Sunday, December 17, 2006

English language as the English use it

Frozen Pond on Hampstead Heath

Since we lived in London, I've continued to subscribe to the English Sunday papers. The writing in them is not what we think of as newpaper-ish, and as fine, ironic, biting, cynical as the upper class English can be.

Sometimes, however, the humor (humour) can be quite unintentional. As in this lovely (accidentally hilarious) snippet from Major Colin Burgess, former equerry to the Queen Mother from his new book Behind Palace Doors. It's, IMHO, a gaspingly deferential work. For example, when Princess Margaret breezily invites Colin to go for a swim on a hot day when he has not other obligations, and despite the fact that Margaret "appeared in this rather old-fashioned one piece swimming outfit ... I tried to swim in such a way that I was always on the opposite side of the pool to her ... it seemed a tad too informal ... for my comfort". His book is full of awed respect , showing how serious, or at worst cute, the royal family are. When the Queen laughs when Margaret's hair catches on fire, he is at pains to point how hard it can be to stop oneself laughing even if someone has hurt themselves.

Whoo - ee. But my very favorite quote is this, about the Queen Mother: "The Queen Mother was a devoted drinker. That's not to say she was an alcoholic, far from it, it was just that she loved social drinking and her life was very social."

Lawd love a duck, I believe the expression is.

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