FEAR GIRL.

I’m usually pretty good at parsing headlines, but this one (via Geoff Pullum at the Log; it’s from a U.K. free paper called the Metro) completely baffled me:

Dentist fear girl
starved to death

Meditate on that for a while. (No, the answer isn’t that an -s was left off “Dentist.”) It makes perfect sense, but you have to know the story behind it, which isn’t easy to guess. Answer below the cut.


In Geoff’s words:

The solution is that dentist fear is a compound noun (meaning “fear of dentists”) that is being used as an attributive modifier to another noun, girl. The only ungrammaticality (and it’s fine in the context of a headline) is the lack of a determiner on the resultant singular noun phrase. The verb of the clause is starved. The story is about a young girl who developed a pathological fear of dentists (hence she could be referred to in headlinese as the dentist fear girl) and refused to open her mouth at all after an operation to remove her milk teeth. She wouldn’t eat; the parents’ entreaties for medical help or advice went unheeded; and she died of malnutrition.

As he says, a sad story.

Comments

  1. I saw this one at the Log and was puzzled by the apparent difficulty it presented. I didn’t even bother reading the LL post because the meaning of the headline was so blindingly obvious. It did occur to me that it could have been made a little more so had the headline used “phobia” instead of “fear”. Other than that, though, this was yet another situation in which being quasi-literate worked to my advantage.

  2. A few more posts like this and I may develop a pathological fear of riddles — what a downer!
    The story is about a young girl who…refused to open her mouth…and died of malnutrition.
    Should be “starves” then, no?

  3. Jamessal:
    The girl died in December 2005; the story is about a current inquest about the case. “Starves” would have been correct for a story reporting the death; “starved” is the right convention for a later story about trial or inquest testimony.
    It’s an interesting illustration of the difficulty of squeezing the gist of a story into very few words. Try writing this alternatively with a limit of 34 characters including spaces.

  4. Couldn’t they have written “Dentist-fear girl” for clarity’s sake? It still strikes as a very awkward compound noun in English, it reminds me of the way my expat friends and I in Japan would talk when we were trying to incorporate Japanese syntax for kicks.

  5. the story is about a current inquest about the case.
    Ah, yes, that makes perfect sense. Probably should have read the story myself before posing the question. Thanks, though.

  6. Try writing this alternatively with a limit of 34 characters including spaces.
    I’m going to do my damndest NOT to try to do that.

  7. Arachnophobos Akrophobos says:

    “Tandläkarskräcksflicka svalt ihjäl” – the original headline has 34 characters as translated into Swedish, too*, although one would of course have to divide the first word on a front page.
    For me it’s spi – spide – arachnids. And altitudes.
    * If my eyes haven´t deceived me, which they tend to do when it comes to all things mathematical.

  8. Didn’t find it a problem, either. But then I’m used to reading UK headlines – I think US papers tend to be more literal.

  9. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It sounds as if going to the dentist was the least of this person’s problems.
    I agree with Vanya. I hyphenate anything like that.

  10. Should be “starves” then, no?
    I agree with Martin about this:
    A certain girl feared dentists, and as a result recently starved to death? Then yes: starves is far better.
    A coroner recently finds that a certain girl feared dentists, and then starved to death (presumably though not necessarily as a result)? Then starved is better.
    The coronial version may have been what the headline intended. The poster doesn’t tell us: neither about the “coroniality” nor the causality.
    the story is about a current inquest about the case
    Well, the poster did not tell us that!
    But now:
    If starved is used, it could be taken passively: the girl was starved to death. Unlikely? But then so are all of the scenarios here. Perhaps she had a seriously dysfunctional family with strange views on discipline. Things happen!
    So in this case the headline is certainly defective. I’d like a hyphen in it, at least. And I must say, I am surprised that the eminent poster did not examine some of these further possibilities.
    Versions can be made with fewer than 34 characters. These have 28 including spaces: Dentist-fearing girl starved, or Dentist-fearing girl starves, depending on the circumstances. The first still fails: it is still unsure whether she was starved, or starved actively. Disambiguating one way seems possible without much addition: Dentist-fearing girl was starved (32 characters; coronial, passive, or both). But then, while most uses of starve entail death, not all do. I’d want more than 34 characters! With 35 you can do this: Dead girl starved, fearing dentists (or with starves). I think I’d want about 50 words.

  11. I think I’d want about 50 words.
    Make that 50 characters.

  12. michael farris says:

    I found the headline completely clear and was surprised to find that anyone didn’t.
    But then I had a dentist phobia myself (partly the result of the dentist I had as a child who didn’t like children and did things like drill holes in the wrong teeth).
    Maybe those with more pleasant dental memories might find it more obscure….

  13. Thanks for the confirmation that the headline was clear, michael. I also noted that you said you had a dentist phobia. This strengthens my belief that the headline would have been less confusing to those it troubled had it used “phobia” for “fear”.

  14. Sorry, but I didn’t get it either.
    subject=dentist, verb=fear, object=girl…but the rest doesn’t fall into place.
    I have some unappetizing personal experiences involving root canal work that took two different dental schools to sort out, so lack of empathy is not the reason for the communication barrier. Why would a dentist want to remove baby teeth? Why would the parents permit this? None of it makes sense, none, until you see it’s from the U.K., and not just because British dentistry has a reputation with American dentists for being so appalling.
    It’s because they’re Brits. They have an accent.

  15. I always loved this comment, from an Australian:

    When I lived in America, people would admire my baby son and ask if he was going to grow up talking with an accent. My reply was “No, we thought we would take him home before he got one”.

    I have an accent myself; my classmates tell me that three and a half years in Germany has left its mark. I haven’t recorded myself to try to pick up exactly what it is I’m doing, I imagine it’s devoicing word onsets and codas or something of the sort.

  16. I too thought the headline was perfectly clear, despite having had a perfectly normal relationship with various dentists down the years.

  17. I too thought the headline was perfectly clear, despite having had a normal relationship with various dentists down the years.

  18. I’d go with “Dental fear girl starves to death.” Or, since the headline doesn’t have to tell the whole story, maybe just “Phobic girl starves to death.”
    I prefer “starves” so it doesn’t sound like someone starved her, even if it did happen a year ago.

  19. Even before reading Dr. Pullum’s explanation, I managed to hit on the possibility that “dentist fear” was a noun modifying “girl”, but it made so little sense to me that I immediately discarded it. I think British headlines are a little more … extreme … than American ones.

  20. Do neurotic-obsessive phoneticists sometimes become start worrying whether their pronunciation is correct and become incapable of talking, like the centipede who thinks to much about which leg to move first?

  21. Do neurotic-obsessive phoneticists sometimes become start worrying whether their pronunciation is correct and become incapable of talking, like the centipede who thinks to much about which leg to move first?

