Tag Archives: Humor

The eff word

Oliver came home from school one day last year, practically giddy with the news.

“Guess what L said to me at lunch?”

“Your sandwich smells?” I guessed.

O leaned in close to me, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “He said, ‘What the eff.’ But he didn’t say ‘eff.’ He said the real word.”

I tried to look blasé. “And what did you say?”

“I told him it was a bad word and not appropriate for school.”

“That’s right,” I said, inwardly giving myself a smug pat on the back for my most excellent parenting.

“It’s only appropriate when you’re driving or when you’re talking to Linda,” he continued along pedantically, as if he were reciting Latin declensions. “Or when you’re in the kitchen and something goes wrong with a recipe …”

He continued with his list of appropriate what the eff moments as I thought, Wait, I’m in the kitchen all the time. I’m always screwing up recipes. WTF?

And I thought I was doing well up to this point. My younger brother Matt had told me on his first day of kindergarten, the older kids on his bus had taught him some rudimentary Anglo-Saxon and how to give drivers the middle finger. It gave me the idea that when I had children, it might be a good idea to teach them dirty words myself, explain what they mean, and when it’s appropriate — if ever — to use them. I figured my rational approach to dirty words would disarm any power they might have over my child’s tongue. And it seemed to work because I’ve never heard O say anything worse than ‘fart’ — and for the record, whenever he says it, I tell him the correct word is flatulence or ‘gas’ and please don’t say that eff word at school, either.

We’ve been reading Katherine Lasky’s wonderful series, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, where the owl characters have a very, very dirty word in their vocabulary: racdrops. Racdrops is short for ‘raccoon droppings,’ and since the owls of the books loathe raccoons and dislike animals with messy bowel habits, it’s one of the worst words they can utter in anger. So I came  up with the brilliant idea one day that O should adopt this word as his own personal eff word. He loved the idea. Soon he was playing with his Legos and exclaiming “Racdrops!” when he couldn’t find the right block. Or “Racdrops!” when I said no to takeout pizza. It was Racdrops this and Racdrops that. Even I started saying it in the kitchen when I’d get some egg shell in my pancake batter, or cut my finger on a can’s edge. Then O told me some of the kids in his class were saying “Racdrops!” too.

“Cool,” I said. “They must like Guardians of Ga’Hoole.”

Oliver gave me a funny look. “No, I taught it to them.”


More on the American Absolutely Fabulous

Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch blog has an interview with Kristen Johnston, who’s tapped to play Patsy in the American remake of Absolutely Fabulous, coming soon to a television set near you.

Here’s a quote from the article: “I think they captured the exact amount of sweetie-darling,” she says. “I mean, it’s a totally different element, it’s a totally different show. We don’t smoke, we are hungover all the time, we chew Nicorette, we’re trying to be more PC, but I think it really works. It’s one of those scripts that’s like my favorite kind because on paper you’re like, Oh, this is funny, but when you read it out loud with two actresses, it’s, like, the funniest s— ever.”

Turning Pats and Eddy into nonsmoking, Nicorette-chewing politically correct fashionistas sounds like the most unfunniest s— ever, but that’s me. What do you think? Will the American version of this show be a hit, or will it sink faster than a Dukes of Hazzard holiday special on French tv?

Dear Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Atlantic meal

Many of you may have read this already — the letter is making the rounds of the Internets — but in case you haven’t, read this hilarious complaint letter written by an peevish Virgin Atlantic customer to Sir Richard Branson about the horrendous meal he was served aboard a Virgin flight from Mumbai to Heathrow in December. The customer, who since has been identified as an advertising executive named Oliver Beale, received a call from Branson afterwards, who apologized for the disgusting slop and offered Beale the opportunity to choose meals and wine for future Virgin flights.

I love that the letter was accompanied by photos because that food does look abominable and I’m afraid the hyperbole alone wouldn’t have been as convincing. On that note, two of the best airline meals of my life were on British Airways flights to and from Heathrow and Mumbai. Maybe Virgin Atlantic should send some spies to check it out.

US vs. UK on BBC Radio Scotland

Mike Harling (an American in Britain, and author of Postcards From Across The Pond, which I happened to blurb) and Toni Hargis (a Briton in America, and author of Rules, Britannia: An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom) squared off yesterday on which country is better — the US or the UK —  on BBC Radio Scotland. The interview starts about 1 hour and 12 minutes into the broadcast — you can move the pointer to that spot.

Toni wrote on her blog that she didn’t say Americans had zero sense of humor as the host claimed (Toni, I loved your Labrador puppy line!). And I think Mike is turning into a Brit because he never interrupted and he wasn’t all rah-rah-America, but calmly and humorously defended his homeland. Who won? Well, poor Mike was outnumbered and being an American myself … come on, of course America rules! Do we really have to debate this?

