I recently had the pleasure of reading the e-book The Oddball English by Annie Harrison. The book is a no-holds-barred and cheeky explanation of British society and culture, covering such topics as national obsessions, things that perplex foreigners about the English, the English class system, and English slang. As an American myself, I definitely learned a few things about British culture from this book. The book is both good-naturedly conceited and self-deprecating, which I found to be the author’s intent based on my reading of the book itself, and of Ms. Harrison’s blog.
I particularly enjoyed the section on English sport, leisure, and eccentricities. While I have never understood cricket myself, and probably still do not after reading this book, I felt less alone in my not understanding when I read the author’s description of the sport. I also enjoyed learning about the English summer season of events. I have seen photos in the news of the Chelsea Flower Show and of the Royal Ascot, and went to Wimbledon one summer when I was living in London, but I found it amusing to read a local’s take on the summer season. And not just the summer season – this book affords the reader an opportunity to read about year-round events taking place in England. Admittedly most of these events I have never heard of before reading this book (except Guy Fawkes Night), but am glad to now know what to expect, for example, if I happen to be in Fenland in East Anglia on the 7th of January anytime soon.
Along with the book come suggested YouTube clips, including Ali G., the Opening of Parliament, Mr. Bean, Mock the Week, TopGear, and The Office, to name a few. Having lived in England when The Office (the original UK version) was on television there, I have never been able to bring myself to watch the American version because I loved the British one so much. If I were not familiar with British television and British humor, I would find these clips particularly helpful when Ms. Harrison is making a comparison of different types of English humor. I also found the YouTube clips in the Understanding Regional Accents section to be helpful if one wants to truly hear the difference among the regions.
Ms. Harrison takes the opportunity at the end to recommend other books and websites dedicated to describing England and the English. I plan to check them out, and would recommend you do the same after you read this book!