  22. Siganus Sutor says:

    Vanya: Couldn’t they have written “Dentist-fear girl” for clarity’s sake?
    Or dentist-fearing girl, just the way we have God-fearing boys?

  23. Dental fear girl starves to death
    Yes, that’s good. 33 characters including spaces. I might want a hyphen between dental and fear; but I suppose that’s not right for headlinese, and it’s a bit fussy in any case.

  24. just the way we have God-fearing boys
    We don’t have those in Australia any more.

  25. Why is everyone trying to invent a headline based on rearranging the same words of a headline that didn’t work? The result is just more indecipherable headlines. And trying to use a verb as an adjective, which just doesn’t work for me. Why not try for the meaning of the article instead? (as far as we can understand an article that we don’t have access to)(It does seem like the Brits and Aussies do a bit better with it though.)
    maybe
    girl starves after dentist visit
    or
    girl starves after seeing dentist
    or
    girl dies of fear after teeth pulled
    or
    girl fears dentists, dies
    (all shorter than the original title)

  26. “Dentist-fearing girl” is certainly clearer. In fact, since I can usually infer semantic context, I would have gone with “Dentist-fearing girl dies” if forced to shave off those three participle-marking letters.
    “Dentist fear girl” – no. I´d even prefer “Dentist-wary girl”. I´d contend that not including a hyphen between either dentist and fear or fear and girl is actually ungrammatical. Since when is there such a thing as a “hyphen use journalist”? Don´t you see that the elements of language – such as hyphens and other markers, e.g. – are such dangerous entities that they need to be clearly marked with warning labels so as to prevent unwitting users – such as headline writers – from being abused by them and succumbing to a possibly life-changing trauma? Think of all those hyphens chasing after journalists, trying to hook up with them and leaving a scar on their psyche for the rest of their miserably asyndetic lives?
    What´s really depressing, of course, is the story the headline tells. Basically I think it´s a lie. That girl likely didn´t die of “dental fear” alone.

  27. Should read: I would RATHER have gone… if ASKED…

  28. michael farris says:

    To clarify a little, at some level I did realize the headline was at least potentially ambiguous. But the ungrammaticality of “*dentist fear” as a subject+verb in the newspaper register (even for headlines) meant that I’d rejected that reading before it could confuse me (probably, it’s hard to reconstruct one’s exact thought processes in this kind of case)
    Two points about British usage and practical issues in decyphering this.
    – Hyphens are used much less in British than in SAE (subjective judgement, but one shared by many people). It’s hard to imagine ‘dentist-fear girl’ confusing a native speaker for more than a millisecond but they’re just not used as much there.
    – In ‘noun noun’ constructions where the first modifies the second, I think (again subjectively) that British can have a plural noun in the first position more easily than American can. “Drugs laws” and “drinks test” are a couple that come to mind quickly but I’ve seen/heard others and find them generally unacceptable in mainstream SAE.
    Now, if the plural were acceptable to British readers in this case (I’m not saying it is, I imagine it isn’t, I’m being hypothetical).
    “Dentists fear girl
    starved to death”
    would be confusing to anyone…., though again
    “Dentists-fear girl
    starved to death”
    Is a bit less confusing but again hyphens seem less an option in British usage.
    Finally, let me note how much I’m creeping myself out by casually tossing around words and very consistenly and purposefully ignoring the horror behind the headline. The study of language does strange things to a person ….

  29. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I find the triple dots unnecessary. WOULD HAVE GONE IF ASKED is only 24, but it doesn’t mention the dentist or the death.
    I’m a little surprised (saddened) that no one has tried making an anagram of the original headline.
    CORPSE FEARED DENTIST: STARVED is frightening, it includes the implication of an inquest and is 30 letters.

  30. A.J.P. Crown says:

    hyphens seem less an option in British usage.
    In my subjective judgment hyphens are constantly found in English-English usage (I don’t know about Scotland). Many millions agree with me about this.

  31. Siganus Sutor says:

    We don’t have those [God-fearing boys] in Australia any more.
    In some sense you are lucky. They can become quite a pain in the neck when they are too eager to show their fear.
    The Dravidian-fearing Emerson might curse me for what I’ll say, but for instance on the 8th we had damn Tamil loudspeakers blaring well before dawn. I understand it’s no fun having a public holiday falling on a Sunday and any decent Muruga devotee has the moral duty to do something to counterbalance such gross abuse of human rights but, God! nowadays Cavadee is just another one of these religious festivals that look increasingly like militant displays of might (and impunity and vocalness).
    Incidentally, the other day I was looking at la page Ouiqui devoted to the town of Darwin (we went to the cinema to watch “Australia”) and I was quite surprised by the percentage of inhabitants officially confessing their atheism (23.3%). Is that common throughout Australia? I can’t think of many countries where so many people would be outspokenly “without religion”, even in some God-bashing parts of Europe.

  32. A.J.P. Crown says:

    All my Australian relatives are atheists, except for one first-cousin-once-removed. My father (b.1913) was in all other ways conservative and conformist, which makes me think it was never an unusual position to take.

  33. In my subjective judgment hyphens are constantly found in English-English usage
    Hyphenation within words is far more common in British than American English: compare British and Commonwealth south-east, non-distinctive with American southeast, nondistinctive, and innumerable others. (Sources: SOED, M-W Collegiate.)
    On the other hand Americans are far more inclined to use “periods” with abbreviations and the like: Mr., M.D., U.S., H. C. Earwicker, and so on. Australians tend away from the dots for all of these, as we find in AGSM, our major “native” style guide – with which I take issue almost as much as with Chicago, though it is a handy reference for mere lukewarm obsessives.
    …the town of Darwin … I was quite surprised by the percentage of inhabitants officially confessing their atheism (23.3%)
    O yes! What would you expect from a city named after the wicked man himself (whose 200th birthday is just hours from now, by the way: born 12 February 1809)?
    In fact Australians are far more relaxed about admitting to atheism than Americans. We know that a thick veneer of godliness is de rigueur for political success in the Land of the Free. Here, a mere perfunctory dusting will normally suffice, and no one really expects our politicians to be more than lip-servers. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is an earnest fan of the Nazarene, though; and the tide is perceptibly turning that way, dammit.
    As for salient moral issues, we will almost certainly never emulate the Great American Uncertainty regarding abortion. Here it is effectively available on demand, with no chance of lapsing into the Dark Ages again. Capital punishment is totally out of the question, too. We’re too impious to contemplate such a possibility at all seriously. And guns? No, we do NOT pack heat, and for the more sensitive of us it is astonishing how ingrained the gun culture is in American life – as depicted in American films, anyway. I accidentally saw Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino the other day. Seems to be getting worse and worse.

  34. A.J.P. Crown says:

    With Vietnam, Scandinavia seems to be the world’s most atheistic region; it says that 31-85% don’t believe in God, so the figures seem a bit vague. On the other hand, 96% of us believe in Father Christmas (because we’ve actually seen him).

