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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of…

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Kate Fox

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1,596424,558 (3.8)66
Title:Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
Authors:Kate Fox
Info:Hodder & Stoughton (2005), Paperback, 424 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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


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Ah, now this is embarrassing: this book was recommended to me and I have duly read it - or to be more accurate, half read it. The fact that I did not complete the task, and my star rating, might lead you to surmise that this is not going to be a complementary review. Take a pat on the back, you are correct.

The first chapter (yes, honestly, the WHOLE chapter) is taken up by the revelation that, whilst the British do talk a great deal about the weather, it is not from a deep seated fascination with matters meteorological: who knew? If you feel the need to take a break from reading to digest this devastating news, I shall understand and, I believe there are organisations out there to assist, if the trauma is too great...

OK, ready to continue? The book proceeds at this level of devastation to all that we think that we know, for 400 pages. It is the scientific equivalent of clairvoyance; it takes little clues which. were we to sit and consider them, we would work out for ourselves, and heralds their cracking with all the fanfares which greeted the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem.

The above criticism is, of course, in addition to the dubious theory that one may define a national stereotype: the Germans are ruthlessly efficient but have no sense of humour, the French are garlic eating surrender monkeys and the sun never sets upon the British Empire. Hum. I suspect that, anybody amazed by the wisdom of this book will, at the very least, need help with some of the big words. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Dec 7, 2014 |
This is an amazingly entertaining book for such a scholarly topic. Every page is filled with fascinating observations and insights, almost always delivered with a wry humour. More often than not, the humour is directed against the author herself. The writer sees herself as one of her most typical 'subjects' and is generous in exposing her own foibles to provide examples.
My only issue with the writing is that it is somewhat repetitive. The writer tells us what she is going to tell us, then tells us and then tells us what she told us. This would be fine if it was very different at each stage but mostly the conclusions from one chapter are reinforcements of the conclusions from the previous chapter. This is standard for an academic approach and is only a minor quibble.
I very much enjoyed and learned a lot from this book - especially being Irish. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Nov 6, 2014 |
This book was great! I kept having to go into the other room and interrupt my husband's music to read passages to him. I got great laughs throughout. I read a lot of English fiction and enjoy English television. This opened up these worlds and gives new depth to what I'm reading and watching. I highly recommend it! ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Delightful trip through the English psyche. I recognised far too much of myself and everyone I know - and learnt a few things that had passed me by (as I grew up abroad). Must-read for anyone moving to the UK! ( )
  imyril | May 29, 2013 |
Very much enjoyed this again, on second reading. I had mis-remembered that it was as funny as, say, a Bill Bryson book, which it's not - quite - but nevertheless I giggled over lots of it and read many bits out to my willing partner, who plans to read it himself sometime soon.

The insights are quite striking, though as you would expect a little less startling second time round (first time of reading I remember being really taken by the idea that English people form an orderly queue of one if they're waiting at a bus stop - still true second time round, but now more of a comfortable appreciation than a startling new realization). Overall, the quotes from people she's interviewed are the best bit, with her summing-up at the end of each chapter the least interesting bit (following the essay structure of "I've told you what I'm going to tell you, and now I'm telling you, and now I'll tell you what I've told you").

Recommended for anyone English, yes, but also for anyone with an eye for cultural differences. ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (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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