Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bloody Shite

I don’t like the term “Anglophile” but I have to live with it. I can’t remember exactly when it was that I became enamored with the English, but I know it is wrapped up with discovering The Beatles.

I was always intrigued by accents. I can hear nuances in people’s speech that other’s often miss. One day I asked a woman if she was from Baltimore and she said “How did you know?" I told her she sounded like it, and she said that she didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a “Baltimore accent.” She spoke like my boss, who was from Baltimore. I hear rhythms and patterns in addition to changes in vowels. I hear little things. New Yorkers, for instance, stand “on” line, while everyone else seems to stand “in” line. Mid-Westerners like to use the superfluous “at,” as in, “Where’s it at?”

My English accent is atrocious, on par with “Dick Van Dyke’s.” I hate to admit it, because I can do an excellent Indian accent – the Indian developers here at my office will attest to that. My Irish accent is passable to Americans. On a good day I can do a fair Italian accent as well. The one I want to do is English, and the more exposed I am to the English, the worse my accent gets.

In any event, I love England, English rock music, English Beer, English people and their culture. “Black Adder,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Upstairs Downstairs” and “The Office” top my list of favorite television shows of all time. [The Viscountess and I are going through “The Office” for the third time right now, and it just gets better. If anyone has a Netflix membership or has the money to buy the series on DVD, I can’t over-emphasize the brilliance of that show. Fortunately the DVD has English subtitles. Not to be missed.]

Back in the 90’s, when I was still a trainer, I did a lot of traveling across the U.S. My employer was an English company, and many of my co-workers were from the U.K. I would blow into a town for a week, and if I was lucky there would be 2 or 3 consultants from the company at the customer site. We’d go to dinner together and grab a pint. It was especially fun in those dark-days that presaged my divorce, but that is a different story for a different day.

At this one particular account, there was a Scotsman, and he used the word “shite” incessantly.

“How was the movie?”

“It was Shite!”

“Have you had a look at that program yet?”

“It’s shite!”

“We have to work late tonight.”


Well, as my brother would say, for whatever reason, that really “snapped my carrot.” This was 10 years ago, and I have been saying “shite” ever since. Somewhere along the way, I added “Bloody.” It has become my mantra. It is my default meme. I use it as an expletive when I get angry. I use it when I’m happy. I say it under my breath. Sometimes, I’ll just say it for no good reason at all. The funny thing is, in my experience, you don’t often hear anyone from the U.K. say “Bloody Shite.” At least until I got to London.

I had to travel to London on business about 6 times in the span of about 18 months. Believe me, it wasn’t all beer and skittles flying coach, adjusting to the time change, and being away from the Viscountess and the duke and duchesses. Still, it was a dream come true for me and I had a wonderful time.

The Brits were amused by my antics. They enjoyed “taking the Mickey out of me” and were very amenable to me returning the favor. They were much looser around the office than we are here in the USA. There was a line that you didn’t cross, but that line was about a parsec to the left of the one in the Atlanta office.

As an example, we used a call tracking system called "GEMS." One day, one of the guy developers started calling it “SMEG.” I laughed, and one of the girl developers asked, “Why is that funny?” I said, a bit cautiously, “you know, smegma?” She said, “What’s smegma” and before I had a chance to turn red and say, “look it up” one of the other guys blurted out, “Knob cheese!” and they all broke out laughing. Needless to say, that isn’t the way it would have come down in Atlanta.

It wasn’t long before I had them to saying “Bloody Shite.” They associated the phrase with me, and they would say it around me to my total and complete satisfaction.

It was to my benefit that I was a liberal and originally from New York, because most of the Americans that visited the office were not, and they were very pleased that I was not like the rest. They were completely perplexed when Bush got reelected, and were happy to know that it wasn’t my fault.

[Oh yeah, and the food really is bad there, that is not a joke.]

Anyway, working in London was fantastic. Nobody drove to work, and at least twice a week the group went out and got “pissed.” They were on a 37 hour work-week, so it was expected that on Fridays you would take a long lunch and have a few pints. Back to the office for an hour or two, and then off to the pub for a few more. I can’t hold my liquor, so I didn’t even try to keep up with them. I was drinking half pints and lots of water.