  35. A.J.P. Crown says:

    (The other 4% were asleep.)

  36. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    How about using the neologism from Seinfield: “Antidentite girl starved to death”?

  37. I think British headlines are a little more … extreme … than American ones.
    Yes, I think that’s at the root of the divide here; my impression is that U.K. readers don’t have much of a problem with the headline, whereas us Yanks are baffled.

  38. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t know if you Americans are aware of the ideal British headline that was planned (sometime in the late sixties) for the purpose of selling more papers:
    SEX-CHANGE VICAR IN QUEEN’S CORGI MERCY DASH
    It contains sex, the church, the monarchy, animals and illness, all within eight words.

  39. From a journalistic point of view, the purpose of the headline is to get you to buy the paper (although this was in a free paper, I believe), and to read the story.
    So first-glance clarity is important, and the consensus here seems to be that this is not. Additionally, a good editor might have thought about pulling a more relevant nugget out of the story. The fact that the dentist-fearing girl starved to death three years ago is not what’s new here. The inquest story is that the parents tried to get a hospital and a child psychologist to assist; they failed. (Guardian story, same subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/feb/10/sophie-waller-inquest) So a headline more reflective of the key accusation by the parents would be something like:
    Parents say docs
    let girl starve

  40. A professional eye at work!

  41. Artifex Amando says:

    A.J.P. Crown: Re Swedish religiosity, look what happened just yesterday: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?a=882473 . And it’s not a big surprise that a crushing majority of those linking to that article are just laughing at her, or are trying to explain to her that the Swedish government has nothing to do with religion since the year 2000 when Svenska staten and Svenska kyrkan was divided from each other.

  42. In the meantime, let’s not forget the Norwegian princess who talks to angels.

  43. Per Jørgensen says:

    Re. Artifex’s comment — for those who don’t read Swedish, the story is of a member of parliament who suggested the prime minister end speeches with “God bless Sweden.”
    In today’s Scandinavia, that suggestion is so quaint it’s just cute. Why anybody bothers to get worked up over it is a mystery to me, much the same as the question why Norwegian black-metal kids prattle on about being oppressed by Christianity.
    Re. the Norwegian princess, the Norwegian monarchy must be the most ridiculously anachronistic vestige of that system in existence today. I can’t think of a royal family more out of place anywhere except maybe Iceland, if they had one. It must be the cognitive dissonance of it that dislodged her highness’s faculties and dumped them on the loony end of the scale. What’s next — unicorns? Just wait until she discovers dolphins: you know, the gentle geniuses of the sea, representatives of the Higher Consciousness, Eternal World Peace etc. She’ll be able to charge twice her current rate for a “three-year programme” if she can get you communing with those guys as well. Oh, except it’s too cold for bottlenose dolphins up there. Maybe porpoises? Or minke whales, before we eat them?

  44. Artifex Amando’s Swedish link via Google Translate:

    Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt should end their speeches by saying that God will bless Sweden. The model is the U.S. where the President concludes by asking God bless the country. I think it would be great if the Prime Minister could say this because we are still a Christian country. It is important that management should be able to profess their faith, “said Else-Marie Lindgren of the Swedish Radio Sjuhärad.

    This “we are a Christian country” meme has been popping up more and more in U.S. political discourse. It’ s marker of right-wing fundamentalism–the biblical literalist kind that doesn’t believe in dinosaurs. Of course it’s nonsense–the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, prohibits the establishment of a religion, and forbids a religious test for holders of public office, but a lot of ignorant people who forgot to read the consitution for themselves are hearing it somewhere and keep repeating it.
    I suspect it’s an outgrowth of the recent world events surrounding the Arab world, where they do indeed have state religions. There is something charming about an entire country observing a religious holiday– like Ramadan or in Ethiopia, the church-related observances of the New Year–at the same time, but I wish the Arabs had adopted the Western ideal of separation of church and state instead instead of us trying to adopt their customs.

  45. A.J.P. Crown says:

    As monarchies go, the Norwegian one is the best I know of. Kronprins Haakon and his wife are photogenic and very smart, they have three kids and they don’t live lives of excess, like their European cousins. They’re very middle class, ideal representatives of a middle class country.
    The best alternative to monarchy is to have an animal as the figurehead. A national bird or animal: the parrot, for example, or the horse.
    As for Sweden separating their church & state, I think it is an overrated gesture. I always thought it was a good idea when I lived in the USA, and I still do, I just doubt that it is very important, especially in Scandinavian countries, where there are fewer fundamentalist crazy people than there are in the USA. Norway still has no separation, and the USA has had it for two hundred years; and yet according to that table, only 3-9% don’t believe in God, in the USA, whereas most Norwegians don’t. So there’s no connection there, it seems.
    Princesse Märtha Louise is a completely okay person in comparison to, say, the Prince of Whales or some of the other European lounge lizards who are running for King. Anyway, she’ll never be the monarch here, there are too many ahead of her now.

  46. michael farris says:

    I think we should realize the pressures that Norway’s draconian lese majeste laws place upon Crown.
    He could be sentenced for five years hard labor in the dreaded lutefisk mines for insufficiently spirited defense of the House of Fairhair and the Haraldist spies are everywhere.
    We should just drop the subject of Norwegian monarchs altogether.

  47. A.J.P. Crown says:

    oh just get me out of here…

  48. The best alternative to monarchy is to have an animal as the figurehead. A national bird or animal: the parrot, for example, or the horse.
    I like the suggestion, but judging by the exemplars of the two species I have personally known, I would much prefer a horse.

  49. Shut up and eat your lutefisk, AJP. If and when the angels tell Martha Louise to let you out, she’ll let you out.

  50. scarabaeus says:

    ‘wot be rong with’
    girl feared dentist
    starved to death.
    [35 letters]

  51. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I would much prefer a horse.
    So vote for the horse. Do you want a male horse or a female horse?
    See, it’s just like electing a president.

  52. How did we get from dentist to crown?

  53. The Norwegian princess says “It was while I was taking care of the horses that I got in contact with the angels.,” I seem to remember a new horse in the Kron household. I do hope they will take the necessary precautions. Of course, supernatural dealings with horses is nothing new for Norwegians. Think Loki, Svaðilfari, and the eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

  54. Perhaps Swedes were also objecting to the patriotism. “God, you needn’t bless us, we’re doing fine, please bless someone who really needs it.”
    I agree with Australians about the points mentioned, and with the Brits about hyphens. Joyce’s most annoying trait was his practice of dehyphenizing. It’s like he was putting notice to Shaw that he, too, was capable of wacky language reform, but just chose not to do it except in a small symbolic way.

