Yesterday, it came to my attention that I may have a rather unhealthy addiction. It affects how I interact with people, and how they may perceive me. I am addicted to BBC America.
I can trace my generalized addiction to all things British to my father. His grandfather was a Welsh coal miner. I mean, how stereotypical can you get? Yes, he also loved to sing. We're a very musical family. Not all of us have mustaches, though, as I wax. But I digress. My father also grew up in an area of Pennsylvania where the surrounding towns have exotic names like Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, Treddyffrin, and St. Davydd's. The heritage cannot be denied. My name is not Bronwen
by mere coincidence.
I grew up with the BritComs on our Public TV station, like The Good Life
, To the Manor Born
, Waiting for God
, and Keeping Up Appearances
. Oh, I nearly forgot Are You Being Served
. How can you forget that? "Mr. Humphries? Are you free?" And who can forget Monty Python and the Flying Circus
or Fawlty Towers?
My father always watched these shows. Being a Daddy's girl, I loved them, too. We'd watch some together - I can still remember sitting on the sofa cracking up together to Monty Python's The Holy Grail.
We would quote bits of the movie at the oddest times. We still do. Weird, huh?
When I met the WCM, I found out just how unusual my family was. See, my father and stepmother, while wonderful people, were very, very
strict. We were taught to speak correctly, use proper table manners - even by French standards as I later discovered, and Lord knows they are the supreme arbiters of table manners -, and have an appreciation, if not a great love, of World Culture. If you could not converse properly at the dinner table, then you were to remain silent. We had conversations about Opera at the dinner table, for crying out loud! At the end of the meal, my brother, Owen, and I had to ask to be excused from the table. We had piano lessons, ballet lessons (just me), horseback riding lessons (well, Owen did. I fell off the damned thing and refused to get back up. They're fucking enormous, horses are!), swimming lessons, musicianship lessons, Girl Scouts (just me again), and more. We were busy kids.
In my father's library, you'll find titles by George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Anthony Trolloppe, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy L. Sayers, Antonia Fraser, and other British
authors. Figures a British Literature major would have these texts. Shakespeare, of course, goes without saying. Whenever I was short of reading material, which was often as I read at the speed of light, I helped myself to his books. I grew up surrounded by attitudes and artifacts from cultures other than my own.
This was definitely not the case with the WCM. He was raised by the stereotypical American family, as the youngest of five children. He's loud, brash, and tends to think that the US is the center of the world. I hate traveling with him, as I've said before, because he's the Ugly American that people worldwide love to hate. Strange how opposites attract. Also strange is how I enjoy ramming my head into the wall repeatedly. But again, I digress.
Then I got Digital Cable. We got it because of the many different Discovery Channels - the WCM is a scientist, and I love learning because, duh, I'm a teacher. We're like that. I rue the day I ever succumbed to Digital Cable. Thus began my formal addiction to BBC America.
It began innocently enough with reruns of Are You Being Served
and Keeping Up Appearances
. Then it moved into Dinnerladies
and The Thin Blue Line
. Blackadders I - IV
rounded out the first stage of my addiction. Then came the harder stuff: EastEnders
marathons, So Graham Norton
, AbFab, Changing Rooms
, and Ground Force
. Finally, V Graham Norton
, What Not To Wear
(damn, Trinny & Susannah can grab my tits anytime they want!), and Footballer's Wives
It got so bad that I would get the DTs whenever I missed an episode of Changing Rooms
. Life without Graham Wynne and Carole Smiley wasn't worth living. If I couldn't see Charlie Dimmock's bosom flying free and unfettered during the heavy planting on Ground Force
, my hands would tremble. Missing Graham Norton
would give me palpitations. Stand up stand up all you lovely people, if you've ever had heart palpitations while being naughty?
The US networks picked up shows from the UK, too. We have our versions of What Not to Wear, Faking It
, and Room Rivals
. I was amazed that NBC thought they could remake Coupling
to suit American audiences. It flopped big-time, as did The Graham Norton Experience.
I thought the same would be the case with The Office
, but that seems to be translating better. But, yet again, I digress from my original point.
It came to my attention that I have this addiction, because I used a word in a blog comment that the blog's owner thought to be unusual for an American to know. I was sure it was one of my grandfather's words, but it turns out I was wrong. I used the word "manky" and Poppop's word was actually "mangy" - applying to unwashed or diseased animals. How would I know manky
then, I reasoned, if not for my BBC America addiction?
I've always been careful about this kind of thing - appropriating bits of other cultures, that is - as I was definitely the odd child out in my school. Before I learned (was socialized) not to, I would use epithets like "flipping" this or "bloody" that and the only person who didn't give me a "whaaaa?" look was my 5th grade English teacher, who was Welsh. (I got quite the dressing-down over using the word "bloody" too, as he considered it to be very rude. Oh well. Not 'round these here parts, dude
.) I really don't care to repeat my school experience, as it wasn't that pleasant.
I guess this entire long-winded post boils down to this: I don't want anyone to think I'm being pretentious or "taking the piss" (another beautifully descriptive English slang phrase), because hey, I've watched enough British TV to legitimately assimilate some vocabulary. I know what Tesco's and ASDA are. I can name major department stores (Thanks, Patsy & Edina, er, and Susannah & Trinny), restaurants, and even brand names. You can't confuse me by offering to "knock me up" or telling me to "keep my pecker up." And don't ever ask for a snog unless you're serious.
Dawna Walter, from Life Laundry
, always used to annoy the ever-loving shit out of me for using a hokey English accent whenever she said certain words. She'd sound all normal white-bread American when she was describing someone's mess, but would say something like "Now it's time to get rid of all this clut-TAH." It made me want to hurt her, the pretentious twat. I hope my diction doesn't make me a pretentious twat, too.