Dispatches From the South – Hugh Grant, the Queen and Six Pints of Lager

My wife and I went to the cinema to see “The Ghost” this week. It was a terrific book, and the movie, while perhaps longer than it should have been, was equally good. I recommend both, though if you are in America, you’ll need to look for “The Ghost Writer” because, for some reason, that is how the title came out in translation.

They do, you know, actually translate British books into American. I found this odd when it was first made known to me, but I can now see why it is necessary. During the movie, for example, when Ian McGregor—while in the US—drives into a ferry terminal, the ticket seller asks, “Single or Return?” This is not something an American would say. In fact, I expect most Americans wouldn’t even know what that meant, and I don’t doubt, in the version of the movie titled “The Ghost Writer,” the question posed to McGregor is, “One way or round Trip?”

Another thing that tickled me about the movie was how these Brits moved around on Martha’s Vineyard and the Massachusetts mainland, encountering a variety of locals and not one of them asked, “Have you met the Queen?” (A bit ironic when you consider that several of these Brits could have answered, “Yes.”)

If accounts of Brits travelling to the States (as well as my own experiences when I visit) are to be believed, your average American still holds as gospel the notion that Britain is populated by fish-and-chip eating, binge-drinking football-hooligans with bad teeth who talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, even when they are chatting up the Queen. And they’re all homosexuals. Except for Hugh Grant, and we’re not really sure about him.

Hugh Grant, the Queen and Six Pints of Lager

As a correspondent living amongst the locals, I thought it my duty to set the record straight. So I’m happy to report that, after eight years of research, I can dispel all of these most of the some of those myths.

- Bad Teeth: Sorry to let the team down, but Brits, when compared to Americans, are a step or two lower on the dental-health ladder. This, however, is a subjective comparison; not everyone wants a picture-perfect, dazzling white, Tom Cruise smile. Well, not everyone over here, anyway.

- Fish-and-Chip Eaters: This, too, is a sort of true stereotype. Fish and Chips are still wildly popular with certain segments of the population (of which I am an enthusiastic member). However, thanks to globalization, I often see a longer lines coming out of KFC and McDonald’s on Friday night. I don’t mind; it makes it easier for me to get my fish-and-chips (with mushy peas).

- Binge Drinkers: Sad to say, there are some Brits who look upon drinking as a competitive sport, but for the most part they are sane and responsible drinkers. The sane and responsible ones don’t make very good footage on the “Cops With Cameras” programs, however, so we hardly ever see them.

- Football Hooligans: This behavior has been a problem in the past but the football clubs have worked hard to eradicate it. The hooliganism is (mostly) gone now, but the stereotype remains.

- They have all met the Queen and/or Paul McCartney: No, they have not.

- They all talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins: The only Brits I hear talking like that are ones who are imitating Americans trying to talk like Brits.

- They are all Homosexuals: Well, of course they are. Except maybe Hugh Grant


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