OxBlog

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE QUEEN'S ENGLISH: Earlier this evening, I had dinner with three fellow Americans. Two of them were my fellow OxBlog correspondents, Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Belton. The third was Mr. Sachs. As we walked down the street on our way out of the restaurant, we continued our animated conversation about the events of the day. Overhearing our distinct accents, a local resident decided to imitate them in a derisive and somewhat hostile manner.

Naturally, the four of us were taken aback. As we all know, our pidgin dialect lacks the elegance and grace of the Queen's English. Yet for the duration of our time at Oxford, we have sought to comport ourselves with dignity in spite of our inability to overcome the self-evident ridiculousness of our manner of speech. Even so, when confronted by the self-evident civility of the Queen's English, it is hard for us not to be ashamed of our backwater upringings.

However, on this particular night, none of the four of us felt particularly taken aback when said local resident decided to mock our dialect. We were not taken aback because we sensed that this particular local resident lacked the necessary credibility to comment on our lack of cultural sophistication. This absence of credibility stemmed from the fact that said local resident was in the process of urinating on a wall in broad daylight at the same time that he was busy offering his condescending rendition of the American voice.

Perhaps there is some larger message buried in this commonplace tale. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the irony of imperial decline and post-colonial jealously. On the other hand, one ought to recognize the recklessness of generalizing about a national state of affairs on the basis of a single individual's behavior. After all, how many Englishmen urinate on public walls in broad daylight? Having lived now for three years on this sceptered isle, I believe that I can say with considerable confidence that most Englishmen have the good sense to wait until after dark.
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