Feeds:
Posts
Comments

As promised I’m back with the second half of my quirky names series. I will admit I had a more difficult time compiling a list of unusual male British names. The traditional ones like James, John, Tom, Robert, Steve, etc. are still popular on both sides of the pond. Not unknown in the States, but heard less often, are names such as Martin, Simon, Hugh and the even more rare, Clive.

Below are five of the most distinctly British names I could brainstorm. As with the ladies segment earlier, if you can come up with a better, more characteristic example, please share in the comments section at the end of the post.

Benedict Cumberbatch

As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, this is indeed the Sherlock actor’s given name. In fact his father and fellow actor, Timothy Carlton, doesn’t even use the family surname in his professional life so I think young Ben took a calculated risk when he retained this unusual moniker.  The formality of “Benedict”and the whimsical quality of  “Cumberbatch” sets this actor up as a classic British character. Besides the iconic Mr. Holmes, Benedict has also portrayed illustrious Brits such as Stephen Hawking and Prime Minister William Pitt. Whether a choice of family loyalty or a dodgy gamble, judging by the trajectory of his career, Mr. Cumberbatch made the right decision.

Benedict as Sherlock image credit BBC

Benedict as Sherlock
image credit Hartswood Films

 

Rupert Grint

While almost any character in Harry Potter’s world could have made this list (Neville Longbottom, Barty Crouch, or Dudley Dursley for example), Rupert Grint is one of the few actors whose name fit right in with the quaint characters in the films. Rupert is common enough in the UK, but few and far between in America. And Grint, well it sounds as though it’s right out of Roald Dahl story.

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasly  image credit Heyday Films

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
image credit Heyday Films

 

Noel Fielding

It might seem odd that the French word for Christmas has become a male British name.   However, with the change in pronunciation from the French (No-el) to something more like Noll, the English have made in their own and Noel Fielding is, in my opinion, a prime example of the country’s renowned eccentricity.  From the Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd to his self-titled Luxury Comedy sketch show, Mr. Fielding’s whole being screams that he’s an artsy, mod goth with a totally off-the-wall way of looking at the world and he doesn’t care who knows it. What could be more British than that?

Team captain Noel Fielding on NMTB Image Credit BBC

Never Mind the Buzzcock’s team captain Noel Fielding 
Image Credit BBC

 

Julian Rhind-Tutt

I chose Mr. Rhind-Tutt as a representative for all those Brits with hyphenated last names which we Yanks have been trained to associate with money and breeding. Although from what I’ve read in the past, aristocratic blood doesn’t run in his veins.  Julian’s  parents just did what a number enlightened couples do when they marry; they combined surnames. Still sounds classy though, right? Rhind-Tutt has portrayed a few posh blue bloods in his career in Blandings and The Lady Vanishes for starters. He’s also played a number of coppers and doctors, the most famous being Dr. Macartney in Green Wing.

Julian Rhind-Tutt

Julian as Angus McCain in The Hour image credit Kudos Film and Television

 

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, to be exact. And according to Wikipedia, this talented gentleman is, in fact, a gentleman, reportedly an eighth cousin to Prince Charles. I had a neighbor named Ralph and we called him “Ralf”. To be honest, when I first heard this actor’s name spoken I thought he was Ray Fines. Regardless of spelling or pronunciation, Mr. Fiennes is a grand example of the British acting profession. He’s conquered Shakespeare, Dickens, and more recently the Bond franchise among other roles. He’s THE Voldemort for God’s sake! Never mind that most of us became acquainted with him as the most horrible Nazi on film ever!

