Review: Sydney Morning Herald: School Britannia

Fraser McAlpine is the lead writer for Anglophenia, BBC America’s blog for American Anglophiles, “and consequently spends a good deal of his working life arguing about the finer points of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Downton Abbey and anything with Tom Hiddleston in,” or so says his biography.

Australians will likely be more familiar with chip butties, Marmite and calling soccer “football”, but breaking them down into afternoon tea-sized bites of McAlpine’s dry English wit and sense of the absurd, honed during years of writing for NME and The Guardian, should have even the most staunch supporter of all things pukka chuckling anew at the peculiarities.


From The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, July 18-19, 2015.



The Independent on Sunday: The Big Brit Quiz: From the Beatles to Blur, Monty Python to Marmite, how well do you know Great Britain?

Visitors to the British Isles may know how to find Buckingham Palace or pronounce Leicester Square, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still teach them a thing or two.

Fraser McAlpine, author of a new book Stuff Brits Like, has been trawling British culture and attempting to find the commonly appreciated (but often unsung) things that can’t be found on a map. See how many you already know. Answers at the bottom.

1 Which artist’s name is most closely associated with saucy postcards from the seaside?

2 What was the name of Rik Mayall’s recurring character in Blackadder?

3 Blur’s song “This Is A Low” takes inspiration from which radio broadcast?

4 Which baking ingredient has the legend “out of the strong came forth sweetness” on its packaging?

5 Our names are Bill, Tony, Geezer and Ozzy; who are we?

6 What name is given to the birthday custom of grabbing someone by the arms and legs and raising them up and down?

7 In which children’s TV drama did a prominent character struggle with heroin addiction?

8 What is the principal ingredient of the dish crappit heid?

9 Which song kept Joe McElderry from the Christmas No 1 in 2009?

10 What’s the name of the theme tune to The Archers?

11 Which drink claimed to be brewed in Scotland “from girders”?

12 What’s the correct pronunciation of Towcester?

13 Marmite is a by-product of which industrial process?

14 By what name is “the cricketers’ almanack” better known?

15 How many times can you dunk a Rich Tea biscuit before it falls apart?

16 Which character has been in Coronation Street since it began in 1960?

17 What kind of gun does James Bond prefer?

18 What do you call a spotted dick with plums and no raisins?

19 In which fictional London borough is EastEnders set?

20 At which university did both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien teach English?

21 Wimbledon’s Henman Hill previously sat within the grounds of which sporting organisation?

22 Who was the original presenter of Desert Island Discs?

23 In which beloved British film does a young boy train a bird of prey?

24 What’s the name of the fabled black dog that is said to roam Suffolk?

25 In conkers, what will a one-er become if it smashes another one-er?

26 Which crafts and cookery organisation was founded in Llanfairpwll gwyngyll in 1915?

27 What’s the term used in Doctor Who when the lead actor is replaced by another?

28 Which of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes is also a board game?

29 Which city is populated by Leodensians?

30 Which baked food was developed with a disposable crust to prevent miners poisoning themselves while eating?

31 Which literary hero is commonly associated with a violin, pipe and a particular kind of hunting hat?

32 How old, to the nearest 1,000 years, is Stonehenge?

33 Which berries are used to flavour Vimto?

34 What pet name did Samuel Johnson have for his regular bouts of depression?

35 How many of the Beatles were (or are) left-handed?

36 Dorstone, Duddleswell and Dunlop are all varieties of what?

37 From which London bridge does The Boat Race start?

38 Who do Monty Python’s Flying Circus and televised snooker have in common?

39 According to the people of Devon, in which order should the cream and jam be applied to a scone in a cream tea?

40 And finally, what does the acronym NORWICH stand for?

Fraser McAlpine is the author of Stuff Brits Like (Nicholas Brealey, £9.99)


1 Donald McGill; 2 Lord Flashheart; 3 The shipping forecast; 4 Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup; 5 Black Sabbath; 6 The bumps; 7 Grange Hill; 8 A cod or haddock head; 9 “Killing In The Name” by Rage Against The Machine; 10 “Barwick Green”; 11 Irn-Bru; 12 “Toaster”; 13 Brewing beer; 14 Wisden; 15 Once; 16 Ken Barlow; 17 Walther PPK; 18 Spotted dog; 19 Walford; 20 Oxford; 21 The London New Zealand Rugby Club; 22 Roy Plomley; 23 Kes; 24 Black Shuck 25 A three-er; one point for winning, one taken from the rival conker; 26 The Women’s Institute; 27 Regeneration; 28 Othello; 29 Leeds; 30 The Cornish pasty; 31 Sherlock Holmes; 32 5,000 years; 33 Grapes, raspberries and blackcurrants; 34 The “black dog”; 35 Two, Paul and Ringo; 36 Cheese; 37 Putney Bridge; 38 David Attenborough; he commissioned both for BBC2; 39 Cream, then jam; 40 (K)nickers off ready when I come home

From The Independent on Sunday, 19 July 2015.