  55. Perhaps Swedes were also objecting to the patriotism. “God, you needn’t bless us, we’re doing fine, please bless someone who really needs it.”
    I agree with Australians about the points mentioned, and with the Brits about hyphens. Joyce’s most annoying trait was his practice of dehyphenizing. It’s like he was putting notice to Shaw that he, too, was capable of wacky language reform, but just chose not to do it except in a small symbolic way.

  56. I actually wrote the headline for this same story on A.N. Other newspaper, and I was still initially puzzled when I saw the Metro’s version, thinking there had to be an ‘s’ missing on ‘Dentist’ or ‘fear’. I have to disagree with Professor Pullum, it’s a rubbish headline because a large percentage of readers will misinterprete ‘fear’ as a verb on first reading and feel confused. Frankly, the front page should have been redesigned to give a better ‘count'(to use the technical term).

  57. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Joyce’s most annoying trait was his practice of dehyphenizing.
    I doubt it. Tell that to Barnacle.

  58. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t think much of most of the eight-legged horse drawings shown on Wiki. Most of them just have 2 inexplicable pairs of extra legs in the background. I’m going to get my daughter to draw one. I like this one though, the legs look like the oars of a Viking ship.

  59. In the Netherlands we have a princess Irene who Talks To Trees. Hugs them. too. She arrived there by first converting to Catholicism to marry a Spanish throne-pretender (that is not an english term, but you probably know what I mean) and then after the divorce edging Out of Religion and Into the All. She is a lot like Shirley Maclaine in some aspects, and like her mother, queen Juliana (who had her own court-paragnost at a certain point in the 1950’s, and nearly got thrown off the throne for it). I do not know how she feels about horses. Harmoniously, probably.

  60. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Märtha Louise used to be a competition rider, she’s always been keen on horses.
    I don’t know what you lot have got against tree huggers and angel imaginers. It’s better than head chopper-offers and the other ultra-respectable old bats who we usually get stuck with as top person. The Queen of Denmark seems ok, though. Not that I smoke, but if I did she’s the kind of monarch I feel I could always bum a cigarette off. Unlike the late Princess Margaret, who although a chain smoker, wouldn’t have given you the butts from her ashtray.

  61. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I forgot to mention the only language-related thing I know about Kronprins Haakon of Norway. His wife, the Kronprinsesse, is called Mette-Marit. It’s a name that sounds strange and inappropriate to Norwegian ears if it’s linked to a title, apparently; something like ‘Crown Princess Leila-Bell’ would sound in English, I expect. This is the kind of detail I will never in a million years be able to pick up in any foreign language.

  62. Alas, Desbladet seems to be otherwise occupied today. He should be everyone’s first source Kronprinsessen and Kronprinsen. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. He may do the Dutches too.

  63. Alas, Desbladet seems to be otherwise occupied today. He should be everyone’s first source Kronprinsessen and Kronprinsen. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. He may do the Dutches too.

  64. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Oh yeah and what am I, chopped-off liver? Who found you Wiki’s list of Swedish castles?

  65. Don’t diss the Crown!

  66. Yeah, Brand X will do at times.
    Des and Kron should get together. I think Des said he’s swamped with work right now, but maybe the two of them could found a prinsess cult or something.

  67. Yeah, Brand X will do at times.
    Des and Kron should get together. I think Des said he’s swamped with work right now, but maybe the two of them could found a prinsess cult or something.

  68. A.J.P. Crown says:

    One’s rarely too swamped to discuss princesses, I find.

  69. I don’t suppose Margaret was the one who wore blue jeans. When I was a child I was always told it was okay to wear blue jeans because some princess was doing it.

  70. Kron: I don’t think much of most of the eight-legged horse drawings shown on Wiki.
    Here are some from my archives (in my URL) and some four-legged horses too. They’re not cropped or anything, I just threw them up there. If you have any trouble with it let me know.
    Some of them have that triple triangle I think is the symbol of Odin. Some of the skinhead groups used to use that, so it creeps me out a bit. I suppose that’s not old Sleipnir’s fault though.

  71. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Wow. Some of those are lovely. Do we really call The Bayeux tapestry ‘Nordic’?

  72. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t suppose Margaret was the one who wore blue jeans.
    I can’t see it. It might have been Princess Anne, hideous second child of the Queen. She’s a really good rider, as is her daughter, so she may have worn jeans in the Sixties. Gosh, how daring!

  73. The Bayeux tapestry is at least as Nordic as Emerson’s drinking buddies. Think of Normans as a sort of Viking diaspora.
    If you count the Viking Age as roughly 800-1200, 1066 is about as in the middle of it as you can get. The tapestry was done by English hands but to the specifications (and historical story line) of Normans. A bunch of Viking books love to cite the tapestry, especially if they talk about culture. It’s considered to be nearly photographic for showing Viking weapons (the Danish ax and bow were used by the English), ships, ship building, clothing, cavalry fighting formations, putting horses in ships, oh, and the all Normans were clean shaven but quite a few of the English are pictured with mustaches. I’m sure the women of the SCA are cursing out whoever did it, since there are only three women pictured on the whole thing, but they more than made up for it with the horses.

  74. Back in the sixties, women did not appear in public wearing anything other than a skirt. Perhaps my mother was daring in letting me dress like that, but my life back then was one massive skinned knee and she probably got tired of doing the Mercurochrome first-aid business then kissing it and making it well. This way she only had to worry about grass stains on the knees.

  75. At last, for Krone’s daughter,Sleipner.

  76. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Stylised but convincing-looking eight leggers. There’s one on the right hand side that I can’t enlarge. Very small it looks like a piece of grilled cheese.
    I’m not sure you can really call Normans ‘Vikings’, anymore than you can call Garrison Keillor a Norwegian. He’s basically just a tall American. The thing about the Normans was they came from Normandy, were quite short, had dark hair, wore berets and spoke French.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    Present-day Normans still include a high proportion (higher than in most of France) of ruddy-faced blonds and redheads, in fact many of them look more English or Scandinavian than the average French person.

  78. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Don’t you think that’s more likely a Breton or Celtic vestige?

  79. women did not appear in public wearing anything other than a skirt
    Ah, the way I read that, the first time.

  80. Nobody ever forgets the first time.

  81. I hate to interrupt such a lovely Valentine’s Day frolic, but hey Kron, the Sleipnir that looks like grilled cheese turned out to be a Gotland stone that’s not even in Wikipedia. More in my URL. I’m now hot on the trail of Norwegian Stupas–phallic Lapp stones, actually.