Ralph Fiennes

Fiennes as Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman image credit BBC Films

 

 

Anglophiles United at our "local" pub quiz Image Credit Laurie Frashure

Anglophiles United at our “local” pub quiz
Image Credit Laurie Frashure

As you may know I occasionally report on the activities of my Anglophile group, cleverly named Anglophiles United. This week a large contingent of our membership hit the road in hopes of experiencing an authentic British pub quiz. This outing was educational in scope and the fact that alcohol was freely available had nothing to do with our healthy turnout…

We gathered at an establishment with a name designed to avoid any confusion about its purpose or mission, The Pub. This American franchise concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast is to the the public house what mock Tudor housing developments are to historical stately homes. The serving staff wear kilt-ish uniforms, in addition to ales and whiskey they serve American cocktails like martinis and Manhattans, and they are located in an upscale shopping mall complex. To be fair they don’t claim that they’re the genuine article. Their slogan is “British-inspired, American-crafted” after all.

After keeping our tartan-clad wait staff (yes, we had three) busy with orders of shepherd’s pie, scotch eggs and lots of beer and wine, the quiz began. We broke into three teams -ours chose the name Jiggle Me Timbers because my son thought it would be amusing if the quiz mistress had to announce it over the PA system. There was no vetting process or pre-quiz selection though I can’t blame Inspector Fowler for trying to weed out the dimmest of the dim on his team.

 

 

The quiz itself consisted of twenty general knowledge questions, a speed round which required participants to order an actors’ films from oldest to newest, and the final round which tested our musical knowledge. Apparently technical difficulties are common as we had a similar experience to the members of the Phoenix Club – just without the record player.

 

 

None of our trio of teams won the big prize; however, luck was with us as each participant was given a ticket for door prizes and our entourage won all three drawings!  Each team left with bar glasses and gift certificates and no animosity towards the Hot Moms who apparently beat us by two lousy points. Nor was there any shoe throwing out in the parking lot after…

 

 

And as far as I know, there were no diva pub quiz champions in the crowd that night. At least no one threw a hissy fit like the Oracle did in Benidorm. It’s all just a bit of fun, mate!

 

 

All in all, I’d have to say our pub experience was a fun night out.  However if British TV shows accurately depict the UK pub quiz experience, ours did not approach the same level of competitiveness or nor was anyone’s ego or reputation at risk if they lost. Well, perhaps my son had higher aspirations for our side. That being said, he did win the speed round for us and the indeed the Jiggle Me Timbers team had their name announced throughout The Pub for all to hear.

 

 

 

As you know, when I watch telly it’s more than just for entertainment purposes. I take what I see and formulate impressions and opinions about culture in the UK.  As a step forward in my education, I have put together a number of  head to head (to head) competitions so that you, the readers, can tell me which is the best representation of a particular profession, institution, etc.

Our first match-up involves the very British occupation of butlering and the nominees are…

 

Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) – Downton Abbey’s butler isn’t only in charge of the footmen and valets in the house, the wine and other spirits, and the very formal goings on in the dining room. He is the moral compass for all those who work below stairs, he is a kindly uncle figure for the Grantham sisters and on very rare occasions he shows a glimpse of his softer side.

 

 

Jeeves (Stephen Fry) – While technically a valet, Jeeves is Bertie Wooster’s only domestic employee so I assume he does slip over into what are traditionally butler’s duties as well.

At the end of the film, Gosford Park, Helen Mirren spoke these famous lines. “What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It’s the gift of anticipation. And I’m a good servant. I’m better than good. I’m the best. I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.”  That is Jeeves in a nutshell…that and he’s far more intelligent and accomplished than his rich and foolish master.

 

 

Edmund Blackadder  (Rowan Atkinson) – In Black Adder the Third, Edmund Blackadder has descended from royalty to aristocracy to the lowly station of the Prince Regent’s butler. He doesn’t just take care of domestic concerns for the extremely dim and self-involved Prince George. Blackadder is, for all intents and purposes, the Regent’s caretaker who must be constantly one step ahead, keeping him out of financial, political and physical harm. He also, very wisely, pens George’s love letters.

 

 

Now it’s your turn. Vote for who you feel is the best representation of a British manservant. Or if you feel I’ve slighted a worthy TV butler, please write in your candidate or mention him in the comments section. Thank you in advance for participating in my research.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by names – the tradition of generations, the culturally identifying aspects, the expression of what parents hope their children will be and sometimes the apparent whimsy of it all.

