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UK Culture – Down the pub

18 lipca 2016, poniedziałek,

Pub Guide – history and the lingo

If you have ever visited the UK, you will know that pubs are a key feature of our British culture. Today,  I am going to take you through a historical examination of the relationship we Brits have with pubs. As an added bonus, I’ve included lots of new, useful language for you to learn and use.

A historical relationship – Brits and alcohol

As with so many things the British have always had an obtuse[1] relationship with alcohol which might at first glance appear confusing to others. There are many historical precedents. For example; when Henry v’s army marched through Northern France during the Hundred Years War the locals were outraged at their ‘general drunkenness and the quantity of beer consumed’, in Shakespeare’s Henry V on the eve of the battle of Agincourt the French knight Orleans ruminates[2] on the beef-headed English and ‘their strange barley brew’[3]. In the 18th century the consumption of cheap alcohol in ‘gin-houses’ became a moral-panic[4] beautifully satirized in the pictures of William Hogarth. In more recent times the British and ‘booze’ [5] has become a popular subject for all manner of social commentators, politicians and pundits. Here are some basic guidelines to understanding this curious phenomenon.

Victorian station buffet bar Image Credit www.telegraph.co.uk

Victorian station buffet bar Image Credit www.telegraph.co.uk

Social etiquette and the male past time of drinking

In Britain during the first half of the 20th Century drinking alcohol was seen as a defining characteristic of ‘manliness’. It wasn’t unusual for a father to take his son on his eighteenth birthday to the local pub for a ‘pint’[6] as means of initiating him into the rites of adult male society. It should be pointed out however that many of these ‘novices’[7] had already indulged in ‘underage drinking’ and were probably already familiar to an all-knowing landlord. Looking as though you belonged was the key to acceptance in these now fading institutions. I can recall boys who only months before had enthused about collecting train numbers and football cards now leaned languidly[8] on the bar of the pub smoking cigarettes and chatting to the barman about their ‘new motor’. It was important in those times to demonstrate as little reaction to the effects of alcohol as possible; or as some people said ‘be able to take your beer’.  In other words, if a man could drink a substantial number of pints and still talk rubbish coherently, he was considered one of the tribe. A strict social calendar was adhered to with Thursday’s being ‘boys-night’ whereas the weekend was largely reserved for couples.

No place for a girl

Not surprisingly the pub was up until relatively recently a largely male domain, in fact women were often excluded from the more traditional working men’s clubs. When women did accompany their menfolk into the alehouse[9] they were expected to sip a soft drink and nod along appreciatively to whatever their ‘bloke’ was saying. Nowadays, of course, girls can ‘knock back pints’[10] as freely as men.

Pub grub

Enjoying the local specialties in a warm, friendly English pub is undoubtedly a treat and features prominently in tourist guides to the UK.  But it wasn’t always that case. When pubs fell out of favor with the young who preferred clubbing to hanging out with the ‘oldies’, publicans had to attract a new kind of customer; the answer was to provide high quality, affordable meals which would attract families. Traditional pub food included packets of crisps, ‘pork scratching’ (pieces of pork and bone cooked then promoted as food) curling ham sandwiches and pickled eggs which could be dropped in beer then consumed when the pint glass was emptied. However, this was all set to[11] change with the introduction of gastro-pubs and family pubs.

Beers and crisps Image Credit www.pubfoodhotelnatureadventureholidayscanaldroitwicheurope.co.uk

Beers and crisps Image Credit www.pubfoodhotelnatureadventureholidayscanaldroitwicheurope.co.uk

Favourite pub or pub grub?

Let me know your your favourite pub or favourite British pub grub via the comment box.


[1] Obtuse (adjective) – difficult to understand.

[2] Ruminates (verb) – think about

[3] Barley-brew- Shakespearean word for beer.

[4] Moral-panic-causing great concern at a particular period of time.

[5] Booze (noun)-informal word for alcohol.

[6] Pint- a measure of beer.

[7] Novice-new to something

[8] Languidly (adverb)-making little effort

[9] Alehouse-old English for pub

[10] Knock back pints-drink a lot of beer quickly

[11] Set to (change)-about to change