  82. If you really want to know about Normans, I can probably find something, but all you really need to know was that the same cast of characters that sacked Paris did the Norman invasion as well a few generations later. After all, Norman does mean “Northman”.
    What I can tell you off the top of my head was that Rollo didn’t just sack Paris (a sloppy job of sacking if you ask me, where the French king gets to go in and out of the city at will because the guards are too busy with the mead.) It was more of a migration. They can find out a lot by looking at place names, and so forth. There were two major settlements, one around Rouen and one in Normandy.
    The Rouen thing isn’t as strange as it sounds. That area had a long history of being raided by pirates and the people more inland making deals with one set of pirates for land in exchange for controlling the security of the coast.
    And no, the Normans didn’t wear berets or the English would have split their heads open–even good thick Norwegian heads–with their little Danish battle axes.

  83. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think King Harold and William I were cousins or something and William was somehow related to Edward the Confessor, so it wasn’t such a huge racial change when the Normans came over. The Normans had been living in modern N. France and Belgium for a couple of hundred years before the Norman conquest, certainly long enough to interbreed with the locals and start wearing berets and selling onions. I wonder if anyone’s doing genetic research into the Normans? I remember seeing a Norwegian documentary on television about how some researchers had successfully tested the dna of Scots living in the Shetlands, or the Western isles, or somewhere like that, to see which ones had Viking ancestors. A lot of people in England can without difficulty trace their ancestry back to the Normans, but I’ve never heard of anyone being able to then take that further back to the Vikings. I don’t know why. As far as I’m concerned, Vikings are Vikings and Normans are Normans, even if that’s a question of passports and culture rather than dna and race.

  84. You get used to it: it’s pretty plain if you buy UK newspapers every day. But an Israeli friend of mine who speaks pretty good English told me that the tabloid newspaper headlines were the biggest challenge he faced in comprehending English when he moved to London.

  85. You get used to it: it’s pretty plain if you buy UK newspapers every day. But an Israeli friend of mine who speaks pretty good English told me that the tabloid newspaper headlines were the biggest challenge he faced in comprehending English when he moved to London.

  86. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think I’ve mentioned before my favourite London Evening Standard headline, from the 1970s, which was ‘I ATE NURSE JUDY’. It had something to do with an aeroplane crash in the arctic.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    That should really have been “dentist-fear” with a hyphen.

  88. marie-lucie says:

    Present-day Normans … ruddy-faced blonds and redheads…
    AJP: – Don’t you think that’s more likely a Breton or Celtic vestige?
    No, because that is not so much the case in Brittany, and the Celts were inhabiting most of France (then “Gaul”) before the Roman conquest. The Bretons are descended largely from a mix of indigenous Gauls and later Celtic immigrants from “Great” Britain (Brittany being “Little” Britain). (I recently attended a lecture about the very complex early history of Brittany).
    Nijma: … the same cast of characters that sacked Paris did the Norman invasion as well a few generations later. After all, Norman does mean “Northman”…. Rollo didn’t just sack Paris (a sloppy job of sacking if you ask me, where the French king gets to go in and out of the city at will because the guards are too busy with the mead.)”
    I think “sack” of Paris is an exaggeration (perhaps the attackers inflated their prowess in their report back home) but it is true that being given the land that was henceforth called Normandy was a way of putting an end to the constant raids.
    There were two major settlements, one around Rouen and one in Normandy.
    Rouen is located in Normandy.
    … the Normans didn’t wear berets …
    That’s AJP’s little joke. Of course they didn’t wear the beret which is a mountaineer’s hat: the most famous berets are those of the Basques (which were ultimately adopted throughout the country but at a very recent period) and the Alpine people (a much larger type of beret still worn by the Alpine division of the French army).
    (And no, wearing a beret will not make you look like a Frenchman unless you already look like one in physical appearance, clothing and demeanor – the beret on a man is not what you would call fashionable at the moment. Those who wear it are more likely to live in the countryside and not to care much about their appearance as they have more important things to worry about).

  89. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t care what you say, all Frenchmen wear berets. It’s a well-known fact.

  90. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: I think King Harold and William I were cousins or something and William was somehow related to Edward the Confessor, so it wasn’t such a huge racial change when the Normans came over.
    The conquest of England was not the result of a French vs. English national affair but of a Viking vs. Viking dynastic dispute. William’s grandmother was the sister of the old king and William was one of several potential heirs to the throne of England in the absence of a direct male descendant of the king. He first did everything he could (not necessarily legally) to have himself declared the heir, even offering to challenge the main contender in a duel, but was eventually rebuffed, before he decided on the military invasion.
    The Bayeux Tapestry is a strip of embroidered cloth dating from shortly after the conquest and depicting the story in minute detail: the Normans arrive in typical Scandinavian ships (dragon heads, etc) and both sides wear the same clothes and armour: about the only difference is that some of the English have long moustaches, while the Normans are clean-shaven.
    There is a very detailed account and discussion of the historical backkround of the tapestry in a book by a Danish historian (I think his name is Madsen), which is sold in several languages in the Vikingskibsmuseum in Roskilde, Denmark, and no doubt elsewhere. The museum in Bayeux (which exhibits the Tapestry) also shows detailed information about the history (quoting reports from both sides of the story). Bayeux was probably the other major centre Nijma was referring to, for a long time a major religious and cultural centre were Norman nobles kept sending their sons to learn the Scandinavian language after generations of intermarriage had caused most of the Norman population to be French-speaking.

  91. Bayeux tapestry book : The Roskilde museum doesn’t list anything online (I have relatives there), but maybe the book is The Vikings by O. Madsen translated by David Macrae, published in Spain by Minerva. The English version has illustrations of buildings in Normandy, Rollon’s (Gange Hrolf, Hrolf the Walker) grave, Rollon’s statue, the credits for the illustrations do not describe them at all. The section on Viking shipbuilding uses illustrations that are very obviously from the Bayeux tapestry, some labeled, some not, and some referred to as the “Queen Matilda tapestry”. Charles H. Gibbs-Smith’s The Bayeux Tapestry says it was definitely NOT done for Queen Matilda.
    As far as the acculturation of the Vikings in western Europe, some are dismissive of the Viking influence and say Old Norse died out within 25 or 30 years, with some maritime words entering the French language, but others say it was spoken for more than 100 years. This source says “the language became amalgamated with the native Romance languages (Frankish and Latin), resulting in a new ‘Norman’ language”. It is agreed that there were few Viking women, as only two women’s names survive as place names, so the Vikings would have intermarried with the local population. There is also agreement that prior to Viking settlement, the coastal areas were fairly depopulated from centuries of raids and Viking influence there was heavy. This historical summary regards the Normans as Vikings who had merely picked up some skills with horses in France. One of my ancestors, a direct descendant of Rollo (Hrolf’s British name, so am I British too?) was said to have accompanied William the Conqueror (formerly William the Bastard) to England, being some kind of nephew of his.
    Normandy: Here is a quite excellent map of Viking influence. This map shows the old Frankish administrative districts in Neustria (now Normandy) in the 9th century. As the first map shows, the settlement on the Seine around Rouen was successful, another settlement on the Loire died out, and there was a huge settlement–I thought this was called “Normandy” but maybe it’s “Brittany” (old name “Cotentin”) on the western coast.
    And finally here is an incredible animated YouTube of the Bayeau Tapestry.
    Beret THAT, A.J.P.

