How does a vicar differ from a rector? Is a marquis a lord?
Where are the Home Counties? Is someone who is dead chuffed happy
or angry? Americans reading British literature, come upon such
unfamiliar terms and generally have to rely on contextual clues.
For the legions of readers of Dickens and Trollope, of Agatha
Christie, John LeCarre, and P.D. James, of Muriel Spark and Iris
Murdoch, of Noel Coward and Tom Stoppard--to name a few--as well as
viewers of British film and television imports, this helpful and
entertaining guide defines the kinds of things that British authors
thought needed no explanation.
Part dictionary, part guidebook, part almanac, part gazetter,
part history, part sociology, this lexicon has no specialty, for it
deals with British culture in general. David Grote's guiding
principle was to select terminology with the potential to confuse
readers who know only American English. Consequently, the volume is
organized as a dictionary, with entries for concepts, items, and
names that might create confusion. Entries are arranged
alphabetically, from ten basic categories: (1) titles, ranks, and
honours; (2) widely used words not part of the typical American
vocabulary; (3) words used differently in America and Britain; (4)
customs, terminology, and activities of daily life not shared by
Americans; (5) governmental organizations; (6) political and legal
customs and methods; (7) communities, and places often used in
literary works; (8) foods and common commercial products; (9)
common animals and plants not found in the same form in America;
and (10) basic social practices that differ considerably from
modern American practice. Ideally kept on hand for ready referral
when immersed in fictional Britain, this dictionary will make for
many enjoyable hours of random or systematic browsing. A true
companion to British literature, its concern is not authors and
literary history, but the slang, bureaucracy, stereotypes of
places, food and products used in daily life, social organization,
and hundreds of such homespun items.
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