The Daily Mirror: 17 things that put the Great in Britain — from Marmite to Eddie the Eagle

Why were our phone boxes red, which Women’s Institute members are heavy metal fans and which Lord would only eat meals in his swimming pool?

Author Fraser McAlpine, who must explain Britain to foreigners as editor of the BBC’s Anglophenia blog, answers these questions and more in new book Stuff Brits Like: A Guide To What’s Great About Great Britain.

So here are some of the best bits about being British…

Keep Calm posters

Keep Calm and Carry On posters were printed in 1939 and were meant to be used in a moment of dire need, such as after an invasion.

But the moment never came and most were destroyed after the Second World War.

A surviving poster was found in 2000 in a box of old books in a secondhand shop in Alnwick, Northumberland.

The owners framed it and the rest is history.

Cornish pasty

The Cornish pasty, staple of the West Country county, was created as a handy lunch for the tin miners.

They often ended up with arsenic on their fingers, and the pasty allowed them to hold the thick crust, which they could then discard at the end of their lunch.

Shipping forecast

BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the shipping forecast four times a day.

Blur’s Damon Albarn admitted that when he was on his first US tour in 1991, he tuned into the shipping forecast when he felt homesick.

Joe Orton

The playwright, who wrote Loot, and his lover Kenneth Halliwell used to sneak books from libraries and replace their dust jackets with homemade versions, complete with a fresh – and scandalous – blurb and the odd naked man, too.

Pantomime Dame

The British love of cross-dressing originates with Shakespeare, who had males playing females. But in Victorian times both the main female and male lead were traditionally played by women.


Loved and hated in equal measure, Marmite is made from the breweries’ boiled-down leftovers, known as beer scum.

Despite being a quintessential British condiment, it was actually created by a German scientist called Justus von Liebig.

Memorial plaque

In Hammersmith, West London, where the opening credits of Nineties comedy series Bottom was filmed, there is a plaque that reads “Rik Mayall – 1958-2014 – punched his friend in the balls near this spot”.

Phone boxes

The original design of the iconic red British phone boxes were actually green to blend in with the grass and trees. But they blended in so well people started walking into them, so the colour had to change. As Royal Mail also ran telephone services, they were painted the classic red colour.

Tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is a Glaswegian invention thought up in 1971, while the Indian balti dishes were first created in Birmingham restaurant Adil’s in 1977.

The WI

The Women’s Institute started in 1915 in the Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll to encourage women to take an active role in food production during the First World War.

Now there are 212,000 members across 6,600 institutes. A Liverpool branch called Iron Maidens was created to welcome Death Metal fans, goths and burlesque dancers.


The word chav, which was coined in the early 2000s, most likely comes from the Romany word chavi, meaning child.

Rugby… league & union

The divide between rugby union and rugby league goes back to the late 1800s.

In the industrial north, amateur players were losing too much paid work in order to play so they decided to go professional. But players from clubs in the south refused to join them in their rugby league, which developed in parallel to rugby union, each with their own rules and customs.

Lord Rokeby

The eccentric 18th century peer loved water so much he ate dinner in his pool and it was believed he wanted to be a fish.

Doctor Who

The Doctor Who theme tune, recorded at an experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop, was one of the first widely popular electronic songs.

Rod Stewart

Several pages of the pop legend’s autobiography are dedicated to his habit of drawing penises on things, including the passports of the boys from McFly.

