How To Add A Touch Of Class To Anything: Add An ‘Old English…’

Old English Cowboys

Language makes suckers of us all. You only have to look at eBay to see how easily a word like rare or vintage can make any old crap look more attractive than it really is. And as we all know, the older a thing is, the more valuable it is. Unless it’s food, or an actress.

So imagine the kind of cultural astonishment that could occur if you took something that needed no help whatsoever in being brilliant, something truly great and very American, and gave it the olde worlde dustover, with perhaps a light frosting of haughty Englishness, for added class?

Here are five potential examples:

Old English Cowboys

Here they come, Mild Bill Hickock and Billy The Younger, riding across the Wild West in their red hunting jackets, in search of a decent tea room and a wily fox. No stetsons or derby hats here, as they are wearing the appropriate safety helmets for equestrian pursuits, and the guns they wear on their jodhpurred hips are actually tucked neatly away in an inside pocket, safety catches off, because even heckraisers with no fear of Jonathan Law Esqr. need to be careful with firearms.

Old English Hamburgers

As befits an ancient and (newly) traditional snack, the Old English Hamburger dispenses with modern griddling techniques altogether. Simply replace the burger with a chunk of actual ham, swap the processed cheese slice for a thin wedge of cheddar, take out the relish and replace with a pickled onion cut in half, and maybe a scrape of English mustard and some salad, then put the whole thing in a floury bap or small cottage loaf. Hey presto! An artisan Ploughman’s Lunch you can hold in your hand.

Old English Hip Hop

And I’m not just talking about rapping. Look! Is that graffiti depicting the sunset over Stonehenge? Are those breakdancers wearing Morris bells? Has that fella with the big gold pendant taken to wearing a big frilly shirt, open to the midriff, and is he now attempting to dispense some intensely poetic lyrical flow about a girl with green sleeves, who is just like a summer’s day? And behind him, is there really a guy attempting to make the noise of a hurdy gurdy with his mouth?

Admit it, this one could actually really work.

Old English Shock Jocks

We do actually have a couple of shock jocks in Britain, but you had them first and best. But what red-faced and intractable pultroon  could hope to resist the charm of a cold-eyed and sneering Alan Rickman-alike who never, ever lost his temper and always, always had a bitterly sarcastic haymaker to smash through their pudgiest, most pompous lines of defence. C’mon, this is what you employ us to do in your movies, imagine if we were let loose on your airwaves too!

Note: I am available for this purpose, although it’s a heck of a commute and I’d need a Marmite allowance.

The Old English Moon Landing

Well for starters we probably wouldn’t have filmed it. Far too vulgar and self-aggrandising. We’d have gone there (in a hot air balloon or a Spitfire), picked up some rock samples, muttered something about it being a big hop for a gentleman traveller and then popped back in time for elevenses with the Queen. Then we’d have spent the last 40-odd years muttering passive-aggressive comments, something like “oh what would we know about anything, we’ve only been to THE MOON ACTUALLY,” whenever it looked like we were about to be out-maneuvered in a diplomatic situation.

Note: If you do want to try the the Old English-ification game yourself, don’t go mad with the archaic, would-be-medieval spelling. The Olde English Bulldogge, while a perfectly lovely (and factual) breed, has a stupid name. Only real ale enthusiasts enjoy deliberately adding superfluous letters to perfect acceptable modern words to make them look older. So, y’know, quitte yt.

Fraser McAlpine is British, this explains a lot.

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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