Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Thoughts On England Without Research, Part Two: The British Invasion

  • Those pasty motherfuckers took over the world, pretty much.
  • I’m getting ahead of myself, and also I don’t want this to be another linear history, but it might end up being one.
  • We’ll both find out at the same time, I guess.
  • Kind of an adventure.
  • Get on with it.
  • To recap: England is a small country on the island of Great Britain where damp humans live; it has had a far more influential role in the course of world history than its size would suggest.
  • The English language was invented there, in a small shed in Shroppingtonshirechester-on-Ferryknickers.
  • That is not true.
  • Everything else ever invented by an English person was invented in a shed, but the English language was not invented.
  • Around 500 AD, after the Fall of Rome, Germanic tribesmen (and tribeswomen and tribeschildren and tribesdogs) started immigrating into England; at the time, the primary tongues were various dialects of Brythonic (Carbonic? Moronic?) and Latin.
  • The German tribes were called the Angles and the Saxons.
  • Mix that all up for a few hundred years and you have Anglo-Saxon, or Old English: Old German plus a little Latin plus a little Norse.
  • Then come the Normans, who change the official rich person language to French (Old French), and this permeates the Anglo-Saxon; this becomes Middle English.
  • Chaucer was Middle English, and still mostly understandable today, whereas Old English is completely incomprehensible: Beowolf.
  • Chaucer uses tons of words that make no sense, and many quirks of syntax, but the rhythm of the language is recognizably English.
  • Beowolf sounds like you walked in on an alien taking a dump, but The Canterbury Tales has a whole bunch of fart jokes: point, Chaucer.
  • How about that Wife of Bath, huh?
  • Anyway: England is an island (Britain, whatever) and things evolve faster and weirder on islands than on the mainland: you have a more concentrated breeding stock.
  • Think of the Galapagos.
  • Canterbury Tales, in its vaguely-understandable Middle English, to Hamlet, in strange but almost totally clear language, in a little over 200 years.
  • That’s fast.
  • (The only Shakespeare conspiracy theory I have ever given any heed to is the one put forth by Malcolm X that Shakespeare ghost-wrote the King James Bible. I enjoy that theory, and always picture William and King James having a Black Adder/King George-type relationship.)
  • Then there was Great Vowel Shift, which is better than a Great Bowel Shift, which is actually a small consonant shift.
  • People started talking differently.
  • For reasons.
  • Somewhere along the way the spelling got all fucked up: weird rules and sub-rules and exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions and one-time special dispensations: learning English can be tough, though through thorough thought, it can be done.
  • When it comes to languages, TotD is an exceptional relativist: each language is unique and has its own strengths and weaknesses, no language is inherently better than another.
  • It’s just what your mother talks to you when you’re a baby.
  • This is to say that the English language is not now the lingua franca of the planet because it is superior to other tongues, but because its speakers spread it over the face of the globe using cannons.
  • Pointing cannons at someone is an excellent way of getting them to learn your language, if for nothing other than ask you to point your cannons elsewhere.
  • English became the official language of money and medicine and science, and also the skies and seas. (All planes and boats operate in English, everywhere.)
  • Linguistic hegemony, motherfucker.
  • (My appreciation of English’s dominance, of course, goes against Kant’s conditional imperative: I only like the fact that English is number one because I happen to have been born into the language. On the other hand, the only good Kant is Hal, so fuck the conditional imperative. USA! USA!)
  • Here’s how colonialism and the British Empire worked: in places that were not England, stuff existed.
  • England went and took it.
  • Wait, no.
  • Usually, there were people living around the stuff.
  • England made the people get the stuff and then they took it.
  • Cotton, opium, tea, tobacco, sugar, spices, gems, and a shitload of crops.
  • Africans.
  • England stopped slaving well before America did, but for a good long while only the Portuguese were better at it.
  • The British Empire was almost self-satirical in its rapaciousness: they declared several wars on China to force them to accept their opium.
  • Those were drug pushers.
  • Remember in the after-school specials, when they would warn you about the drug pushers, who would give you the first one for free and get you hooked, but they didn’t actually exist?
  • They did: the British Empire.
  • The bullshit they pulled in India is also a hoot: India was forced to sell cotton to England, who would turn it into clothes sold by a monopoly in India.
  • That’s so evil it’s funny.
  • The guy who thought that plan up was stroking a white cat as he did it.
  • Here’s something you might not know: America began as an English colony.
  • Thirteen of them, as a matter of fact.
  • The media, which is very unfair, doesn’t want you to know that.
  • After a growing conflict with England and her Parliament, the American Colonies sued for independence; the two sides worked out a deal reasonable and calmly.
  • Nah, just fucking with you: war.
  • You know how that turned out, so let’s go back to Perfidious Albion which, as I mentioned, has a Parliamentary system, which means their legislative body has a recessed filter and comes in a blue box.
  • Like America: bicameral legislation, person with the job title Speaker of the House.
  • Unlike America: everyfuckingthing else.
  • One of the houses is the House of Lords, and those people are there because their families have been rich for many generations.
  • That’s it.
  • They’ve been updating it, but still: slide out of the right rich lady, and boom: you get to make laws.
  • It’s not even titular: they get to do stuff.
  • England has a Queen, but she’s not really allowed to do anything.
  • But she has to do everything.
  • It’s complicated.
  • Like, the Queen (or the King, whoever is alive at the time) opens Parliament by giving a speech outlining the agenda for the upcoming session: the party in power writes the speech for her, though, but she has to approve it, but she’s not really allowed not to approve it, but a million other things that are all based in Common Law and tradition rather than a constitution because England doesn’t have a constitution.
  • They like to say they don’t have a “written constitution” but I say there’s nothing else but.
  • An oral constitution isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on.
  • Many countries have had royal families through their histories, but most have given them up, or converted them into figureheads.
  • Some kings are still allowed to chop off people’s’ heads, though.
  • Queen Elizabeth II, of the House of Windsor (née Gothenburg: the name was changed during World War I) is not permitted to execute anyone by any method
  • She has been Regent since the death of her father, Stutterin’ Colin Firth, in 1952. (’51? ’53? Sometime soon after the war.)
  • Queen Elizabeth has never blown her nose in public; nor has she pinched one nostril closed and exhaled violently through the other, spitting a bullet of mucus at the sidewalk.
  • She is married to Prince Phillip, who is only a prince because if he were a king then he would outrank Elizabeth, and together they had four children, all of whom are dreadful.
  • Although someone once tried to kidnap Princess Anne, and she said “Not bloody likely,” and just got out of the car and walked away, which is a baller move.
  • That is behaving like royalty:
  • “You’re kidnapped!”
  • “Absolutely not.”
  • “What?”
  • “No, I’m not.”
  • “Listen to me! I have a gun!”
  • “I’m a princess. Fuck off.”
  • “You are being kidnapped.”
  • “And you are being told to fuck off. We’ve come to an impasse.”
  • Jesus, it’s four am.
  • I didn’t even get to Churchill.
  • Can’t talk about England without talking about Churchill.
  • Goddammit, to be further continued…

4 Comments

  1. Well, Simon Schama needed three volumes.

  2. Nothing about the Dave Clark Five?

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    October 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    lord sutch

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