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Tigger_MK4

Past Britain ..a foreign country to even the Brits

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MikeC
It's funny how our language has diverged.

 

Yeah, bleedin' seppoes messin' wiv are lingo, makes yer bleedin' tom dunnit!

 

Eh, yah. Fuhgedabowdid. Whaddaya gonna do?

 

Not fer nuthin', but dose guys from Da City don't tawk rite.

Just get 'em ta say 'wawtah'.

 

MikeC, from the heart of Soprano-land (Northern NJ).

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David_Hallett
wawtah
Funny you should say that. Debby was in Vegas last week, and discovered people who didn't understand that word when she put a "t" in it, even though her accent remains mainly Californian. When she asked for "warder", a glass was immediately forthcoming! :)

 

Dave is not making this up...

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cynick
Something I always find amazing is just how catching Britishness can be.

It's most apparent in the arts and media, where some of the most British,(even iconic) Actors, originated from overseas !

 

America has a similar phenomenon the best American comedians are almost to a person Canadian. :D

 

And that most famous of American comedy stars - Bob Hope - was born in Britain (so was Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Boris Karloff, Halle Berry...)

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Gaffer
And that most famous of American comedy stars - Bob Hope - was born in Britain (so was Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Boris Karloff, Halle Berry...)

 

Um. Halle Berry was born in Cleveland and raised in Ohio, though her mother was English (but with an American father). Elizabeth Taylor was born in England, but her parent were American.

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GHill
True true.

 

I know we were never as extreme as the American Hierarchical system and the Jewish problem was one of Moseleys chief loves of rhetoric. However in the British working classes any people of colour were targets during the depression period of the early 30's.

 

I'm not entirely sure this is true, I didn't think colour prejudice took of until much later*, now being Irish, well that was a completely different kettle of fish.

 

*Obviously any foreigner was inferior, but this almost goes without saying :)

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David_Hallett

I know less about how things panned out in the 30s, but there was plenty of colour prejudice in England in the 1920s. Not all of it was bad, though.

 

In the case of "orientals", there was a mixture of fascination (old culture, wise people, enigmatic, seductive, etc.) and fear (you can't understand them, you can't tell what they think, they're not like us). The mixture is well illustrated in the way that Rohmer portrays Fu Manchu - admirable yet villainous.

 

Similarly, "niggers" were seen as a jolly people, always singing and dancing, perhaps a bit simple, but well-meaning. It was their unfortunate tendency to turn into wild beasts when provoked that was the problem.

 

Jews were often looked down upon and insulted, but again, some people saw them in a positive light, and would deliberately go to places such as Brick Lane in order to experience their "alien" difference.

 

Where the British public rather drew the line with respect to people of colour, was when white girls started taking them as lovers. This was unacceptable to the vast majority, and much of the drug panic of the 1920s can be seen as an underlying unease about mixed-race partnerships. The idea being essentially that the drugs made girls do things that they would otherwise shrink from, sparing the public from any deeper examination of the issue. Given that there were hundreds of Chinese men living in Limehouse in the 1920s, and about two or three Chinese women, however, it seems difficult to imagine what else they were supposed to do!

 

The other prime source of conflict was that Chinese and other "Lascar" seamen were prepared to work for lower wages than British sailors were, and this led to the usual "they took our jobs!" outcry, and frequent minor riots in the East End in the 20s. This even though they were very few in number compared to the men they were "competing" with, and would not have been seen as acceptable for many ship positions.

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Mulciber

Alongside the "obvious" inferiority of foreigners in Victorian and Early 20th Century Britain run one or two other issues. It seems to me that xenophobia and prejudice mainly occured when concentrations of a particular foreign ethnic group occured. In some cases such as Jews and Chinese in the East End of London it was the large and distinct communities that might cause fear or make an easily identifiable target for prejudice (as with Flemings at different points in the Middle Ages).

Where there were individuals or small numbers within a community, although there might be casual/unthinking racism, I get the feeling that the larger community didn't feel threatened and so develop more virulent attitudes.

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Gaffer

One alien (or a few) is an "exotic." More than that quickly become a "peril."

 

Certainly, the fear of "miscegenation" fueled much US racial hatred -- including the vast majority of KKK lynchings in the 20th century South. It was also fears about "pollution of the race" that was the prime basis behind Nazi anti-Semitism.

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David_Hallett

Actually, the Jewish and Chinese populations were hugely different in size, by a factor of well over 100.

