Monday, November 23, 2009


An anonymouse asked me in a comment today "Ben, from where are you originally from? You dont look like british..."

I asked why not, and got the following reply:

"I think you are not British for the following reasons:

1.Your First name and Surname are not typical for someone from Britain.

2.You are much smarter than the average Englishman. Here I don’t mean memory and stuff.

3.Then, you are too modest. That is not typical for an Englishman as well.

4.You don’t get drunk and go outside to make some damage (at least I think so), which is common for some English guys.

5.When you wear the hat it reminds me of someone who has cultural backgrounds from southern countries.

That is what I think, and I did not mean to offend anyone."

I'm fascinated to learn that I don't fit the traditional English stereotypes as held by foreigners, but I think we should examine these points in more detail. At least it's my behaviour and not my appearance that strikes the anonymouse as being non-English - I was worried that I'd need to pose for my new passport photo wearing a top hat and gnawing on a joint of roast beef, like all English people do.

1. Pridmore is, according to a website that's almost certainly wrong, the 5171st-most-popular surname in Britain. Okay, it's not exactly top of the charts, and it's not a name that most people have heard of, but it's a genuine English name, like most or all names ending with 'more'. Well, some people suggest that it's Welsh, and others that it might be French (derived from 'Prudhomme', since 'Pridham' also exists, but I don't think that's a very plausible theory), and the origin of the name is unknown. It's a name that has only ever been used by working-class nonentities, and so has never featured in literature, court reports etc, but it's got a long (albeit mostly unrecorded) history, and I'm quite proud of it.

Incidentally, type Pridmore into Google, and you get Pridmore Bookmakers, then (John Pridmore, "an ex-London Gangster, turned Christian" whose website describes how God has changed his life. He's no relation. And I assume the "ex" relates to his gangster career, not just to London, but you never know.), then, which belongs to a Shaun Pridmore who as far as I can see has never done anything of note but who presumably was the first Pridmore to discover computers and bags the domain name for his family photos, then the Google Maps location of Alan Pridmore Entertainment, then the Surname Database entry for 'Pridmore', which boldly asserts that the name is a lost place-name (an assertion apparently based on complete guesswork), and then, finally my blog. See, anonymouse - I'm world-famous, and I'm only number six on Google's Pridmore listing!

As for Benjamin, I owe that to my mother's fondness for Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back in 1976, but it's not an uncommon name in Britain. Lots of famous Bens in this country - Benjamin Britten springs to mind for obvious reasons, but there's lots of others too.

2. I always thought English people had a worldwide reputation for cleverness! What, we're a land of dunces to the world outside? Well, that's disappointing. Anyway, I'm not 'smart'. Not in any sense of the word. Thick as two short planks, me. So obviously I fit right in to the mass of oafish English!

3. And I'm sure that modesty is a quintessentially English trait! Come on, don't we all like to hide our light under a bushel, at least compared to those boastful, swaggering foreigners? The tradition of British understatement? I can see that we need some better ambassadors for the country. And anyway, I'm not modest. I ceaselessly brag about my accomplishments, I just do it in a subtle way, by saying that I'm modest and following it up with "Here's an impression of what I would say if I wasn't modest: I'm really great, for the following detailed and lengthy reasons..."

4. Yep, the English reputation is rather worse than I thought. Can't really argue with this one completely, but we're not all football hooligans over here. Quite a few English people practically never get drunk and damage things. My grandma, for instance, is practically never drunk and disorderly and hasn't assaulted a policeman or carved her name into a public monument for weeks. And while I have been known to damage things when drunk, it's only shot glasses that I tried to juggle to impress my friends, or the ligaments of my knees. Ahh, that was a great weekend...

5. Hey now, there's one thing I'm most emphatically not, and that's southern! My hat's not a southern hat! It's northern, like me! It's probably a Yorkshirehat!

For the record, I am as far as is known an entirely English person. As I've mentioned once or twice before, my family tree is the most boring in the universe, it's full of Yorkshire/Midlands labourers and absolutely nothing else. On the other hand, my strikingly semitic appearance and instinctive fondness for beards and black fedoras leads many people to guess, possibly correctly, that there's a touch of the Jewish in my family history, and I hope there is. It'd make my background ever so slightly more interesting...


Katy said...

"And while I have been known to damage things when drunk, it's only shot glasses that I tried to juggle to impress my friends, or the ligaments of my knees. Ahh, that was a great weekend..."

Come now, don't be modest - I'm sure those things have occurred on more than one weekend. Or was it just co-incidence that they both occured the first time I met you and are therefore inextricably associated with you in my mond?

Katy said...

Odd, it threw out a weird blogger error message then and told me it couldn't post, but when I hit back, my comment had already gone through. I think your blog has hiccups.

Jimbo said...

There's nothing like a bit of stereotyping!

Aileen said...

Yorkshire and Midlands indeed! Your paternal grandfather was a Londoner and all his family are in Kent.
And sorry about being named after a naff musical but I still think it's a nice name.

Anonymous said...

That's MATERNAL of course, not the other. Old Sid was as Yorkshire as they come!

SamT said...

Can I say about the drinking/ drunk thing? You have been known to misbeave when out in what I can only say a ZZ way,maybe if they had seen you at a past VPS meet they might think otherwise. Ben is a good Jewish name & not Southern!

Zoomy said...

Okay, I've damaged property and limbs more often than some people have had hot dinners, but that night in Oxford will always stick in my mind as a particularly breaking-ful one. And Jimbo, it's important to keep our stereotypes alive, they're an important part of our national heritage!

As for you, mother, way to reveal the skeleton in my family closet! Okay, I'll admit I tend to overlook my (very) late granddad, despite Grandma invariably attributing my "brilliance" in equal measures to him and my dad - she's another shining example of English modesty, as well as being in fact the brains of the family.

But really, it's his own fault for having such a boringly-named family that I couldn't find them on the 1911 census, and for dying so young that he's not around to remind us all of his southernness. Although if he hadn't died, Grandma wouldn't have moved back to Wakefield, my parents would doubtless never have met, I would never have been born, my mother would have raised an army of Londoners named after Dreamcoat characters... really, it doesn't bear thinking about.

Zoomy said...

And Samt, you posted your comment while I was typing that great epic, so now I feel bad about apparently ignoring you. And yes, I'm sure anybody who's witnessed me getting up to drunken shenanigans with you bad influences will think "Yep, he's an English guy alright..." and also "Yikes, I hope he doesn't come over here and damage me..."

Katy said...

It sort of sticks in my mind too. Not least because you started juggling and dropping shotglasses right next to my be-sandaled feet.