Embarrassing the English and other moments of rebellion

I embarrassed an Englishman the other day.  An Englishwoman, actually.  I’d been standing next to a stunning blonde in choir for a few weeks, and Tuesday, when we were all dolled up for our dress rehearsal, she looked amazing, and I told her so.  Given that it was clear she spends some time on her appearance, I assumed she had some idea how she looked, but I was surprised to find that she responded with the same kind of bashful English mumble that you get from random guys on the street when you bump into them.  When she said something about not even her husband thinking such things, it was all I could do not to inform her that she was either wrong or married to an idiot.  It isn’t that the English don’t do compliments: Katherine has been told that her coloring/playing/throwing is “Simply brilliant!” or, the current favorite, “Brill!” ever since we got here, so I thought that compliments that make the American roll her eyes were the norm, and I was almost worried about coming off as lukewarm when I wanted to offer one.  What a strange place.  You are supposed to run around telling people they’re absolutely brilliant, and then they’re supposed to mutter incomprehensibly and shuffle their feet in response.  Oh well.  The stunning blonde still looked happy at the compliment, once she’d gotten through her mumble, so I’ll just keep on as I am.  And if you hear me say “Brilliant!” feel free to give me a hard time.

I’m doing the last tweaking of my dissertation before sending it in, and I’m running into trouble with the formatting guidelines.  Things are going along quite smoothly until I see that I’m being warned to make my dissertation title “keyword-search-friendly.”  I’m in English, the home of the pun, the double entendre, the metaphor, the simile, and the allusion.  This instruction made me want to go back and make my title completely uncategorizable by Google.  I’ll settle by leaving the pun in my title and ignoring the helpful hints.  I can’t say I really want anyone to find my dissertation, anyway!

Sydney is currently in Sheffield, having taken an early train up from Oxford.  The kids and I are doing just fine thus far.


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