Pardonnez Moi

I’m learning to speak the lingo, a little bit every day. America is pronounced “Mericuh” and rhymes with “duh!” around these parts, I’m reliably informed. Today I consciously noticed that Americans (or at least, midwesterners) say “Excuse me,” when they want to get past you in the supermarket or need your attention. They do this on occasions where I find myself saying sorry. I need to stop apologising and learn to let people know, politely, that I’m here.

Yes, we were taught to say excuse me when I was a child. Mum taught us that it was polite and well-mannered. Manners are a dying art now in the south of England, as far as I can tell. Most people would rather drop a door in your face than wait a few extra seconds to hold it for their fellow human. At least, that’s my impression. I was rather stressed what with crazy shift work and all.

Then again, they sell ammo here in the local superstore. Yes, the same nice people who say “Paper or plastic?” at the checkout and bag your groceries for you can load you up with live rounds too.

I’m kind of glad that the people buying and selling these things are all so awfully friendly and polite. I can just imagine what would happen if the inhabitants of Watford or Hemel Hempstead were able to shop for bullets along with the groceries. Something along the lines of, “Are you tawkin’ t’ me? Are YOU tawkin’ t’ ME?” Blam! Blam! Blam! “Excuse me.” “Excuse you? Sure, I’ll excuse you! With this!!” Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam!

England, I found, was very stressful.

8 Responses to 'Pardonnez Moi'

  1. Ed Says:

    We’re polite until you get in front of us with your car doing the speed limit. Then all bets are off.

  2. Simon Says:

    Oi – don’t knock us Watford boys. Vinnie Jones and Nick Leeson – two of our finest. Shut it, Jefferies, or I’ll ave ya.

  3. Mer Says:

    I actually find the holding-the-door-open thing annoying, since there’s usually someone who has to stand still extra long to get the last person to catch up to them. In busy places, it makes sense, but when people are spaced out twenty feet apart in an emptyish University building, it’s quite silly, and yet we all do it.

    I am surprised to learn that this is an American thing. I thought we were s’posed to be rude! Of course, the Midwest and the South both expend a fair amount of energy on politeness, and I’m pretty convinced it’s really New Yorkers and certain breeds of hicks that give us our bad world reputation. And our pres is a hick. (sigh)

  4. Keith Says:

    Well, maybe it is just me. I try to hold the door open for people because it’s the polite thing to do. Robert Heinlein wrote somewhere that the breakdown of society starts when people stop holding doors for each other. I’d hate for him to be right.

    By the way, I thought Nick Leeson was a victim of other people’s incompetence as much as his own wrongdoing. He really should have fired the dipstick who worked for him and kept screwing up trades. It’s an object lesson. The occasional mistake is forgivable but you need to recognize when it’s pathological and someone is a total tool.

    Vinnie? What can you say. He’s a role model to the slacker home counties generation, created by the tabloids and shaped by Hollywood. The sad part is that he probably thinks he did it all himself. Not that I wouldn’t instantly want him to be my best mate if I met him in a bar. Or something like that.

  5. Steve Scoles Says:

    Then of course you have got the Twotford/Luton thing, and me, having been born in Luton being on the other side of that divide (although who the hell gives a toss but it’s a soccer derby thing so there’s a sociological element to it I suppose). Holding doors open has never been quite the same since that ferry sank a few years ago and let’s face it, even if you could buy bullets over the counter in this country the guns would be very unlikely to work if the weather wasn’t JUST right. Anyway, must go and slam doors in the faces of the polite, have a good year.

  6. Keith Says:

    We happened to be standing in the way of some French people at the mall today. They said sorry. I could almost whip this up into a blog of its own but I’m all shopped out and, frankly, headlines like “Terror Concerns Disrupt Flights” leave me thinking there are more important things in the world. I mean, “concerns” are enough to cancel flights? What?? It’s just not good enough.

  7. pete Says:

    Excuse meeee!

    Light the blue touch paper and stand well back. You have lit a big one here keef..

    An observation on politeness?

    Lovely gun sir, want some body armour with that?

    It would be good, dare I say it, a nice thing, if the authorities in the US would use their parania on their fellow men by taking every finger print of any shmuck who wanted to buy a gun in a supermarket/mall and then not selling it to em. Instead of being paraniod about everyone else.

    One farmer here in old blighty had a rather mixed responce from joe public,when confronted with strangers in his house. Apart from one ending up dead and the other trying to take the farmer to court.

    I think “bam bam bam” is where you’re coming from here. And that’s not just the lawyers making a killing.

    Watford, Hemel and my home are a safer place thanks to Supermarkets not selling guns – politely.
    I can open a door to someone here without them getting the wrong end of the stick and ending up dead via a bullet. Knife yes!

    My rant over and we’re both still alive 🙂 I hope.

  8. Keith Says:

    Just so you know, paranoid US schools already try to enforce fingerprinting of innocent children as young as five and six. And paranoid US employers force workers to undergo compulsory drug testing of their blood and urine. The US has a paranoid culture, in some ways, but that’s partly because the USA is a young culture–finding its feet and growing through a not always comfortable adolesence.

    Watford and Hemel, on the other hand, represent a culture which is on the verge of senility. They sometimes lose the ability to be not just paranoid but even just healthily skeptical. Gun violence is on the increase in the UK although, as you say, you’re not likely to get shot on your door step. That’s because it’s a problem confined to certain small groups.

    Gun crime, in the UK, is a symptom of the society’s senility–senility brought about by living in a culture where you can have it all and have it large without really having to make an effort. And that cultural senility is being treated by ordinary people through self medication. Not that drug taking is bad, per se. Just too much of anything can be dangerously unhealthy and that’s what it’s become.

    Here’s a link, which you’ll have to cut and paste because I’m healthily skeptical about allowing html in these comments 😉

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3112818.stm

    In the end, I don’t think the grass is greener anywhere. It’s just interesting to note the differences. And, yes, the bam bam bam above was a reflection of my own stressed out life.