SOME NOTES ABOUT ENGLAND
English is today the most widely used of all languages. It is talked in places thousands of miles away from our small island by persons to whom Britain is only a name. So very probably a number of you who have been working through these pages have done so without any thought of ever coming to England. Others, who are hoping to come, may never get the chance. But some of you certainly will come some day, for business reasons or simply for pleasure, and to you this last Step will be of special interest. When you have day, for business reasons or simply for pleasure and to you this last Step will your ticket and your passport in your pocket and are on the vessel or the airplane which is taking you to England, what sort of picture will you have in your mind of this country which you have not seen? You may have a completely false picture; you may have no picture at all. Here are some general observations which may be a rough guide to you. But keep in mind that general observations frequently give more light on the point of view of the persons who make them than on what they are about. At best they are never more than half true.
First, the English weather, It is frequently said that a person who is able to put up with it, is able to put up with anything, even the unhealthy conditions in some of our British colonies. Certainly, if you come from a country where the weather does the same thing at the same time every year, our English weather will give you some surprises. In England, the calendar is a very uncertain guide. Normally, for example, our greatest rainfall is in October, but it is quite possible to have a dry October and a wet June. Sometimes we have very cold winters and very warm summers, though generally, because we are circled by the sea, the heat and the cold are not as great as in other European countries. On the other hand, there are winters when, at least in the south, we have almost no snow, and summers, in which there is no more than a week or two of warm weather. Naturally, newcomers are somewhat at a loss till they get used to these conditions. A Spaniard who had come to England for the first time said to an English friend, "Isn't your summer weather very late this year?' "No," said the Englishman, we've had our summer. It was last Tuesday."
The worst thing about the English weather is its way of suddenly changing. It is impossible to say what it is going to do on any day. For this reason, even if you go to England in the middle of the summer, be certain to take your raincoat and umbrella and some strong, water-tight shoes. And never go out dressed in summer clothing without first looking at the weather-glass. When you go out in the morning, it may be warm and bright and there may not be a cloud in the sky, but by sundown it may have become cold and wet. It is not surprising that English persons are never tired of talking about the weather.
Experts say that in England we see the sun for only a third of the time it is in the sky. All the rest of the time its face is covered by mist or clouds. But do not let the thought of the grey skies keep you from seeing the English country. It is as full of surprises as the weather, and much more beautiful. This changing quality of the English country is its great attraction. Wherever you go you will see something different and pleasing to the eye, and everywhere you will see gardens with masses of bright flowers and stretches of smooth green grass- the fruit of years of loving care. In the opinion of the guide-books, the best parts of England to see are the open country of parts of Devon, or Cumberland, with its dark mountains and beautiful stretches of inland water. But to an Englishman, the most beautiful bit of England is generally his birthplace. It may be the chalk slopes of Sussex, or the fertile, wooded grassland round Stratford-on-Avon, or the fruit-gardens of Kent, or the Cotswold country north of Oxford, where the earth is a dark red-brown and the houses are of yellow stone. And who will say he is wrong? Anyhow, you will get a better knowledge of England if you put away your guide-books and go to some of the places which are less generally seen. In the coal-fields of West Yorkshire, in the great cotton towns of Lancashire, or among the potters of the Staffordshire 'Black Country', you will see quite a different England from that commonly pictured in books about Britain.
If you are a lover of good food, you will probably not have a very high opinion of our English meals. Cooking is not our strong point. We have meat of the best quality and our garden produce is first-rate, but it is generally cooked in an uninteresting way. Much of our food is covered with a thick brown dressing or a disgusting sticky white paste, which quite takes away its delicate taste, and English cooks do not make enough use of oil and fats. We have so much respect for the French art of cooking that it is the normal thing for the food list in an English restaurant to be printed in French. But when the food which has been ordered comes to the table, one frequently makes the discovery that there is nothing French about it but the name.
Beer and whisky are the two commonest drinks in England. Most of the beer is not very strong, and one may take a great amount of it without becoming the worse for drink, but if you are wise, you will not overdo the whisky. Wine is not produced here, but some of the best French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian wines are sent to the English market. These, however, are so highly taxed when they come into the country that they are very dear, and only persons with good incomes are able to take them regularly.
Our friends from other countries say, sometimes with amusement and sometimes a little bitterly, that we have no idea how to keep our houses warm. Most English houses are dependent for their heating on open fires. An open fire certainly makes a room bright, but it doesn't give a good distribution of heat. In cold weather, it makes only a part of the room warm, and when the door is open it lets in more cold air from the rest of the house. English persons are not troubled by this because they have a theory that a current of cold air is healthy, in fact, they generally keep their windows open even in the middle of winter, and in most houses the landings are unheated. Another thing which seems strange to anyone who is not used to our ways Is that English houses have their water-pipes on the outside. Whenever the weather is cold enough for ice to be formed in the pipes, one naturally gets a burst.
