Romance English Style

For the typical Englishman, this has not been an easy week. He can be extremely passionate about his football team, walking the dog, tending the garden and reading the Sunday newspapers. Women, however, (or so it seems to outside observers) rate fairly low on his order of priorities. In the last few days, though, he’s (reluctantly) had to pretend to be romantic. It would definitely be risking big trouble if he neglected his ‘other half’ on 14th February  – which is why you’ll have seen him (& many others) hurrying around the streets furtively clutching flowers & boxes of chocolates.

For sure, he’s also had to book a table for two at ‘their’ restaurant, which invariably means an excruciatingly embarrassing evening surrounded by other couples struggling to conduct an intimate conversation. The only advantage of this arrangement is that if he runs out of ideas he can always borrow a few from the chap next to him. All this will of course have been preceded by the obligatory Valentine’s card and probably a text message as well. In the UK, Valentine’s Day is an expensive occasion: More than £253 million spent on flowers, £93 million on chocolates, £23 million for the cards. And that doesn’t include the cost of dinner.

For the Latinos (& most of the rest of the world) this peculiarly Anglo-Saxon way of showing affection is something of a mystery. All 365 days of the year (not just one) should be dedicated to love & romance. The English are somewhat reticent regarding ‘matters of the heart’. They can take (unlike the Latinos) more than 6 months just to ask someone out. Some sociologists have concluded that the tough attitude of the modern English girl is also to blame. ‘Political correctness’ doesn’t help. Most companies now disapprove of office relationships, which partly explains the popularity of internet sites and ‘speed dating’.

Englishmen are often caricatured as either lacking emotions or not knowing how to express them. This image was famously epitomised by Prince Charles when asked by journalists if he was in love with his (then) fiancée,Diana. “ I suppose so”, was his gallant response “Depending on what love means”.

Innate timidity is not the Englishman’s only problem. His language, normally a huge international asset, simply doesn’t possess the romantic vocabulary available to his foreign competitors. The Italians have ‘bellisima cara mia’, the French ‘ma petite fleur’, and Spanish speakers ‘mi vida adorada & ‘mi reina’ (among others). The English? ‘Dearest’, ‘My precious petal’, ‘Darling’ and (much worse) ‘Cuchy-Gu don’t have quite the same resonance. Meanwhile, an Englishman without a current ‘love interest’ or just wanting to escape the hullabaloo is likely to stock up at Sainsbury’s, close the curtains, turn up the TV, emerging only when he’s sure its all over. Viva El Amor!

Filed under: Society | Posted on February 1st, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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