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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of…

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (2004)

by Kate Fox

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1,931535,321 (3.8)79
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English people are weird. English people write books about how they are weird. Weird ( )
1 vote Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |

Fox wittily dissects the behaviour of the English in 400 pages of anthropology, concluding that it all comes down to social dis-ease, with reflexes of humour, moderation, and hypocrisy, an outlook based on empiricism, Eeyorishness and class-consciousness, and values including fair play, courtesy and modesty. She enlarges on her concept of social dis-ease:

"It is our lack of ease, discomfort and incompetence in the field (minefield) of social interaction; our embarrassment, insularity, awkwardness, perverse obliqueness, emotional constipation, fear of intimacy and general inability to engage in a normal and straightforward fashion with other human beings."

Since the author herself is English, the book falls firmly into the acceptable discourse of being self-deprecatingly funny. The most enjoyable chapters are perhaps those on pets and hobbies - I now begin to understand DIY. She is even self-deprecating about her own discipline: "social science can sometimes almost be as insightful as good stand-up comedy."

Of course, I am not English myself, but I am not unfamiliar with them (having married one), and as a close observer for several decades, I think Fox has nailed a number of characteristic behaviours beautifully. ( )
  nwhyte | Mar 11, 2018 |
A British friend recommended this, and it absolutely did not disappoint. It's a rare book that makes me laugh out loud as many times as this one did. Thoroughly useful, though it does go on a bit toward the end. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Nov 21, 2017 |
An entertaining and humorous dissection of how the English behave. Kate has spent hours eavesdropping on her fellow citizens, and has nailed our foibles, I never knew being modest could be so boastful.... ( )
  LARA335 | May 18, 2017 |
If I hadn't been reading this for a bookgroup challenge I wouldn't have finished it.
I work alongside a lot of english people and I don't recognise the characteristics that she claims are typically english. I'm not going to tell you my name and won't tell you anything personal. I know more personal stuff about some of the english people I work with than I do some of my family. The constant digs at americans were really annoying.
The basic theory seemed to be okay as english people we are socially awkward, hypocrites and liars but at least we're not americans. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
"Social dis-ease", she decides, is the "central core of Englishness". She holds this congenital awkwardness responsible for everything from our "obsession with privacy" to our celebrated courtesy, famous reserve and infinite capacity for embarrassment. "We do everything in moderation," she believes. Fox's curiosity about English behaviour, which she attempts to reduce, in this prodigously long investigation, into key constituent parts, is matched only by her regret that we are not a more free and easy nationality.
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To Henry, William, Sarah and Katharine
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I am sitting in a pub near Paddington station, clutching a small brandy.
There are of course other theories of language evolution, the most appealing of which is Geoffrey Miller's proposition that language evolved as a courtship device - to enable us to flirt. (from footnote 15)
the Edwardian rhyme "The Germanys live in Germany; The Romans live in Rome; The Turkeys live in Turkey; But the English live at home. (from footnote 31)
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In this volume, Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks and habits of the English people. From the most famous traits through to the most bizarre reflex reactions, she holds a mirror up to the English national character.

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