Take me for example – my name is Carmen despite the fact that I have not a drop of Latina blood in me. This has been a source of stereotyping and ethnic confusion numerous times in my life. People jokingly refer to me as Carmen Miranda or Carmen Sandiego. Others have been introduced to me and immediately started speaking Spanish.  Unfortunately no hablo Espanol. Therefore, I’m required from time to time to explain why I have such an authentically Spanish name with no cultural connection to to it.

Ostensibly, my mother just liked the name. Boring story I know, but there it is.

I’ve thought about it many times over the years; if I wanted to change my name which one would I choose? The genealogy that has been done on my family so far has identified a distinctly English lineage and, considering my interests and sensibilities, what else would suit anyhow?

In my extensive experience watching telly and films, it’s unavoidable to come across some characteristically English monikers. In the golden age of Hollywood, actors and actresses were encouraged to change their names if they were foreign sounding or didn’t fit the performers image (the slightly dowdy Norma Jean Mortenson became the seductive Marilyn Monroe, for example). I’m happy to see that these days actors are more likely to stick with their given names which might honor familial ancestors or reflect  their national identities.

Therefore, I’ve gathered some notable British examples together for your enjoyment, amusement and consideration –  just in case I ever decide to write under a distinctly English pseudonym in future…

 

Tuppence Middleton

Let’s break this down. This woman was named after a denomination of pre-decimal British coinage. Her surname is shared with the family of the current Duchess of Cambridge. She’s pictured below as Iris Carr, the protagonist of a classic British story, The Lady Vanishes. She looks the very picture of a 1930’s English socialite in distress. She is “twee” personified, if I correctly understand the term.

Tuppence Middleton

The Lady Vanishes BBC

 

Imogen Poots

Okay, if you giggled a bit upon reading this name, I don’t blame you. Get it out and we’ll move on. The first name (pronounced Em-a-gin) has a vintage sound and is one we don’t hear round these parts. Then there’s the quite unfortunate onomatopoeic surname which I can’t help but associate with flatulence.   But don’t feel sorry for Miss Poots. Hollywood has come calling despite her rather eccentric moniker. She’s appeared in Fright Night, That Awkward Moment, and Need for Speed.

A Long Way Down BBC Films

A Long Way Down
BBC Films

 

Rosamund Pike

In the States we have Rosemarys and Roseannes but precious few Rosamunds. Royal mistresses and Regency period gentlewomen are evoked by the name and not surprisingly Ms. Pike has played an Austen character, Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Her name alone elicits the image of the proverbial English Rose.

An Education BBC Films

An Education
BBC Films

 

Jemima Rooper

Jemima, on the other hand has the feel of a plucky, slightly less demure disposition, which is the way I would describe some of Ms. Rooper’s characters in Hex, Lost in Austen and Atlantis.  I can only imagine that if you have the name Jemima in England you must endure the taunts of people calling you Puddle Duck. From my very sparse research this name, while almost nonexistent in the US, is in the top 200 in the UK and came to popularity in the Puritan period.

Lost in Austen Mammoth Screen/ITV

Lost in Austen
Mammoth Screen/ITV

 

Hermione Norris

Thanks to J.K. Rowling, Hermione might be a familiar name to Americans, but only the most devoted Harry Potter fanatics are probably naming their children after “the brightest witch of her age.” Hermione Norris tends to play smart, career oriented women (Cold Feet, Wire in the Blood, and Spooks) as well. The name comes across a bit public school, but its Greek mythological and Shakespearean connections give it historical gravitas.

 

MI-5 (Spooks) Kudos and BBC

MI-5 (Spooks)
Kudos and BBC

 

It’s your turn to chime in. What’s the consummate female English name, celebrity or otherwise?  Also, stay tuned for my top five English actors’ names. I bet you can guess one of them already…

 

 

Smithy and England's team for Comic Relief Image credit BBC

Smithy and England’s team for Comic Relief
Image credit BBC

Seeing as all this World Cup fervor is going on, I wrote this post for WETA’s Telly Visions blog.  It’s written from the point of view of an American who watches a lot of telly but very little football. Click on the link below to read my poorly informed insights.