  92. Another Sleipnir for the young Kronessa http://www.historiska.se/
    When you bring up the website, see how they have that tiny eight-legger next to “http://” in the address bar? I don’t agree with what they did with the figure on the horse though. Some statues of Frey are explicit enough they have to be photographed from the side very carefully, Frey was that kind of a god, but not Odin. They shouldn’t be showing Odin like that–I don’t see it in the original at all.

  93. Sorry about the link for the Viking place name density map in France. Here is the explanatory page too.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: The Danish book on the Bayeux Tapestry is probably not the one you mention, it is specifically about the tapestry and its background and reproduces the picture for each episode. I can’t find my copy to verify the details but I don’t think it was published by the museum. The “tapestry” appears to have been made in England by English monks (not nuns as the book says), perhaps commissioned by William’s brother who was a bishop. It was meant to be displayed in the cathedral in Bayeux, perhaps on the anniversary of the battle of Hastings.
    Viking settlements were all over, especially on the coast, if you include farmsteads and small villages rather than just larger towns: the latter continued existing towns (eg Rouen continues the Gaulish town Rotomagus). Le Cotentin is the name of the North-South peninsula which juts out toward England. I have never heard of Norman settlements on the Loire, which is definitely beyond the limits of the province of Normandy, only of some Viking raids there.
    Many places in Northern Normandy have names derived from Norse, especially those ending in -bec and -tôt and a few others. I remember that we discussed this on LH perhaps two years ago, about made-up placenames in Proust’s work. It is exaggerated to say that Norse + French resulted in a new, hybrid language, but the Normand variety of French acquired new words, some of which later passed into the language as a whole.

  95. marie-lucie says:

    (after consulting the link)
    Eventually, the language became amalgamated with the native Romance languages (Frankish and Latin), resulting in a new ‘Norman’ language. This ‘Norman’ language became, in the 14th/15th centuries, a base for what we now know as the French language.
    This statement is way off. Frankish was the language of the Franks, who were the upper class at the time but probably no longer spoke Frankish. This language was a type of very old German, not a Romance language. The language of the main population (formerly Gauls) was a form of “Romance” (derived from Latin but by then quite far from the Latin of ancient Rome). The Normans would have been much more comfortable learning Frankish than Romance (just as they learned – or at least must have understood – Old English when occupying the Danelaw), and the fact that they ended up speaking French means that they learned the language of the general population (in cases of intermarriage, usually the foreign fathers manage at least a functional knowledge of the local language, the children are often bilingual, but the next generation tends to speak primarily the language of the country). It is also ridiculous to make this supposedly hybrid “Norman” language the ancestor of the present French language, rather than just of the dialects of Northern Normandy.

  96. A.J.P. Crown says:

    m-l: “…(wearing a beret) will not make you look like a Frenchman unless you already look like one in physical appearance, clothing and demeanor…”
    Marie-Lucie, forgetting the beret for a moment — and this is not a snide attempt at political correctness — how would you yourself depict a Frenchman or Frenchwoman’s physical appearance and demeanour? Myself, I would have to resort to cartoon-like characterizations (like the beret, or the one of the Englishman in the bowler hat, carrying a rolled umbrella), but perhaps there’s more to it than that?

  97. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, I don’t think I can describe it, but if you are in a tourist destination or an international airport you can often guess where people are from just from their “physical appearance, clothing and demeanor.” The clues are often subtle, for instance how people move or stand, or the predominant colours in their clothing. Not too long ago someone (you?) wrote about how African- or Asian-Americans seem to be Americans, only their features and skin colour showing their genetic origin.

  98. I was amazed at how people around the world were able to size me up and respond to me in the correct language the first time. Why do I not look German, for example? Yet Egyptian hawkers who spoke German would try English on me first. I have since heard that Americans can be spotted by the sneakers.
    It was only when jogging in Denmark that everyone wanted to shout at me in Danish.

  99. A.J.P. Crown says:

    That’s very true, Marie-Lucie, though at an airport I might mistake Canadians for other North Americans or for Scandinavians. It was John Emerson who wrote about Asian Americans. I was the one who made him restate it, because I couldn’t understand it.
    People can never tell what I am. If they say I’m English I tell them I’m from the United States and vice versa. Unless they’re terrorists, in which case I generally tell them I’m Norwegian. I do actually know a US citizen who took out Irish citizenship solely so he could produce an Irish passport when terrorists boarded his plane looking for hostages. He is an investment banker.

  100. David Marjanović says:

    BTW, the oldest attested term for “German” is frencisg

  101. Returning the topic of the original post, I was surprised to see a local NZ webaite just report on this today. Like me, they obviously thought “phobia” was a better choice than “fear” for the headline:
    Dental phobia killed British girl
    Stuff.co.nz | Tuesday, 17 February 2009

  102. marie-lucie says:

    the oldest attested term for “German” is frencisg…
    That is to say, Frank. That must date from Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse)’s empire, no?

  103. From Helmut Richter, “A Short History Of The German Language“:
    The border between France and Germany was more or less the border between the Romance-speaking West and the Germanic-speaking East. Prior to the division of the Frankish empire, the language name “Frankish” meant the local language as distinct from Latin, and quite different languages may have passed under that name. As a result, until today both a Romance language, French, and a couple of High German dialects, Franconian (Fränkisch), carry a name derived from “Frankish”. The word was no longer unique, and another word had to be found for the vernacular of the Germanic East. The new word for the purpose was diutisc with the meaning “belonging to the people”. It derives from a Germanic root meaning “people” (e.g. Old English þeod) which is now lost in most languages (but compare Icelandic þjóð). Interestingly, the oldest preserved mention of diutisc occurs in Latin texts of the 9th century where it appears as a Germanic loanword theodiscus borrowed into Latin; it denoted the local vernacular as distinct from Latin. In some instances it appears even as a Latin translation for Germanic frencisg then still having its original meaning [i.e., ‘Frankish’]. At the end of the 11th century, the word diutisc is applied for the first time to both the language and the country and slowly gets more and more into use.

  104. marie-lucie says:

    The fact that Old Gaul (Gallia) had been renamed Francia (later France) after its new rulers must have contributed to the ambiguity of frencisg and to the rise of the word diutisc.
    The ancestor of French (intermediate between Latin and Old French) is referred to in French as le francien and the language of the Franks at that time as le francique.