 

From John Seed's "Limehouse Blues: Looking for Chinatown in the London Docks, 1900–40":

 

The Chinese before the First World War numbered half of one per cent of the foreign-born population of Britain. In the 1920s and 1930s they constituted just over one per cent. Compare the 1,194 Chinese aliens in Greater London in 1931, for instance, with over 25,000 Poles, nearly 18,000 Russians, 11,000 Italians, and over 9,000 French and Germans. Within London there was a marked concentration of Chinese in Limehouse. Around forty per cent of the Chinese counted in the pre-1914 censuses of London were in and around a couple of Limehouse streets. In the 1921 census the highest concentration was still in Limehouse, which is inconveniently and arbitrarily split down the middle between the borough of Poplar (221) and the borough of Stepney (116). These 337 Chinese made up forty-seven per cent of the London total of those born in China and of alien or unstated nationality. By contrast, Chinese were absent from other working-class and industrial districts, such as Bethnal Green and Shoreditch in the East End or Deptford, Southwark and Bermondsey along the southern bank of the river. However, by the nineteen-twenties there were significant numbers in several core West End boroughs – Westminster (75), St Pancras (65), St. Marylebone (38 ), together adding up to 25% of the Chinese in London. They were also settled in smaller numbers in such suburbs as Hampstead (31), Kensington (22), and Wandsworth (18 ).

 

He presents evidence that many of the census figures included transient sailors as well as permanent residents. It is very doubtful that the Chinese population of Limehouse in the 1920s ever exceeded 300-400 or so residents.

 

Resentments were fuelled by consistent exaggerations of the size of the Chinese population. At a well-publicized court case in May 1916 a local police superintendent stated that there were thousands of Chinese living in Limehouse and a lawyer for the seamen’s union claimed a few weeks later that ‘the Chinese population had grown from 1,000 to 8,000, and a large number of British seamen were pushed out by them’. At the London Sessions in 1921 Sir Ernest Wild said that numbers of Chinese in Limehouse had reached 4,000 until police action had led to its rapid reduction to about 300. According to a journalist in 1926, the Chinese population of Limehouse had dropped in the previous year from 2,000 to around 1,000, mostly as a result of a police crackdown. Other newspapers produced equally ludicrous figures. One in 1926 claimed that before the war Limehouse had had a Chinese population of 2,500 – clearly a wild overestimate. As the Chinese novelist Lao She wearily commented in 1929:

 

If there were twenty Chinese living in Chinatown, their accounts would say five thousand; moreover every one of these five thousand yellow devils would certainly smoke opium, smuggle arms, murder people then stuff the corpses under beds, and rape women regardless of age . . .

 

I'm not sure how I got hold of this PDF, but you can find a shorter version of the content here: http://www.untoldlondon.org.uk/archives/TRA43336.html

 

By comparison, the Jewish Musem estimates:

By 1910, there were 125,000 Jews in less than two square miles around Whitechapel and Spitalfields.

http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/collections/theme3.asp

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Tigger_MK4
game on campus between a group of South Asian and African students. My companion turned at one point to me and said "Ah, Empire."

 

Presumably this is a bit like watching japanese students play rounders...er...baseball then ?

:twisted:

 

As for language divergence , I quote the great Henry Higgins, on the subject of speaking english :

 

"In America... they havent spoken it for years"

 

:

:

(That STILL gets a laugh in English theatres, as evidenced by the recent tour of My Fair Lady...)

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Mulciber
From John Seed's "Limehouse Blues: Looking for Chinatown in the London Docks, 1900–40":

 

Wow! Amazing stuff David.

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WinstonP

Presumably this is a bit like watching japanese students play rounders...er...baseball then ?

 

More like seeing the line-up of a major league baseball team being made up of Dominican, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Japanese players.

 

But yeah, like that.

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David_Hallett
From John Seed's "Limehouse Blues: Looking for Chinatown in the London Docks, 1900–40":

 

Wow! Amazing stuff David.

Hey, you're welcome. I've been doing research for my current game, can you tell? :)

 

If you want the PDF, just PM me your email address.

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Mulciber
I've been doing research for my current game, can you tell? :)

 

If you want the PDF, just PM me your email address.

 

Thanks, at the moment I'm running an Early Mediaeval game so it's not directly useful but well worth bearing in mind next time I run Gaslight.

 

What struck me is the way the idea of there being a huge number of Chinese in Limehouse entered popular perceptions, to the extent of songs like "Chinese Laundry Blues" ( "Oh, Mr. Woo, what shall I do? I've got those Limehouse Chinese Laundry Blues" - George Formby) and "Limehouse Blues" being written and popularised.

Oddly though, despite the idea of "The Yellow Peril", Fu Manchu etc. one doesn't get the same sense that the Chinese suffered the same degree of discrimination as sometimes directed at the Jewish community, though I may be completely wrong about this last point.

