Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barmy Britannia

I made a new friend recently. She’s American, and has recently married a member of our ward and moved here. She’s lovely, and I feel so much sympathy with her as she struggles to get used to the new culture. She misses grape juice, hasn’t dared drive yet, and she told me that cooking is presenting a challenge. (She held a Pampered Chef party recently and there I discovered that this is because she doesn’t have a set of cooking scales. I bought her some.)

I’m a patriot. I am proud to be British, and English. But I thought I would blog about some of the more interesting, eccentric and downright daft things about this cramped little land of mine.

  • Apart from English, the United Kingdom has a number of other historic languages. Half a million people speak Welsh, a few thousand Scots are fluent in Gaelic, about 400 people speak Cornish, while about 100 on the Isle of Man speak Manx.
  • I am English, but also British and a UK citizen. England is the country I live in, Britain is the island I live on, and the UK is the nation I belong to. Confused?
  • Fee-paying (i.e. private) schools in Britain are called Public Schools. Someone identified (often disparagingly in the press) as being a “public schoolboy” is probably from a wealthy, possibly aristocratic, background.
  • All UK schools are required to have a daily act of collective worship.
  • Ever wondered why British currency is called pounds, or pounds sterling? It’s because originally the banknote (now a coin) represented a pound in weight of sterling silver in the bank’s vault. In theory you could take your £ to the bank and demand to exchange it for a pound of silver. (£1 is currently worth about $1.50. 1lb of silver, considerably more.)
  • Britain is the only country in the world not to put its name on its stamps.
  • The Queen faces left on stamps and notes, but right on coins.
  • On any given day in Britain there is a 50% chance that the sky will be overcast and a 35% chance of rain. Humidity is generally between 70 and 90%. The highest temperature recorded was in Faversham in Kent in 1993 when it reached 101 degrees farenheit, but August temperatures rarely rise over 80 degrees.
  • Britain is the 49th most densely populated country in the world, with 246 people per square kilometre of land. The United States is 175th with 30 people per square kilometre.
  • If you want to own a TV in Britain, you must have a licence. It currently costs £142.50 per year ($214) There is a jail term for watching TV without a licence.


Jennie said...

You Brits spell differently too:
grey for gray
theatre for theater
kilometre for kilometer
Anna, what a great post. I love it. Growing up with a father educated in Canada and a mother raised by her English grandmother, I've had spelling and pronunciation problems all my life with certain words. Seeing how far our language and customes have drifted from yours reminds me why it was so important for Lehi to carry a written record with him, yet even a written record doesn't keep language from evolving and changing when the people speaking it are geographically separated.

Stephanie Black said...

Fun post, Anna! It's so fun hearing more about your homeland.

I sympathize with your friend who misses grape juice. When we lived in Ireland, that was one of the things we missed. The stuff we found sure didn't taste the same!

Cheri J. Crane said...

I so need to visit your country, Anna. =) Great post.