I liked the discussion about the difference between US and UK humor. Hargis said she dumped her sarcastic sense of humor years ago because Americans don’t get it — we take everything literally. Hmm. To some degree this is true, especially if you’re kidding around with a Midwesterner or Southerner. But in the Northeast — places like the outer boroughs of NYC, south Boston, or northern New England — sarcasm, irony, and black humor are the gold standards for humor. Indeed, Mike — from upstate New York — gave Britons a little taste of this with his comment about guns being the efficacious way to kill someone, versus stomping on them or lighting them afire as they typically do in the gun-wary UK. And I had to tone down my ironic commentary when I married my husband, an earnest corn-fed boy from Michigan who, along with his family, takes everything at face value.

Nevertheless, I give the British the edge on their collective sense of humor, as well as their conversational skills. And it’s not just because I love the way they sound, I swear.

Anyway, it’s a fun listen and both Toni and Mike spoke their sides very well.

The Queen: A royal tightwad

According to the AFP, Queen Elizabeth will be watching her pennies and pound notes vigorously in 2009 because of the weak economy and credit crunch gripping the UK. She has always been a bit of a tightwad; I’m guessing some of that World War II mentality of making do has never left her. I’ve read that she insists on 40-watt bulbs in palace lamps and eats meals out of Tupperware. And we all know that the richest people on earth — the Queen being one of them — are usually not the ones out on shopping sprees.

I was trying to imagine something this morning. What if the Daily Mail or some British women’s mag were able to sit the Queen down and get her to share her top 10 frugal tips for surviving 2009? What would they look like?

#10: Nix that gym membership. “Walking the corgis is a more pleasant cardiovascular endeavor, especially when you have the acreage I have,” the Queen says. “I also ask my family to walk to church on Christmas morning. I do take the Rolls myself, but insist that Phillip and Sophie carpool with me.”

#9: Never drive the car when you can ride a horse. “My daughter Anne and her daughter Zara have taken this advice to heart,” the Queen says, pride evident in her voice. “The Range Rover burns too much petrol, don’t you think? And the Royal Footmen are such dears at picking up all the manure for our gardens.”

#8: Carriage-pool. “You’ll never see a Royal carriage half-full on my birthday or during a state visit,” the Queen insists. “We pack as many will fit comfortably in there.” Don’t like your carriage buddies? “That can be a problem,” the Queen admits. “I’ve had to share a carriage with some American presidents, Tony Blair, and that Sarkozy character — dreadful people, really — so I just turn to the crowds and wave. It takes my mind off the whole ordeal.”

#7: Live off the land. “My backyard is filled with deer, pheasant — all sorts of delicious game birds — and my son keeps a spectacular garden at his place. He’s always coming over here with organic this-and-that, including these yummy-scrummy chocolate butterscotch biscuits. There’s really no need to waste money eating out, unless you’re invited to someone else’s state banquet. Isn’t there some saying about giving a man a fish? We gave our children guns and taught them to hunt. Saved us a bloody fortune, it has.”

#6: Reach for water instead of a cocktail. “My mother always liked a drink, sometimes ten. I read about my grandchildren spending thousands of pounds at Mahiki and Whisky Mist. It’s enormously frustrating to me because a refreshing glass of icy cold Scottish spring water is far less expensive and much better for you. Look at how my skin glows; I’m pushing 90! Plus there’s enormous markup on alcohol at clubs.” She shakes her head in dismay. “It’s appalling.”

#5: Use found objects for millinery. The Queen smiles slyly whilst admitting this penny-pinching trick. “My newest daughter-in-law often does this. No need to spend a fortune at Phillip Treacy on some fascinator you’ll never wear again when you can pin a little frou-frou you found in a spare closet at Birkhall on your head.”

#4: Make your motto Recycle, Repair, Reuse. “When Windsor burned in ’92, you’ll notice we didn’t tear it all down and start from scratch, which is what that Posh Spice would have done,” the Queen says with a regal sniff.

#3: Get free invites to movie premieres and theatre openings. “I’ve seen Quantum of Solace — all the Bond films, oh that Sean Connery is a devil — Harry Potter, and Calendar Girls, all for free,” the Queen says. When asked if she was able to meet Helen Mirren, a stony expression settles across Her Majesty’s face. “Next question, please.”

#2: Marry beneath yourself. “History has shown me that the best marriages are those made with the middle-class girls. Those aristocratic matches have been pricey affairs for me.” She leans forward conspiratorially and whispers, “I’m so hoping William does right by Kate.”

#1: Never buy when you can borrow. “Most of my homes, my jewels, and even the silver I eat from — I don’t actually own them. The state does! It really makes life so much easier.”