  105. Interestingly, the oldest preserved mention of diutisc occurs in Latin texts of the 9th century where it appears as a Germanic loanword theodiscus borrowed into Latin; it denoted the local vernacular as distinct from Latin.
    THANKS! For so long, I’ve been wondering where in Hades the Italians came up with tedeschi, and now I know. Now the only mystery remaining about the word is whether I’ll ever meet an Italian who doesn’t spit the word out as if it were a more vile obscenity than “Belgium”.

  106. Now the only mystery remaining about the word is whether I’ll ever meet an Italian who doesn’t spit the word out as if it were a more vile obscenity than “Belgium”.
    Really? I know lots of Italians who love Germans. I would also guess that Germans are generally more popular in Italy than the English. Maybe not in Tuscany, but probably elsewhere.

  107. Thanks for that, Vanya.In the light of that, and in the interests of specificity, I’ll amend my earlier comment and replace “Italian” with “Sammarinese”.

  108. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Vanya: I would also guess that Germans are generally more popular in Italy than the English.
    Would you expand on this, please? I’ve never noticed the slightest hostility in Italy towards my bowler-hatted cousins. Perhaps you’re talking about football hooligans. Some Europeans have a seething hatred of Germans because of their bathing towels. Of course, that would be confined to the tourist community.

  109. I don’t know what modern Italians think about the English, I just know my grand-father hated them. These days London is considered la citta piu cool d’Europa, so the Inglesi may be more popular than they used to be, despite buying up the half of Tuscany the Germans didn’t take. Italians are usually too busy hating other Italians to worry about other nationalities. But I can say with some confidence that Italian boys prefer German girls to English girls.

  110. Some version of “Frank” was generic for Europeans during the Crusades, and still survives on the far east in the form “ferengi”, which also is in Star Trek or something.
    Lost King of England, Edward Ironside’s son, Edward. When Canute conquered England Edward’s young sons were exiled. After many adventures in Hungary and elsewhere, one of them returned to England in 1056, where he probably would have become King if he had lived.
    Ronay’s books are enormous fun to read and very well researched, but he has been criticized for improving on the facts. He has a book on Vlad Dracula, and another on “The Tatar Khan’s Englishman”. I have no idea how accurate he is, because the negative review I read of one of them seemed petulant, nasty, and not well-argued.

  111. Some version of “Frank” was generic for Europeans during the Crusades, and still survives on the far east in the form “ferengi”,
    Jordanian toilets are classified as “hammam arabee” or “hammam ferenji”, depending on whether they are a rectangular fixture at floor level or the western toilet we are familiar with.
    As I recall the Star Trek species is pronounced with a hard g. ferengi/ferenji; gebel(Egypt)/jebel(Levant)

  112. A.J.P. Crown says:

    But I can say with some confidence that Italian boys prefer German girls to English girls.
    Recently my Norwegian wife told me that the British have a reputation for being, if not grotesquely ugly, then at least kind of unpleasant-looking. I had never heard this, but I subsequently realised from watching BBC television programmes that there is something to it. It’s not only the weather forecasters, they look bizarre in most countries, but quiz-show contestants and actors taking character roles in detective shows and soap operas are nearly all strikingly plain. This would not happen even in Australia where many have a British background. Having had it confirmed, what I find interesting is this: how can the whole world keep this secret from the British?
    p.s. Nij, it’s not caused by the dentists.

  113. As I recall the Star Trek species is pronounced with a hard g. ferengi
    The Star Trek pronunciation sounds very like the Hindi firangiI wonder how many Franks made it to the land of the Indus back then?

  114. michael farris says:

    In Poland the stereotype used to be that British women weren’t very good looking (I’m being very understated here) but that the men were gentlemenly, if unemotional and repressed.
    Post 2004 Poligh migration to the UK and a few years of British bachelor parties flying to Poland have thoroughly destroyed any positive stereotypes of British men while not improving the strereotypes of British women either.
    The British are also stereotyped as being either a) fat b) generally unhealthy and peaked looking c) hulking menaces.
    As tourists I have the idea that Germans are universally loathed for their anal and predatory towel practices but are preferred over the British in just about every other way including speaking understandable English.

  115. A.J.P. Crown says:

    But, Michael, how is this reputation (the one for ugliness) kept secret from the British? Everyone in the United States knows of recent American unpopularity, for example.

  116. The rest of the world held a meeting and decided the loss of their Empire was hard enough on the Brits—if they found out about this, it might do them in. So everyone, even the Albanians, has kept the secret.

  117. marie-lucie says:

    An ethnic group living in its own territory (especially if occupying or having occupied a prominent or even dominant position elsewhere) considers themselves normal- or good-looking, no matter the opinion of others. In the modern world our images of ourselves and others often come from mass media, in which “beautiful people” are prominently displayed no matter how little they may have to offer otherwise. Against these images, people whose appearance doesn’t conform to the prevailing standards, especially if they are from a different ethnic group, are often perceived as “ugly”, even if they are just “ordinary” within their own group. My mother often remarked that “when English girls are beautiful, they are strikingly beautiful” – as opposed to most English girls whose appearance would have been unremarkable in England but considered plain or ugly in France.

  118. The British must know, really. I mean they do watch popular American television comedies once in a while. Or do they simply censor the bits on The Simpsons where they make jokes about how unattractive the British are?

  119. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think you’d be surprised, Vanya. I haven’t seen the Simpsons bits you’re referring to, (though now it’s constantly on Norwegian tv I’ll keep an eye out). My wife’s aside was the first I’d heard of it, though in retrospect I now see that a German girl I met was referring to it — that was many years ago and she was kind of drunk. Marie-Lucie is explaining to me why we don’t consider ourselves to be ugly and I’m sure that’s right, but it doesn’t explain why Britons are mostly in the dark about this worldwide feeling (of that I’m fairly sure).
    I’m inclined to believe what Language is saying, though in my experience, Albanians are straight speakers.

  120. michael farris says:

    “how is this reputation (the one for ugliness) kept secret from the British?”
    Quick hypotheses with no reflection or intention to prove or disprove.
    1. General politeness: What do expect people to say? “How come you Brits are so ugly?” or “That condemned building is as ugly as an English bride!”
    2. It’s not out in the open. The Polish stereotype was not one I’d ever noticed in the media. It was told to me (and everyone I checked with agreed). Some Polish stereotypes, like those about Swedes (genial and well-meaning fools) can be picked up on while others just aren’t as obvious.
    3. How would British people find out? They generally don’t have the linguistic prowess to access non-English speaking media directly and so they’re dependent upon what foreign people tell them in English (and see 1.)
    It’s different from American unpopularity which is mostly political in nature (and people aren’t hesitant to talk about political disagreements)

  121. Recently my Norwegian wife told me that the British have a reputation for being, if not grotesquely ugly, then at least kind of unpleasant-looking.
    The Rolling Stones are the only Brits some people have ever seen.

  122. Mick and Keith murdered the only good-looking Stone, Brian Jones.

  123. “Pete” is me. A week-old joke that got defaulted in. Pardon.