Englishwomen are well-dressed, though not with such good taste as Frenchwomen and with less care for details than American women. Englishmen, on the other hand, are generally happiest when they have on an old country coat and some grey trousers. They might be well dressed, because England has a name for producing the best men's clothing. But at any rate, even if the things they go about in have seen their best days, as we say, they are well cut and made of good cloth.
Naturally, the great stores in London, as in every important town, are full of beautiful things. If you are looking for something to take back with you, keep in mind that English cloth, English leather goods, and English knives are all of very high quality. But you may be interested to go to some of the little second-hand places which have old prints, silver, brass ornaments, and suchlike.
So much has been said by others about the British love of sport, that there is little need to say anything here. Englishmen give a number of different reasons for looking on sport as important. They say that it keeps one healthy, that it gives one training in working with others and is good for one's self-control. But the simple fact is that they take a pleasure in it. Being still a schoolboy in his heart; an Englishman does things which seem completely foolish to the more serious-minded men of other nations. For example, in the London parks one may see men old enough so be fathers of families sailing small boats with as much pleasure as little boys. Frequently, they take part in competitions with other sailing experts as old as themselves. The fact is that the English love of sport is chiefly a love of play. Even football is not such a serious business in England as baseball is to our American friends.
The British have a taste for all outdoor amusements. If you give an Englishman a gun or let him have a quiet day working in his garden, be will be completely happy. It is not surprising that he is commonly pictured as dressed in country things and gripping the stem of an old and well-loved pipe between his teeth. Every week-end, thousands of persons living in the towns go out by rail or road to some quiet little place in the country. Their chief amusement is walking, and they go for long, country walks, even in the rain. In the summer, most families go for a week or two to the seaside and get brown playing on the sands.
With this love of the country goes a great love of animals. Most English families have at least a dog or a cat. In England, animals are very well looked after, and nothing makes us angrier than to see anyone being cruel to them. It is touching to see some poor persons going without food themselves so that their dogs may have enough.
One of the most noted British qualities is a strong sense of humour. It is the sort of humour which becomes specially marked in times of danger or when things go wrong. And generally it is not unkind. Though an Englishman is very ready to make sport of others, he is equally ready to have a laugh at himself.
As a nation, the British have a name for being very upright. An Englishman is generally straight in business, and when he gives his word he keeps it. It is safe to do things here which in some other countries would be look on as very foolish. For example, when a newsboy goes for a drink, he does not take his papers with him. He puts them on a box with his hat on top of them and everyone who takes a paper puts his penny in the hat.
Because they are naturally independent, Britons have done everything possible to make theirs a free country. To be free is looked on as a man's birthright. When a poor man becomes old, his greatest fear is that be may be sent to a poorhouse. It is not a fear that he will be badly looked after but a fear of being put under the control of others. In England, everyone is free to put forward his opinions, even opinions which would be a danger to society if our acts were guided by them. We have a theory that it is good to give persons an outlet by letting them have a chance for the statement of their views. Every Sunday in London's Hyde Park, you may see men and women talking to the public. Every shade of political opinion is voiced at these meetings; every form of religion is supported and attacked. While one group is hearing all the arguments for a belief in God, another group, two or three yards away, is probably hearing all the arguments against such a belief. Policemen are present at the meetings, but they are there to keep order, not to put a stop to them.
Though Englishmen do not readily put themselves under authority, they are great respecters of law and order. There is less violent crime in England than in most countries, and the police are able to go about without firearms. The relations between the police and the public are very good. The policemen are good-humoured and ready to give help to anyone in trouble. So, if you are ever at a loss in a strange place, go straight to the nearest policeman.
In England, the law is the same for all. It is quite impossible to have any effect on a judge's decision by offering him money. To make such an offer is a certain way of getting oneself sent to prison. No one may be kept in prison for long without a hearing, and when a man comes before a judge, he will go free if there is any room for doubt about his wrongdoing.
Our British system, widely copied by others, is to put the government of the country into the hands of persons who are responsible to the masses for what they do. Britain was the first country which gave every man and woman a voice in the selection of the nation's representatives: We are against all forms of rule by one man, however wise that man may be. Politically, our tendency is to take the middle road. We are not supporters of reaction, but we have a deep respect for the past and are slow to make changes.
Enough space has been given to the good qualities of the British. Now let us look at the other side of the picture and say something about their shortcomings. The best way of hearing what these are is to take note of the unkind things which have been said about Englishmen by others. The list is quite a long one: First, they have a very high opinion of themselves; second, they are uninteresting and are bad at putting their thoughts into words; third, they are cold ; fourth, they have no polish ; fifth, they have shockingly bad taste ; sixth, they don't keep up with new developments but go on doing things in the way their fathers did them ; seventh -- but if the list becomes any longer, it will put you off coming to England at all.
