4 Classic British Cultural References

I believe, as an expat, that it’s part of my duty to inform and educate my American hosts about many facets of the English language and culture. I feel I’ve already achieved much success in this regard, given many of my friends and co-workers understand and often even use the phrase “and Bob’s your uncle!” I also appreciate the fact that many Americans can amply recite lines and full scenes from Monty Python. That said, it was brought to my attention a few nights back that there is still work to be done, when my husband did not understand an analogy my brother and I used. So pay attention, take notes and you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to enrich your conversations and wittily entertain at cocktail parties with these four classic British cultural references.

TARDIS: something that is bigger on the inside than the outside. As in the blue telephone box in which Doctor Who time travelled. The acronym stands for Time and Relative Dimension iSpace.

“Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.” A classic line from the absolute classic TV sitcom, Fawlty Towers, starring John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, proprietor of a second-rate seaside hotel. Only 12 episodes were ever made and if you have time and would like a rip-roaring laugh, watch them. Here’s Basil at his finest:

The Two Ronnies, another classic 1970s-1980s comedy sketch show. Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett’s signature line was: “So it’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him.”  Consider it a British SNL only cheesier and rather dated. Here’s one to enjoy:

“Plonker” – a term most frequently used by Del Boy to castigate his brother Rodney and the rest of the characters in Only Fools and Horses, the hilarious sitcom that ran in the 80s and 90s, set in South London. For other south London “Del Boy” terminology, check out this handy site – http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/onlyfools/lingo/  And I’d be utterly remiss, if I didn’t leave with you this classic moment in TV drama. You’re welcome.

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  1. Funny – My favourite is an episode of To the Manor Born (Penelope Keith) — we watch it ALL THE TIME! She refers to an asshat as having a ‘certain sartorial reputation’ – because he wore ready made bow ties!

  2. Only the English can say things like “sartorial reputation” and it’s hilarious 😉


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