Golden Syrup

The inscription on the iconic Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin comes from the Old Testament story of Samson and the Lion. “Out of the strong came forth sweetness” was the first British advertising slogan.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie Edwards became a household name after losing the 70m and 90m ski jump in the 1988 Winter Olympics. It was the first time Britain had entered a competitor in the event and Eddie had to borrow his ski boots, which were so big he wore six pairs of socks to make them fit.

by Melissa Thompson

The Daily Mirror, 13 July 2015

Bustle: 10 Ways To Be A Little More British Every Day, Because It’s Fun To Be An Anglophile

Our country may have decided we were over being part of the British Empire more than two centuries ago, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still have an affinity for many aspects their culture. Great Britain has a lot to offer, whether you’re a die-hard Anglophile or you’re just obsessed with Downton Abbey. Not only is their history is exciting and scandalous, Britain has also given us everything from our Founding Fathers to the Beatles to our love for the royal family.

In Stuff Brits Like: A Guide to What’s Great About Great Britain, author Fraser McAlpine brings us through an extensive — though admittedly not comprehensive — list of, well, stuff Brits like. His hilarious look at his own culture goes beyond the basics, such as remembering to call soccer “football,” and gets into habits and traditions of the people who live in the countries that make up Great Britain. The topics discussed in his book range from desserts with unappetizing (not to mention kind of inappropriate) names to crossdressing.

Through McAlpine’s highly amusing explanations, you’ll find yourself wondering how the pilgrims neglected to bring some of these traditions across the pond to the new world. Warning: You may find yourself planning a trip to the British Isles after reading this book.

Wishing you could get in on the fun? Keep calm and try these 10 tips for adding more aspects of British culture to your everyday life, inspired by McAlpine’s guide:

Be Overly Polite

Brits are known for their good manners, in part because of their habit of apologizing constantly — especially when it’s completely unnecessary. They’re also great at queuing, even if they don’t like to, because order is important to them. McAlpine attributes both of these traits to Brits’ social awkwardness, but whatever the reason, try it out. Get in line, and if someone bumps into you, be sure to say you’re sorry. It’s the British thing to do.

Get Serious About Tea

“Tea isn’t merely a drink,” says McAlpine. “It’s a way of life.” Serve it to deal with all emotions and for all occasions. If you’re comforting a friend with a broken heart, de-stressing, and even just getting ready for bed, you absolutely must put the kettle on. Just don’t forget to serve it with appropriate snacks.

Adjust Your Sense of Humor

For Brits, “a sense of humor is like a fine martini: the dryer it is, the better,” according to McAlpine. Banter, aka joking around with others, is a national pastime. Sarcasm is never off limits, even when you’re discussing a loved one’s recent death. Your goal is to make it as unclear as possible whether or not you were serious so you can keep everyone guessing. Wordplay is also key, and you get extra points for making it dirty. If you need help, study up by watching pros, because Brits love comedy.

Remember to Keep a Stiff Upper Lip

Too much emotion in public is always a bad thing. People will find it “a bit much,” so you need to find a way to lock those pesky feelings down when you’re out and about. Seriously, nothing warrants outburst, if you ask McAlpine — not even broken bones, broken hearts or broken ranks.

Become a Regular at a Pub

Pubs aren’t a place to go get trashed; that’s what bars and clubs are for. Pubs are “the hub of all social interactions in British communities,” writes McAlpine. They’re where Brits gather to catch up on local news, share information, banter with neighbors and friends, relax, and even celebrate meaningful events. You can watch sporting events on TV, play games, and test your knowledge in pub quizzes. All you need is a pint and you’ll fit right in. Feel free to bring your dog along with you. The health inspector might not like it, but it’s what a Brit would do.

Get Into Football (and Stop Calling It “Soccer”)

“No sport carries the same degree of obsession in Britain as football does,” shares McAlpine. If you were British, you’d have gotten into it as a small child, so you’ll have to catch up now — that is, if the World Cup didn’t already inspire you. Follow a team, wear the merchandise, and never miss an opportunity to cheer them on. When in doubt, root for the underdog. Like McAlpine says, “Winning is boring.”

Keep Up With the Royal Family

The royal family isn’t universally popular but they’re an essential part of British culture, so make sure you stay in the know. They can be found splashed across the many British tabloids, with which Brits have a love-hate relationship. Let’s face it, though: the royal wedding and subsequent royal babies probably sucked you in — and that’s just if Kate Middleton’s hair and fascinators hadn’t already.