 

The Comic Side of World Cup Soccer | Telly Visions.

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I hope you’ll find my excuse acceptable.  I was on a postponed holiday trip to New York City (almost seven years postponed to be exact). My husband and I took our first vacation sans children since our son was born in 1990. I claimed it was his birthday gift, but I certainly had my own agenda when it came to our itinerary.  After all we couldn’t swing a vacation to the UK so instead I made do exploring some of the British aspects of the Big Apple which I would now like to share with you.

 

Lunch at A Salt & Battery – 112 Greenwich Avenue

 

A busy chippie for expats, Anglophiles and just anyone who enjoys fried food.

A busy chippie for expats, Anglophiles and just anyone who enjoys fried food

 

One destination on my must-see list was this authentic chippie in the West Village. A bustling place at lunch time I took the head chef’s advice and had a lovely bit of pollock served with a special, slightly spicy sauce on the side that puts mere tarter sauce to shame. We doused our chips in malt vinegar as tradition dictates and enjoyed people watching at the counter as the “Villagers” passed by.

Me with head chef Mat Arnfield at A Salt and Battery in the West Village

Me with head chef  and Lancashire native Mat Arnfield at A Salt and Battery

 

Tea & Sympathy – 108-110 Greenwich Avenue

Next door to A Salt & Battery is a restaurant/British grocery combo shop called Tea & Sympathy. My husband and I had a lively discussion with store owner and London native Nicky Perry. She was well versed in politics including gerrymandered voting districts in Ohio. I left her shop with wine gums, Crunchie Rocks, Club Biscuits, and Cadbury Mini-Rolls for my Anglophile and expat friends.

Tea & Sympathy's London taxi

Tea & Sympathy’s London taxi

 

We spent a morning in Central Park, with plenty of sights to interest a Anglophile.

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park Stage

 

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields Mosaic

 

We actually walked by the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived until his death and Yoko Ono reportedly still resides. There is a a massive amount of scaffolding surrounding the structure so there’s no real spot for pictures…unless you want to snap one at the guarded entrance gates where the famous photo of him signing an autograph for his assassin took place. There were some doing that but it just seemed morbid to me.

Bethesda Fountain, home of Weeping Angels

Bethesda Fountain, home of Weeping Angels

 

Ireland is not part of the UK but the rest of my entries are related to the Emerald Isle so I’m sure no one will make too much of a fuss if I cross the Irish Sea to tell the rest of my tale. Our first night out to the theater began with dinner in a quasi-Irish pub. (They were showing baseball and basketball on the big screen TVs after all.)

Emmett O’Lunney’s Irish Pub – 210 W. 50th Street

Me with a delicious Harp lager at Emmett O'Lunney's Irish Pub

My Cobb salad was tasty but a delicious Harp lager was the best part of our visit to Emmett O’Lunney’s Irish Pub

 

We proceeded to the Longacre Theatre for a performance of the classic American story, Of Mice and Men, starring some fella named James Franco as George and Tony-nominated actor Chris O’Dowd (of The IT Crowd and Moone Boy fame) as Lennie.

 

Though the kerfuffle at the stage door was maddening, I got myself noticed thanks to my careful Twitter monitoring and got an autograph in the bargain.

An Irishman who happens to be called Chris O'Dowd

An Irishman who happens to be called Chris O’Dowd. Note: the hair of the man in the foreground fortuitously turned transparent so Mr.O’Dowd’s face would not be obscured in the photo. If that’s not proof that the Irish are magical, I don’t know what is.

 

The next evening we ventured to the Cort Theatre to see a production of an Irish comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan starring a cast of talented Irish actors and featuring Daniel Radcliffe as “The Cripple”. We did not wait around to get a glimpse of the actors since He-Who-Once-Was Harry-Potter was such a big draw. Here’s a glimpse of opening night…

 

 

In addition to all this, it was Tony Awards weekend so many of the nominees were in town. I had my eyes peeled for Stephen Fry in particular but unfortunately was not able to track down the QI master; however, for the most part I felt my pseudo-British holiday was victorious.