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cynick
And that most famous of American comedy stars - Bob Hope - was born in Britain (so was Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Boris Karloff, Halle Berry...)

Um. Halle Berry was born in Cleveland and raised in Ohio, though her mother was English (but with an American father). Elizabeth Taylor was born in England, but her parent were American.

D'oh! :oops:

Bad cynick - relying on his atrocious memory rather than fact checking.

(still, three out of five and all that... :wink: )

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red_bus

Don't blame yourself cynick, any thought involving Halle Berry has the effect of clouding one's mind somewhat. :wink:

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MikeC
Don't blame yourself cynick, any thought involving Halle Berry has the effect of clouding one's mind somewhat. :wink:

 

Mmmmmm...

 

Halle Berry......

 

<*Shakes head*>

 

But: to be fair, Ms. Berry achieved the impossible: she made

a movie where she appeared in a skimpy outfit that I was utterly

unwilling to watch for fear of my sanity.

 

MikeC

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cynick
But: to be fair, Ms. Berry achieved the impossible: she made a movie where she appeared in a skimpy outfit that I was utterly unwilling to watch for fear of my sanity.

 

MikeC

 

The beauty of working in a cinema - you can watch those scenes without having to sit through the rest of the movie :D

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Tigger_MK4

Going back to popular songs, for those who would like a british music hall take on foreigners , I highly commend Clinton Ford's take on "The Old Bazaar in Cairo".

 

 

And no, thats not two former US presidents singing a duet.8O

 

 

p.s. before anyone mentions anachronisms...altho' Clinton Ford was popular in the 50/60s, the song is way older....I just happen to love his version of it

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Aurelius
Going back to popular songs.........

 

More anachronistic, but I'd recommend the Flanders and Swann 'Song of Patriotic Prejudice', manages to take the mickey out of the whole 'bloody foreigners' set of stereotypes and attitudes, but it's also a reminder that the people and 'opinions' being satirised sadly really did exist.

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Necrothesp
Yes, that's true. Not heard as often these days as back in the 80s. But if it's a noun, not a verb, then it means "suspicion" :)

 

I've heard 'suspish' used for suspicion, but never suss.

 

Here's a phrase that will get stares from 'merkins, but which brits

won't bat an eye to:

 

"I'm going to knock her up for a fag"

 

MikeC

 

"Sus" (or more rarely "suss") can mean "suspicion", particularly as in the "sus law", a slang term for the Vagrancy Act under which any person could be arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime. This was very unpopular (since it was often used to nick anyone the police didn't like the look of) and was abolished in 1981. Still very much alive and well in the 1920s though. A constable still has the power to arrest on suspicion of having committed a crime, but a lot more cause is needed. "I didn't like the look of him guv" is not enough!

 

To me, as a Briton, "I'm going to knock her up for a fag" looks very odd and old-fashioned, so I don't think it's true that Brits wouldn't bat an eye at it. "Fag" is certainly still very commonly used as a slang term for a cigarette, but I'm not sure that "knock up" in the sense that it appears to be meant is still used to any great extent. In fact, I'm not sure it ever was - it's not listed in the OED at all. I'd understand the phrase as meaning to knock on someone's door to wake them up. Knockers-up used to be boys employed by the railway companies in the days before alarm clocks to go around the streets of railway towns and "knock up" the engine drivers (i.e. engineers) and firemen in time for their early morning shifts. It was usually considered the first step on the route to becoming a driver oneself (followed, incidentally, by engine cleaner, passed engine cleaner, fireman and passed fireman, before the hallowed height of driver was reached).

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Necrothesp
I always suggest Bermuda, but they're a member of the

Commonwealth, aren't they?

A British Overseas Territory actually, so not technically a member of the Commonwealth since not an independent country.

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David_Hallett

Boys weren't the only knockers-up. I can't find it right how, but I'm sure I have a picture of a middle-aged woman acting as a knocker-up for seamen in Limehouse in the 1920s or thereabouts.

 

Beavis: Heh. He said "knocker-up", dude. "Knocker-up for seamen".

Butthead: Heh. Seaman. She must have been like, pretty spunky. Heh.

Beavis: Heh. Yeah. Spunky.

Butthead: Limehouse must really have sucked.

 

:)

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Tigger_MK4
Going back to popular songs.........

 

More anachronistic, but I'd recommend the Flanders and Swann 'Song of Patriotic Prejudice',

most definitely seconded !!

 

manages to take the mickey out of the whole 'bloody foreigners' set of stereotypes and attitudes, but it's also a reminder that the people and 'opinions' being satirised sadly really did exist.

 

"..And the flower of the english are Aurelis and Me !"

 

:D

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