You will have the chance to see for yourself which, if any, of these statements are true and to make your private additions to the list. It is a good thing to keep in mind that, though there is only a narrow bit of water separating Britain from the rest of Europe, we are to some degree cut off from European society and our ways are different. There is less handshaking and kissing in Britain than in other countries, our feelings are kept more under control, and we have a strange taste for understatement.
One last word. When you are in England, there is no need to keep your mouth shut for fear of talking English badly and seeming foolish. The English themselves are not very good at languages, and so they are not surprised when someone from another country makes slips in their mother-tongue. More-over, being in the position of a teacher gives one a good opinion of oneself. If you make errors, you may be certain that the person to whom you are talking will take pleasure in putting you right.
Read Carefully, this are some sentences of the text, and here is the explanation form them.
The five further International words used in this Step are: beer, colony, passport, sport, whisky.
On the vessel: By expansion, vessel is used for 'ship'.
Rough guide: A thing is rough when it is not complete, not detailed, not done with care.
Give more lights on: To give light on a thing is to give facts about it, to be seen more clearly.
At best: That is, even when they are the best possible. At worst is the opposite of at best.
Rainfall: The amount of rain falling in a place in a certain time, measured in inches.
Circled by time sea: Circling is 'moving in a circle ' or forming a circle round, being all', from which last comes the sensed the “-ed “form.
The cold: Cold is used at the name of a thing, generally with the, in the sense of 'cold weather, low degree of heat'.
A week or two: Take note of this more common way of saying 'one or two weeks'.
Water-tight: Not letting in any water.
Without first looking: Without is used before “-ing” forms in the sense of 'not'. Do not go out . . . without first looking: Do not go out if you do not first have a look.
Weather-glass: Instrument acting - a guide to what the weather is going to be.
Sundown: The time of day when the sun goes down.
The fruit of . . . care: Here, fruit: outcome.
Open country: Country which is not shut in, not thickly wooded, and so on (see 'open space ', Step 36).
Inland: In a position or direction away from the sea.
Wooded: Covered by, having, trees, and woods.
Coal-fields: A coal-field is a part of the country where coal is mined.
Potters: A person making pots, cups, and so on from the special sort of earth used for this purpose. Potting and potted have no like sense (see p. 168).
A thick brown dressing: Here we have another sense of dressing: liquid and so on put on our food to give it a more pleasing taste.
Art of cooking: The way to do something expertly is the art of doing it. In addition, process and so on needing to be done with art is itself talked of as an art. One may, for example, say 'Cooking is an art'.
Becoming the worse for drink: To be the worse far drink is to be overcome by alcohol.
Overdo the whisky: Have overmuch whisky. The sense of overdo is 'do overmuch' or 'make overmuch use of'.
Open fires: An open fire is one of which the front is not shut in.
Landings: The space at the top of the steps in a house, with doors going into rooms, is named a landing.
Our ways: A regular way of acting, fixed bit of behaviour is named a way. The connection between what is done again and again and a road or way marked out by frequent use is not hard to see.
Has a name for: Is noted for.
At any rate: Whatever the other facts may be, at worst.
Keep in mind that: To keep something in mind is to keep the memory of it in one's mind, not let it be overlooked.
Old prints: Print is produced by stamping inked letters on paper, and the name printing is given not only to this but to any like process, such as printing pictures from designs made on metal, wood, and so on. The word print is used for a printed picture.
And such like: and things such as are like these, and so on.
Looking on... as important: Looking on . . . as has the special sense 'having the view that (a thing) is', seeing something (in one's mind) as if it was'. So later in the Step, "looked on as important" : 'taken to be important'. Viewing as may be used in the same way.
Self-control: Control of oneself that is, keeping one's impulses and feelings from driving one into violent behaviour, not letting one's feelings be seen.
Serious-minded: Taking an interest in serious things.
Take part in competitions: The word competition is specially used for a test to see who is best at some form of sport and suchlike.
Football: Football in most of the world is soccer. American football is grid iron
Baseball: An American form of sport played with a ball.
The stem of an old . . . pipe: A stem-like part is named a stem. For example. the thin part of a wineglass, joining the cup to the base, is its stem.
Get brown: That is, 'sunburned'.
On the sands: A stretch of sand by the sea is the sands.
With this love of country goes a great love of: A feeling, quality and so on is said to go with another when they are present together, when one is looked on as in some way joined to the other.
It is touching: Touching has, by expansion, the sense of 'touching the heart; that is, causing a kind and somewhat sad feeling'. It is not quite as strong a word as moving.
Noted British qualities: A person's qualities are his special powers, points.
Becomes specially marked: A quality, feeling, and so on is marked when it is specially strong, dear, readily noted.
