Enid Palmer was in her late 20s when in April 1948 – after military nursing service in India and Burma followed by a lengthy stay with her parents in Kenya – she disembarked at Liverpool and caught the train to London. […] ‘England’s countryside is beautiful,’ she wrote, ‘but there are too many restrictions – everything is crowded & there are queues everywhere.’ And: ‘Life is narrow and bound by documents.’ And again: ‘There is one standard topic of conversation in England – “coupons”, “food”, “clothes”.’ She was also rather dismayed by the lack of hygiene, and one day in London, finding herself near Victoria station, she did the enterprising thing:

I found a public Baths building – after queuing for an hour got a good hot bath for 6d. It was most enjoyable as it was 6 days since I had had one. They are short of coalite here. Today Uncle George said, ‘You may have a bath today’. I am afraid he runs this house. I was rather amused at being told when I may have a bath. Nobody else seems to have a bath except Uncle George who has one on Sunday night.

– David Kynaston, Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (2007)

“If you want to get back at somebody you consider your enemy, give them a column in the New York Times. Because over time all of their weaknesses and faults are going to become glaringly obvious.”

Is this the most successful sound in television history?

“By 1961, fully one-sixth of the population of Ireland was living in Britain. […] Wills describes an Irish missionary priest who was asked by a family to check on their emigrant daughter, who gossips claimed had been led astray. He describes what happened when he rang her doorbell: Beside her stood a little mite of perhaps three years, with a ribbon in her hair. The girl admitted that she was married in the registry. ‘Is that little girl yours?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What’s her name?’ ‘Fatima.’ ‘That’s a nice Catholic name.’ ‘Not at all; it’s the name of the Prophet’s daughter.’”

Amit Chaudhuri: “‘To escape the Eiffel Tower,’ Maupassant suggested, ‘you have to go inside it.’ Similarly, the main reason for a novelist wanting to win the Booker prize is to no longer be under any obligation to win it, and to be able to get on with their job: writing, and thinking about writing.”

‘Programmes must at all cost be kept free of crudities, coarseness and innuendo,’ insisted the BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide For Writers & Producers (generally known as ‘The Green Book’), a long-lived document assembled and taking force during the second half of 1948. ‘Humour must be clean and untainted directly or by association with vulgarity and suggestiveness. Music hall, stage, and to a lesser degree, screen standards, are not suitable to broadcasting . . . There can be no compromise with doubtful material. It must be cut.’ The following were the subject of ‘an absolute ban’:

Jokes about –


Effeminacy in men

Immorality of any kind

Suggestive references to –

Honeymoon couples


Fig leaves


Ladies’ underwear, e.g. winter draws on

Animal habits, e.g. rabbits


Commercial travellers

Extreme care should be taken in dealing with references to or jokes about –

Pre-natal influences (e.g. ‘His mother was frightened by a donkey’)

Marital infidelity

Good taste and decency are the obvious governing considerations.

The vulgar use of such words as ‘basket’ must also be avoided.

Religion, politics and physical infirmities were all heavily restricted areas, though ‘references to and jokes about drink are allowed in strict moderation so long as they can really be justified on entertainment grounds’. As for expletives, ‘they have no place at all in light entertainment and all such words as God, Good God, My God, Blast, Hell, Damn, Bloody, Gorblimey, Ruddy, etc, etc, should be deleted from scripts and innocuous expressions substituted’.

– David Kynaston, Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (2007)

A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women.

“Never yuck on someone else’s yum.”

“Here is a fascinating conundrum: Freud, the creator of a scientifically delegitimized blueprint of the human mind and of a largely discontinued psychotherapeutic discipline, retains the cultural capital of history’s greatest playwright and the erstwhile Son of God.”

While someone who has a gay identity is doing more than simply acknowledging the fact that he has homosexual desires, and someone who has an identity as a black person, identifying with his or her African American identity, is doing more than simply acknowledging an African ancestry, it is nevertheless true that they are responding to a fact (about desire or ancestry) that is independent of their choices, a fact that comes, so to speak, from outside the self.

– Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity (2005)

The names are excellent—an atmosphere of legendary melody spread over the land. Older than all epics and histories which clothe a nation, this undershirt sits close to the body. What history too, and what stores of primitive and savage observation it enfolds! Cambridge is the bridge of the Cam; Sheffield the field of the river Sheaf; Leicester the castra, or camp, of the Lear, or Leir (now Soar); Rochdale, of the Roch; Exeter or Excester, the castra of the Ex; Exmouth, Dartmouth, Sid-mouth, Teignmouth, the mouths of the Ex, Dart, Sid and Teign rivers. Waltham is strong town; Radcliffe is red cliff; and so on—a sincerity and use in naming very striking to an American, whose country is whitewashed all over by unmeaning names, the cast-off clothes of the country from which its emigrants came; or named at a pinch from a psalm-tune.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits (1853)

The disappearance of a widespread belief in the biological category of the Negro would leave nothing for racists to have an attitude toward. But it would offer, by itself, no guarantee that Africans would escape from the stigma of centuries. Extrinsic racists could disappear and be replaced by people who believed that the population of Africa had in its gene pool fewer of the genes that account for those human capacities that generate what is valuable in human life; fewer, that is, than in European or Asian or other populations. Putting aside the extraordinary difficulty of defining which genes these are, there is, of course, no scientific basis for this claim. A confident expression of it would therefore be evidence only of the persistence of old prejudices in new forms. But even this view would be, i n one respect, an advance on extrinsic racism. For it would mean that each African would need to be judged on his or her own merits. Without some cultural information, being told that someone is of African origin gives you little basis for supposing anything much about them.

– Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (1992)

Forrest Wickman on the history of mooning: “According to Josephus’ account in The Wars of the Jews, a Roman soldier bared his rear to an audience of Jews celebrating Passover, and thereby incited a furious riot that killed ‘upwards of thirty thousand.’ However, a closer examination of Josephus’s account shows that the soldier was not mooning the crowd, but rather farting in their general direction.”

Ned Beauman: “There’s something extremely seductive about madness, about the possibility of abandoning all civilisational structures and common sense and plunging into something much darker and more turbid.”

Todd Gitlin on the decline of free speech on American campuses: “The intense hatred of racial ‘microaggressions’ is flourishing just as state and national officials are zealously practicing macroaggressions: infringing on voting rights and progressive advances in criminal justice. While shortsighted activists focus on slights (real, imagined and arguable), the political powers that be are indisputably rolling back equal rights directly and profoundly where most people live — off campus.”

I have found that Englishmen have such a good opinion of England, that the ordinary phrases in all good society, of postponing or disparaging one’s own things in talking with a stranger, are seriously mistaken by them for an insuppressible homage to the merits of their nation; and the New Yorker or Pennsylvanian who modestly laments the disadvantage of a new country, log-huts and savages, is surprised by the instant and unfeigned commiseration of the whole company, who plainly account all the world out of England a heap of rubbish.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits (1853)

The Englishman is intensely patriotic, for his country is so small. His confidence in the power and performance of his nation makes him provokingly incurious about other nations. He dislikes foreigners. Swedenborg, who lived much in England, notes “the similitude of minds among the English, in consequence of which they contract familiarity with friends who are of that nation, and seldom with others; and they regard foreigners as one looking through a telescope from the top of a palace regards those who dwell or wander about out of the city.” A much older traveller, the Venetian who wrote the “Relation of England,” in 1500, says: “The English are great lovers of themselves and of every thing belonging to them. They think that there are no other men than themselves and no other world but England; and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say that he looks like an Englishman and it is a great pity he should not be an Englishman; and whenever they partake of any delicacy with a foreigner, they ask him whether such a thing is made in his country.” When he adds epithets of praise, his climax is, “So English” and when he wishes to pay you the highest compliment, he says, “I should not know you from an Englishman.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits (1853)