It was a blast.

One particular Friday night, about 8 of us decided to go to Piccadilly Circus, because one of them had a friend tending bar at a “Cheers” nearby. We walked to the train, but the line to buy tickets was extremely long. The ticket machines were all broken. I had a pass, as did the majority of the people, but this one couple did not. There was a ticket office right inside the station. The bloke (Chris) that didn’t have a ticket tried to negotiate with the transit policeman to let him and his lady friend into the station so they could buy their tickets, but he would have none of it. The rest of us were witness to the debate. Personally, I thought it was hilarious. Chris became Michael Palin and the policeman was John Cleese. As the debate ensued, I turned to Lee, who was one of the funniest people that I have ever met, and I said to him:

“In my mind, if I were to imagine such a situation, the Englishman to my right would fold his arms, look me in the eye and say, ‘It’s bloody shite is what it is!’"

He folded his arms, looked me in the eye and said, “Well mate, in your mind, you’d be wrong, because this is such a situation, and I, the Englishman to your right am saying, “It’s f*cking bloody bollocks, and that policeman is a right c*nt!”

I laughed so hard I that I almost cracked my ribs. London beats the hell out of Atlanta.

[Update 26-Oct-2005 10:53 AM EDT - XTCFAN was nice enough to send me this photo of the Tower Bridge that he snapped on his last trip.]


Blogger XTCfan said...

Oh yeah, and the food really is bad there, that is not a joke.

Mate, you simply were not eating in the right places. I had some fantastic meals when I was there in June, especially in London. I live in the DC area, which has lots of ethnic-cuisine choices, but London totally puts it to shame.

One thing you didn't mention: English women are beautiful. I fell in love/lust every single time I rode the Tube.

The UK rocks. Very hard.


9:29 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Mate, you simply were not eating in the right places. I had some fantastic meals when I was there in June, especially in London.

Sorry mate, I DID eat at the right places, and did have some "fantastic" meals. I can't eat Curry, Thai, Chinese and Italian twice a day. Sometimes I just want a sandwich or something. And believe me, there is some BAD ethnic food there as well. Bad curry is not pretty...

9:39 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Especially when it's exiting!


10:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

London is top of my list of places to visit - I'm still dying to get there - with Dublin second.

Speaking of which: my understanding is that "shite" is more Irish than anything else.

I also enjoy Brit culture and the language, accent, etc. I can do a pretty good British accent of the Python sort due to years spent listening to Monty Python records.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Eidin said...

My mother is English and still has a bit of an accent. Mostly it is sneaking an "r" sound where none usually exists. Example: "tarco" instead of "taco."

I can do a pretty good British accent as well as a 'Valley Girl' accent - that's it for me.

I once had a friend who whenever he impersonated someone, especially someone with any kind of accent, would sound just like Ringo Star.No matter what.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

This post made me smile a lot. It's nice to hear from an American who likes Britain rather than most of them who live here who just whinge constantly (about 2,000 of the buggers study at Oxford I think). Particularly about the food. Which I don't really fathom. You can eat perfectly well in Britain. I can't say I was blown away by the food in New York. It's no better than ours!

5:47 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...


No doubt that if I lived there and could shop for groceries and cook for myself, I could like the food just fine. And as I mentioned to Xtcfan, I had some great food there, but living there in a hotel and having to eat out every day, I was missing things like Amercian sandwiches, you know the simple stuff that you get used to. I know my English friends complain about the sandwiches here - they don't like the bread and they think there is too much meat. I understand about the bread, but of course I know where to go to get great bread.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Your post made me laugh (tried not to out loud b/c i'm at work).

I looked up fawlty towers because I am taking a British & European "pop culture" class. We have to do an oral presentation and I am doing mine on Fawlty Towers and Benny Hill.

My dad was born in Glasgow so I have a strong desire to go visit my roots and the whole UK.

On a side note I love your London Bridge pic - did you take it yourself?

5:31 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

On a side note I love your London Bridge pic - did you take it yourself?

I wish! That is the Tower Bridge by the way; a common misconception. The London Bridge is more of a viaduct. Very plain. But the view from it is spectacular!

6:27 PM  

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