Make sport of: To make sport of a person is to make him seem foolish for the purpose of amusement.
Upright: The sense here is 'straight in behaviour'.
When he gives his word he keeps it: To keep one's word is to do whatever one gives one's word to do. Take note that it is not the opposite of give one's word.
Newsboy: Boy or man trading in newspapers in the street.
A free country: That is a country where persons are free to say and do what they have a desire to, so far as it is possible without damage to the rights of others.
Birthright: A person's birthright is what he has a right to from birth. Here it is the right which the fact of birth by itself, that is, the simple fact that he is a person, gives him; sometimes it is some special right which comes from being one of a certain family, having a certain position and so on.
Poorhouse: Place supported by money from taxes for housing poor persons.
Outlet: An outlet is a way out for liquid and so on. Its use in connection with feelings, opinions and so on will be clear.
The statement of their views: Statement is here the act of making a statement.
Every shade of political opinion: A shade of colour is a natural parallel for other things of which there is a wide range covering all sorts and degrees; so we have shades of opinion, feeling, and sense.
Voiced: Put into words.
God: The name for the Higher Being.
To keep order: To keep persons from causing trouble, doing anything against the law.
Law and order: Take note of this form of words. Law and order is the condition of society in which laws are kept. Order here has the sense which has been noted in connection with keep order and keeps a person in order.
Firearms: Arms for firing, that is guns and so on.
In a strange place: Strange is used here in the sense of 'new to one, not seen before'.
A judge's decision: The word judge is used specially for a law judge.
Without a hearing: In law, a hearing is the hearing of the arguments for and against a person who comes before a judge.
Comes before a judge: One is said to come before a person when one comes where he is present (generally in front of him) for the purpose of being judged or given a test or suchlike by him.
Wrongdoing: Act, behavior against our ideas of what is right.
The government of the country: Government is here 'controlling by government'.
The masses: Common men and women, the workers.
A voice in the selection: A person who has a right to take part in making a selection or decision by giving his opinion is said to hove a voice in it.
Rule by one man: Here, rule: control, act of government.
Supporters of reaction: A supporter is a person supporting an idea and so on. Politically, reaction is the desire to go back, against the current of development, to old ways, ideas.
Cold: A person whose feelings are not strong and who is not readily moved is said to be cold.
Put you off coming: To put person off doing something is to take away any desire he might have to do it.
Handshaking: Gripping and shaking another person's hand on meeting and so on is shaking hands from which comes handshaking as a name for the act. Shake has an “-er” and an “-ing” form but do not take “-ed”.
Understatement: Statement saying less than what is true. The opposite of this is an overstatement.
Mother-tongue: The word tongue may be used in the sense at 'a language'. One's mother-tongue is one's natural language, the language of one's country.
The sense of these complex words is clear without a note: birthplace, fruit-garden, grassland, red-brown, and water-pipe.
1. Make clear by examples what the sense of these words is when they are used in connection with feelings or behavior:
2. Every one of these words has a sense in which another Basic word may be used in place of it. Give these other words.
3. Give another way of saying:
(a) Be noted for
(b) Overcome by alcohol
(c) Statement saying less than what is true
(d) In a position away from the sea
(e) Not letting in water
(f) Covered by trees
4. Make statements using these words in two senses:
5. In what way is your idea or your knowledge of England different to the account of it given in this Step? Give your answer in Basic.
6. Make these statements complete by putting words in the spaces
(a) If a boy who does wrong is not given punishment for his _____, he may do the same thing again.
(b) I didn't see the girl's face very clearly, so I have only a _____ idea of what she is like.
(c) There are cold winds near the sea but farther _____ the weather is warmer.
(d) It was clear from the approval _____ by everyone who took part in the discussion that most of the persons present at the meeting were _____ of our political views.
(e) Not being used to our English _____ the boy sometimes did things which seemed strange to the others and they, _____ _____ _____ him by laughing at him and copying what he did.
7. Give your answers in Basic.
(a) What Is English food like?
(b) What sort of country is there round Stratford-on-Avon?
(c) Give an account of the English weather.
(d) Why is it wise not to take general observations as more than a rough guide?
(e) What is it wise to do, when one is in England, before going out dressed in summer clothing?
(f) Who will you see at work if you go to the Staffordshire 'Black Country'?
(g) How are Englishmen and Englishwomen dressed?
(h) Why is an open fire not the best way of heating a house?
(I) How is the Englishman commonly pictured?
(J) How is sport viewed by Englishmen?
(k) What sort of humour have English persons?
(l) Give some facts about the British political system.
(m) Why are English persons not surprised if a person from another country is not very good at talking English?
(n) In your opinion, which of the shortcomings listed in the Step do English persons have?
(o) Why have Britons done everything in their power to make Britain a free country?