Lost In Translation: Five British Things Americans Are Missing Out On

The Ameritish Flag

We all knew this was coming, didn’t we?

Yesterday we ran our feature on the Five American Things The British Would’ve Spoiled, had they won the Revolutionary War. Which means we now need to put the opposite argument across. It’s only fair.

So, here are five wonderful British things that America has missed out on, thanks to your insistence on frivolities like freedom and independence.

Marmite

I’ve no idea how they make Marmite; it claims to be a yeast extract, which doesn’t sound healthy or, y’know, advisable in the slightest. Nor do I know why they make Marmite, or how it was first invented. Or how anyone could’ve tasted it and thought “hmm, this is clearly disgusting, but if I put it on some hot buttered toast, I bet it would be fantastic.” All I know is that we, the British, owe a debt of thanks to whomsoever it was that took that leap of faith, because they were very, very right; and that you, the Americans, do not seem to share this feeling. Oh and I also know that you can make a broth out of it, which is very warming if you’ve been out in the cold, cleaning up the leaves in our back garden with my sister, during the 1980s.

The BBC

Carp all you like about state-sponsored broadcasting, the unfairness of the license fee and communist Russia, but I’m here to tell you that the BBC is a hugely loved British institution. For a relatively small annual fee (which is compulsory to everyone that watches British TV), you get four commercial-free TV channels, five national radio stations, two national digital radio stations, and over forty local radio stations. This, plus the UK’s most popular website and the World Service too. And that’s before we consider the programs that it makes. Of course, like all hugely loved institutions, particularly those that affect all walks of life, there’s nothing we like more than having a good moan about it. But if anyone tried to shut it down (and believe me, people do try), the howls of outrage would be audible from Virginia. It would be like trying to shut down the police force and lunchtime rolled into one.

The NHS

And while we’re discussing topics that seem to inflame American passions greatly, let’s get this one out of the way too. The National Health Service is just over 65 years old. It has saved millions of lives, helped millions of people through the worst of circumstances, and continues to do so on a daily basis. It is staffed by people who don’t get paid enough, work too hard, and are constantly derided as inefficient in the media. It is largely funded by the National Insurance scheme, which is a proportional payment, a tax, if you like, all working people pay so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of health care, no matter what their personal circumstance may be. Yes, there are awful things that have happened in NHS hospitals, but there are many miraculous things too, and again, it’s an institution the British generally feel a very personal affection for. Why should our wages pay for someone else’s treatment? Because they can.

Innuendo

“A man walks into a bar and asks for a double-entendre, so the bartender gave him one.”

I swear, the first time I heard that joke, I couldn’t see for laughing. And that’s because the British love a dextrous bit of wordplay, especially when the hidden meaning is rude. We sell postcards at the seaside with ribald jokes about newlyweds on them; we invented Benny Hill; we developed a homonym fruit-shop of comedy body parts, from melons to plums to that nice juicy pear. You could have had all of this joy, but no, you decided you would rather have The Hangover instead.*

* Yes, OK, and Bill Murray and Seinfeld and Steve Martin and Friends and Bill Hicks and The Simpsons and Tina Fey and and and…

The Monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

It’s time, America, to make up your minds. You want to cast off the imperial bridle, you want your own destinies, you want to be free from having to care about every little whim of a familial clique who just happen to have been born into a position of superiority and power over Britain’s every citizen… you go ahead. But answer me this, why are you so very interested in them now? I was at the Royal Wedding, there were people from America all over The Mall. If you wanted to be this involved, why did you have the Revolutionary War in the first place? Was the idea to capture the Royals and keep them for yourselves, as pets? Are you pining for your lost masters? It’s all so confusing.

We can always re-invade if you’re missing us. How about it?

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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