I know I’ve mentioned more than once my strange fascination with men in drag  I’m not referring to men who want to dress as women for their own personal reasons, the Jared Leto/Dallas Buyers Club kind of thing. I mean more power to them and all that, but that’s not amusing. I’m talking about men who are obviously men, dressing and behaving like women for comic effect.

In my opinion, Monty Python’s Flying Circus always did this shtick the best. I never fail to laugh at John Cleese wearing a wig and a dress while employing a high screechy voice. The Little Britain guys have their moments as well. But after finally watching all three series of the comedy/horror sketch show, The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002), I have come to the conclusion that the females of Royston Vasey surpass the Python ladies.

Reenie and Vinnie, charity shop workers who love carrier bags, won't work Thursdays and can't stand that Merrill image credit BBC

Reenie and Vinnie, charity shop workers who love carrier bags, won’t work Thursdays and can’t stand that Merrill
image credit BBC

 

I think this is because they actually develop many of these “women” bringing them back in multiple episodes and letting their stories evolve, often to ghastly ends.

For example, let’s begin with Tubbs Tattysyrup who is brilliantly played by Steve Pemberton. Tubbs and her husband Edward are shopkeepers on the outskirts of Royston Vasey.  Murderously xenophobic, the couple strenuously defend their bizarre way of life and the precious things of the shop. Tubbs is unquestionably loyal and obedient to her husband and for that reason has the mind of a slightly deranged child.

 

Pauline Campbell-Jones (also portrayed by Pemberton) is a restart officer for the local government employment services. Your very first impression might be that she is a compassionate public servant, but you will quickly learn that Pauline is in this job for the sense of superiority it affords her. She slags off her clients on a regular basis and if anyone challenges her, she strikes back quite ferociously.

Which is why Pauline is in the predicament of being out of a job and having to be a participant in the restart course she used to teach.

 

Reece Shearsmith plays Reverend Bernice Woodall, a bitter,chain smoking clergywoman with a ubiquitous smear of lipstick on her teeth. Her sermons tend to have a bit of a fire and brimstone feel about them as well.

We later learn the source of her acrimony and resentment has to do with a childhood trauma that has scarred her, but an even more sinister fate awaits the reverend at Christmas.

The tall and willowy Val Denton is portrayed by the equally lanky Mark Gatiss. Mrs. Denton genially but enthusiastically enforces her husband’s strict cleanliness rules. She gleefully recites the color code for household items and thinks nothing of her husband’s obsessive assumptions about self-pleasuring.

The family is oblivious to the degree of their freakishness until their nephew Ben arrives in Royston Vaysey for what’s meant to be an overnight stay. Apparently this is the first time their weird ways have been questioned.

 

Homely cleaning lady Iris Krell (Gatiss) is employed by Mrs. Judee Levinson (Shearsmith) a wealthy housewife who has a workaholic husband – or does she? Judee tries to feel good about her empty life by bragging to her working class cleaner about her lavish holidays and expensive clothes. Iris knows that she has a better home life than her employer and isn’t shy about sharing the spicy intimate details of her marriage.

 

A majority of the female population of Royston Vasey belongs to a mysterious sisterhood called Solutions.  Stella Hull  (Shearsmith) constantly rows with her husband Charlie and wants to stomp on his happiness by preventing him from pursuing his most recent passion, line dancing. Stella appeals to the group to help her find a “solution” to her problem.

 

If you’ve never visited the absurd village of Royston Vasey, you can pay a visit  through Hulu or Netflix. Watch with an open mind, get used to the humor and rhythms of this show and you will be richly rewarded with series three – the crowning glory of The League of Gentlemen.

If you are already familiar with this extraordinarily bizarre troupe of characters, please tell us about your favorites.  Bonus points to anyone who can tell me which character said this, ” SKEWED BEEF, HAVE ANY BODY GOT ANY BOKKLE AV ARAN DOOVE?”

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,168 other followers