An alternative version of the Queen’s Christmas message

Jonathan at Anglotopia.net has an embedded link of Queen’s 2008 Christmas message. If you’d like to see some candids of Prince Harry and some old video of wee Prince Charles, do check it out.  But for those of you who like things short and sweet, I offer a shorter version, above.

The BBC has a good overview of the history of the Queen’s Christmas message. Wow, £100,000 to produce … in the words of Jeff Spicoli, “Righteous bucks!”

Top 10 most annoying Americanisms

Yesterday’s Telegraph ran a piece by its US editor, presumably a Brit living here in the U.S., listing his top 10 most annoying American phrases, phrases that “infuriate” him.

I realize this is a tongue-in-cheek piece in honor of the great holiday Festivus, but “You’re welcome?” Seriously? “Uh huh” is the usual response I receive when I say “Thank you” to a store clerk or anyone under the age of 21. I’d keel over to hear “You’re welcome.”

And in my many (we won’t say how many) years of living in the U.S., I’ve never ever heard someone say, “Let’s visit with each other.” Have you? What Americans tend to say when saying goodbye to a friend or family member whose company they’ve enjoyed, “We should get together soon” or “Let’s meet up again.” It’s shorthand for, “I’d like to do this again, but I’m too tired to dig into my purse for my planner.” Plus, you’d come across as too eager and desperate to reschedule another visit on the spot. If you don’t like someone’s company, you might say something like, “Nice seeing you again” and leave it at that.

As for “Happy Holidays” … Here in the northeastern part of the U.S., I live amongst many Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, so it would feel totally inappropriate for me to blindly wish folks, “Merry Christmas!” Maybe if I lived in a more homogeneous part of the country it would be okay, but for now I’ll stick with my p.c. “Happy holidays!” and risk pissing off a cranky Brit here or there.

Here’s my pet peeve Americanism, something I’ve only noticed here in America in the land of chain restaurants, establishments my unapologetic middlebrow husband likes to frequent. When a server comes over to take our order, he’ll *sit down in our booth* and then say, “My name is Mike and I’ll be your server. How are you guys today? Great! Have you been to Longhorn Steakhouse before? Terrific! Can I start you off with drinks?” This is always delivered with saddlebags filled with mock cheer. America and its damned democratic ideals at their worst! Everyone’s got to be equal. I’m sorry, but when I sit down at Longhorn Steakhouse, I want the waiter to take my orders and bring me my food, not plop down at my table and pretend he’s a friend who actually cares.

I’m always tempted to ask for a bucket in these circumstances, but to preserve marital accord, I zip it.

What Americanisms and Britishisms bug you? Add yours to the comments below.

A gift for the person who has everything: a calendar of England’s prisons

Kevin Beresford prison calendar

Giving new meaning to the phrase “doing time,” a calendar depicting some of England’s most notorious prisons is a surprise holiday bestseller, according to the Guardian. Developed by a courier named Kevin Beresford, the calendar includes color pictures of Wormword Scrubs, Long Lartin, and my personal favorite as a Smiths’ fan, Strangeways, although now its proper name is HMP Manchester.

Beresford created another calendar a few years ago: a pictorial of England’s famous roundabouts. I think this guy’s crazily brilliant. I’d love to find either one of these calendars under my tree next week.

Diana Burrell, Anglophile, RIP

A chronic battle with directional dyslexia has brought a ignominious end to freelance food writer Diana Burrell, who stepped out in front of one too many black cabs while eagerly bounding across Portobello Road in Notting Hill, shouting to her travel companion Alison Wellner, “Oh my God, it’s another bookstore!”

Says Wellner, “Diana passed on to a good place — where every meal begins and ends with pudding, where everyone’s ironic and understated, and shopkeepers mind their own business  — with a smile on her face. She clutched a sackful of cookbooks purchased at Books for Cooks to her chest and as she departed, she said, ‘Either that mall goes, or I go.‘ ” Wellner passed condolences, as well as charge card receipts, to Burrell’s family, who weren’t entirely surprised by her demise or the amount she spent on books. “She could never tell her right from her left, and she was always a bit profligate around a bookshop,” said a family member who wished to remain anonymous. “I mean, two copies of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management?” The family member snorts. “Like we’ll be fighting over them in the will.”

Rather than going through the expense of shipping her remains back home, her family decided to scatter her ashes in the River Thames, along with her books, jams, teas, and a Christmas plum pudding from Fortnum & Mason that no one stateside would claim. Shopkeepers and booksellers lined the streets as her funeral cortege passed by, and in a rare outburst of emotion, wiped away tears knowing that an era of economic prosperity had fluttered through their fair city all too briefly.