they took no notice of me! We kinda of got used to it and gave up in the end, much like Rohin says about Japan.
      It didn’t happen in Goa or Bombay mind, just in Cochin.
      I would add that it’s usually not good practice to stare at people in England, especially if you are a man. In my experience, it can lead to an aggressive “what you looking at?”

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