Monday, October 03, 2016

Special relationships, I: Swinging a line and sweet FA

Spotted in the New Statesman and Nation from many, many summers ago:

"The arrival of Americans makes us feel that something is really happening. I believe that for the most part the two armies are settling down well together, but inevitably there will be some friction. Old soldiers, who recall how the Americans came over last time, fresh when we had had three years of fighting and said they had won the war—they are just the men who are putting things right between the British and American troops. Both British and American have had wise advice given to them to prevent friction.

Difficulties are bound to arise because the Americans have far more money than the British, who are more sore about the allowances given to their wives than about anything else anyway. Also they are warned that Americans are apt to ‘swing a line’ while the British always understate.

An American recruit, naively pleased with his equipment, starts boosting his gas-mask. The English, smiling to themselves, egg him on a bit. The remark they would naturally make about their own mask is quite insincere, but traditional. They would curse the authorities for making them carry the thing at all, and add that anyway it would probably stop sweet Fanny Adams if came to the test."

"A Country Diary", The New Statesman and Nation, 25 July 1942, 58.

"I referred last week to the problem of Anglo-American relations in the village pub. My own observations this week have been that things are settling down very well, though the American habit of expecting whisky, which is not to be found because it has almost all been sent to America, has occasioned some ironic comment. It is just as well, in my view, that the whisky is not there, for the last two generations of Americans tend to treat alcohol too little as a social amenity and too much as an occupation."

"A London Diary", The New Statesman and Nation, 1 August, 1942, 72. 
Now: To the extent that Britons were ever more restrained than Americans when it comes to either self-regard or alcohol -- which may well have once been the case -- this seems like a long lost marker of cultural difference.

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