Every weekend, we delve into the British backlist and recommend a book for you. This week, our suggestion is an anthropologist’s look at what it is, exactly, that makes the English English, from who says loo to who says toilet, the unwritten rules of queuing, and which social classes buy what in Marks and Spencer. It’s an easy read — thoughtful and entertaining.

Watching the English

In WATCHING THE ENGLISH anthropologist Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits and foibles of the English people. She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and byzantine codes of behaviour.

The rules of weather-speak. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex apology rule. The paranoid-pantomime rule. Class indicators and class anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo and many more . . .

Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments (using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig), Kate Fox discovers what these unwritten behaviour codes tell us about Englishness.

 

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