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Funny slice of history
on August 11, 2005
There's an old saying: "It is always impolite to criticize your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies." No kidding. Which is why, in 1942, when the Americans took up residence in Britain, a seven-page long pamphlet was distributed, essentially to help the Yanks understand their British "cousins."
Little did they know that those seven pages, some six decades later, would be read aloud on bus routes in London as amusing historical relics for the entertainment of passengers.
Short, sweet, and hysterically funny to the modern ear, this books gives a very good view of how Americans saw the British people, both during WW2 and even now, by comparing how we saw them then to how we see them today. The book goes into everything, using clear language and astonishing detail for all its length: sports, weights and measures, monetary units, rationing. Some of the instructions bring home the fact that America was itself a drastically different place sixty years ago; some of it brings into stark relief that by the time the US entered the war, Britain had been involved for over two years already.
But perhaps what makes it so funny now is the language itself, since phrases have changed so drastically in the last sixty years, something quite ironically stated in the first few pages: "The British have phrases and colloquialisms of their own that may sound funny to you. You can make just as many boners in their eyes...."