“I don’t know if you’ll like it,” my friend said, recommending a book, “it might be too British for you.”
I tried to be play it cool. (We were chatting on Twitter, which made it easier to keep up the facade.) “Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I said.
I didn’t say:
There is no such thing as too British for me.
If I could strain Earl Grey with the Union Jack — like, if that wouldn’t be disrespectful — I would do it.
Then I’d pour one out for Pooh Bear and Alice and Paddington, and every Beatle, and the original “Office,” and Neil Gaiman, and your picturesque street names, and all your “shires” and “umberlands,” and your different types of marmalade.
I can’t even comprehend the concept of “too British.”
I like your accents, all of them, even the ones that are supposed to be low-class and grating. I like your curse words that don’t sound like curse words. I like your folk songs, your graffiti art. I’m especially a fan of books, movies and music inspired by your 1984 coal miners’ strike — which is weird, I know.
I like your off-kilter sitcoms with the bad sets and the strange lighting.
I like to read articles about your public transportation.
I really, really like it when you say you’re “chuffed.”
If it were possible to be a fan of a country (of four countries, really) — I would be a superfan of yours.
I didn’t say all that.
Because, wow, that would be so lame.
If someone said anything like that to me about America — or Nebraska — I’d take 10 steps backward. Can you imagine? “I just really like the way you talk. What do you call an elevator again? A lift? That’s adorable.”
It didn’t feel this lame to crush on Great Britain in the pre-Internet days. ...
Back when calling yourself an Anglophile just meant watching lots of PBS and buying People Magazine whenever Princess Di was on the cover.
“Across the pond” seemed so much farther away back then — it was a big pond. The United Kingdom, the whole world, really, seemed so much more foreign.
Pre-Internet, my impressions of British culture were based on Wham! albums, Nick Hornby books and Alan Moore comics, plus whatever decades-old sitcoms were showing late at night on PBS.
BBC America changed things a bit when it came to American cable in the late ’90s, but it still felt like the shows were arriving by Mayflower — seasons and seasons out of date. The UK still felt very far away, very exotic.
And then the Internet happened.
And everything got closer and faster.
If you want to watch a British show or a listen to a British musician today, you don’t have to wait for some American company to pick it up. It’s all right there online. You can easily buy British books, too — the shipping isn’t even that expensive.
And then you can go online and talk about it.
Last year, for the first time since its reboot, the BBC’s “Doctor Who” aired at the same time on both sides of the Atlantic. If you’re a fan of that show — or any other British pop culture — it’s very easy to interact with fans all over the world. (Fandom has no national boundaries. It practically doesn’t even have time zones.)
It’s not a big deal anymore to chat with people from other countries, especially the UK, (which is, obviously, packed with English speakers). You don’t have to sign up for a penpal. ... You just get on Twitter or Flickr or Tumblr or Goodreads, and it starts happening.
And once you’re actually talking to a British person — I have to tell you — it feels extremely weird to be an Anglophile.
It almost feels like you’re objectifying them.
You can’t be a fan of people. They’re just people. They’re not genetically more elegant or more charming or more clever. (Even though it might seem that way.) And they’re not going to want to be your friend if you keep swooning about the way they talk.
So ... I tried to let it pass when my Twitter friend gave me her possibly too-British kids’ book rec — the Daisy series by Kes Gray. The books have become extremely popular in my house; my preschooler doesn’t mind that Daisy calls her mom “mum” and cookies “biscuits.”
We find them to be just British enough.
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