  124. “Pete” is me. A week-old joke that got defaulted in. Pardon.

  125. Maybe it’s a difference in the acting systems. For the most part, the American stage has a star system where the youngest, most attractive people get top billing, with little regard for talent or career development. The British have a state supported system of career actors, who are chosen for talent and used over and over in the local theaters. I remember seeing Vanessa Redgrave in a little stage production in London back in the late 80’s; Derek Jacobi was doing a gig in another theater across town. In America that job would have been taken by a recent college grad who majored in theater, who might or might not be able to join Actors’ Guild (union scale and retirement benefits), and on dark nights was waiting tables on the side, while the “high” paid jobs ($10,000/year) were all in New York or Hollywood.

  126. I don’t think so Nijma. I actually find British screen actors and actresses probably more attractive on average than American screen actors (or Russians or Germans for that matter). Helena Bonham Carter, Elizabeth Hurley, Vanessa Redgrave, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Jude Law, Sean Connery, Eddie Izzard – etc. etc. must be someone for every taste in that group.
    No, it’s the actual people you see everyday, sadly, that have given the British this reputation.

  127. Also, in that same vein, a few years ago in the business world a NSFW powerpoint was making the email rounds contrasting photos of a “typical” Stockholm nightclub full of tanned lithe healthy Swedish demi-gods and goddesses to a “typical” Newcastle nightclub full of toothless overweight women in belly shirts, tattooed yobs with black-eyes, and even pregnant women drinking lager. (I think the email originated in the Netherlands actually). I know my co-workers forwarded it off to our colleagues in the UK, probably more than once, so not all Brits can be ignorant of this sterotype.

  128. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Except they may not have realised it was an example of a stereotype.
    I find Michael’s explanation, that Britons can’t read foreign newspapers, to be one possible reason. Except I’ve been living out of Britain for … let me see … 32 years and I’ve read lots of papers in that time, and it took at least thirty years before I figured it out and then only because my wife told me. I didn’t believe her until I started scrutinising English tv.
    As Marie-Lucie and Vanya said (sort of), Julie Christie or (half of) Audrey Hepburn or all the models like Nell Campbell and Kate Moss make up what most British people think are your typical Britisher, especially now they’re getting great genes from places like Pakistan and Somalia. They don’t see the Browns, Blairs and Thatchers as ugly or the shoppers in a British mall, the ones who look like they’ve stepped out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. In Britain, the grotesque appearance that is a consistent feature of members of the royal family is blamed on their German genes, oddly enough. There’s a ‘Hanoverian nose’, or perhaps it’s chin (receding). Come to think of it, if they had bread with the Hapsburg Catholics, they could have killed two birds with one stone.

  129. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Bread? I think I meant bred. Time for dinner.

  130. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Naomi Campbell. Nell Campbell’s Australian (and not so good-looking).

  131. marie-lucie says:

    Things I was told on arriving in the US: “I thought all French girls looked like Brigitte Bardot!” (that will date me for sure). I felt like saying back: “I thought all American men looked like Gary Cooper!” (not having another name at the ready). Actually I did not look unlike the very young Brigitte Bardot, before she got into her supersexy image with dyed blong hair and huge amounts of mascara on her eyes, which made her unrecognizable compared to her earlier images.

  132. David Marjanović says:

    That must date from Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse)’s empire, no?

    What LH said.

    As tourists I have the idea that Germans are universally loathed

    Correct. Even the Germans themselves despise each other as tourists for being loud and arrogant among other things!
    And they wear socks in sandals.
    BTW, I can confirm the existence of the “ugly British girls” stereotype.

  133. Even the Germans themselves despise each other as tourists for being loud and arrogant among other things!
    So do Americans. Most educated Americans are convinced that they themselves are sophisticated cosmopolitan travelers but all other Americans are boors, I was guilty of that attitude in my youth as well.

  134. michael farris says:

    Is there any group that doesn’t despise themselves as tourists?
    Since I’m here, I’ll give some rundown on my perceptions of various national groups of tourists found in Europe.
    Except for their towel habits Germans aren’t that bad overall, but still nobody likes them. On the other hand, they’re used to it.
    French tourists don’t make much impression one way or the other (the first thing that comes to mind is crowding around the hotel doors talking and smoking).
    Brits are loud, usually drunk, often funny looking, speak some strange patois that’s not actually taught anywhere and like it when the comforts are home are also found abroad which can have awful effects on hotel food). They spend money at a wreckless pace (which makes the locals overlook a lot of the other stuff).
    Scandinavians are a lot like Germans without the towel obsession and aren’t as immediately disliked.
    Poles are astoundingly cheap (which makes them unpopular with locals selling things). They tend to clean their rooms themselves (which makes hotel staff like them) and when outside tend to get lost a lot. They often feel they should try to learn something while abroad but generally don’t enjoy it. And they almost never take books to read on vacation.
    I’ve never seen any group waste food like Israelis.
    Their opposite are Russians who see a breakfast buffet as a chance to stock up for the day and lots of stuff goes into bags they carry with them.

  135. Germans aren’t that bad overall, but still nobody likes them
    Here’s an example of behavior that I think of as stereotypically German (with the usual caveats about the fail rate of stereotypes and the limits of personal experience): When I was in Ireland studying Irish with a very boisterous crowd, we were all drinking and singing drinking songs one evening when the German among us whipped out a notebook and started taking down the lyrics, occasionally asking us to repeat a verse. He was a very nice guy and everybody liked him perfectly well, but… let’s just say it set him apart a bit.

  136. marie-lucie says:

    Maybe he was an anthropologist?

  137. michael farris says:

    marie-lucie, there’s no need to slander the poor man like that.

  138. “whipped out a notebook and started taking down the lyrics”
    I have a similar notebook with the lyrics to Um Kalthum’s “Hadahee Laylatee” and several others; of course it was with Moslems so we were drinking tea. A good way to learn the language. That’s how I learned “insa” “forget” in Arabic, also “morah” “bitter”, both from love songs. And at Danebod in Tyler, Minnesota they routinely slip into town after hours and sing drinking songs in Danish at the local pub, the lyrics to which they have learned at the folk school.

  139. Michael’s comments about buffets reminds me of an old Russian joke:
    A Russian tourist on his first trip abroad visits the breakfast buffet at his hotel in the morning. He is shocked by the abundance of food and starts piling food on his plate, stuffing rolls in his pockets and pouring glass after glass of juice down his throat. A Swedish hotel guest looks on in horror. The Russian, noticing the Swede, invites him to join in -“Nu chto, halyava! It’s free!”.
    The Swede shakes his head in disapproval. “I eat when I’m hungry,” he replies, “and only when I’m hungry”
    “God, just like an animal” mutters the Russian, turning away in disgust.

Speak Your Mind

*