Don’t Be Afraid to Swear — Frequently

“The sad truth of the matter is that the British excel at swearing. And they’re proud of it too,” admits McApline, who divides swearwords into grade-A and grade-B, depending on how offensive they are. British slang definitely beats American English when it comes to grade-B options. Brits have tons of options when it comes to words that aren’t fit for polite company, yet still aren’t totally obscene. Why should they have all the fun? Try out words like ”bugger,” ”wanker,” and ”bollocks.” I’ll use them in a sentence for you: “Oh, bollocks, just bugger off, you wanker!” Fun, right?

Complain About American Chocolate

American chocolate has different ratios of cocoa solids to sugar, and Brits are not fond of our version. As much as I love all chocolate, I see their point. If you’ve had British chocolate, you have to concede its superiority. Never admit to liking Hershey’s; Galaxy and Cadbury are where it’s at.

Get Creative With a Deep-Fryer

Anything can be deep-fried. Seriously, anything. Pizza? An egg wrapped in sausage meat and breaded? Banana fritters? It’s not only possible, it’s been done. While you’ll probably mostly want to stick to the usual suspects, like fish and chips, feel free to get creative. Scots are especially well-known for their innovative deep-fried creations, and we wouldn’t want to forget England’s neighbor to the north.

by Stephanie Topacio Long

Via Bustle

Review: The Independent on Sunday

The Brit parade

If there is an art to writing the kind of book that feels most comfortable in the smallest room in the house, the writer Fraser McAlpine might have just created a masterpiece of the form with Stuff Brits Like: A Guide to What’s Great About Great Britain published this week. Ever aware that “if this were a blog, the comments section would blaze with outrage and correction”, McAlpine has opened his work – which contains sections on “Dunking Biscuits”, “Conkers” and “Apologising Needlessly” (see below) – with a chapter called simply “Pedantry”.

“The question ‘Which chair should I sit on?’ is a prime target for pedants to leap at and suggest ‘On which chair should I sit?’ as the correct alternative,” he writes. “This will then provoke other pedants to point out that the preposition rule gets in the way of conversational speech and that people should be less persnickety about grammar in general, so long as the meaning is understood. This will then provoke a further point of pedantry because in Britain the word is pernickety. And that’s when everyone realises there are no more chairs.”

Has McAlpine been eavesdropping on an average day in The IoS office?

—Simmy Richman, The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 2015

Review: Broadcaster Doug Miles

Most of us Americans, if we haven’t visited the UK, get our information and impressions of Great Britain from imported television shows like Monty Python, Dr. Who and Downton Abbey. Humorist and author Fraser McAlpine, in his book “Stuff Brits Like, A Guide to What’s Great About Great Britain”, illustrates the many differences of our neighbors across the pond in a light-hearted and humorous collection of essays. I recommend the book for anyone looking to understand our British brethren better. I spoke with Fraser McAlpine and that conversation can be heard here.

-—Doug Miles,

8 July 2015

Review: Library Journal

A writer and broadcaster specializing in popular culture, British native McAlpine (BBC America’s Anglophenia blog) has put together a book equivalent of “one-liners”—stand-up routines touching upon many British idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. The focus of this humorous and easy-to-read book is on differences between British and American culture intended to initiate Americans on a range of topics that go beyond language, dialect, and spelling differences. Among the many topics are entries for sports, pubs, British food, television, movies, the Royals, and the special relationship between the British people and their BBC, all of which give us an irreverent view of the culture. An index or table of contents to direct to topics or sections of interest would have been helpful. That said, a series of nonsequential short (two-to-three page) chapters can be read with enjoyment in any order.

VERDICT: This is as much about British dislikes as “Stuff Brits Like,” but the audience for this book is the American who wants not-too-serious insights into contemporary British popular culture.

—Herbert E. Shapiro, Lifelong Learning Soc., Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton

Library Journal, 1 July 2015

No. 1: Slang and Making Up Words


Photo credit: Cafe Press

“As a patchwork nation made up of counties upon countries upon kingdoms, Britain wears its idiosyncratic quirks of language like fans wear the T-shirt of their favorite band… Popular Britishisms like cheerio and tickety-boo are just colorful ways to use language. And the Brits do love a bit of color in their social discourse.

Chunder — vomit

Fizzog — face

Hobbledehoy — a swaggering youth or awkward buffoon

Knackered — tired, as in ‘fit for the knackers yard,’ where horses were taken to die

Lurgy — cooties

Rat arsed — drunk

Sod off — ‘go away’

Take the piss — mock or satirize

Twee — cardigan-wearing cupcake fan (a mocking term)

Wazzock — idiot (affectionate term)”

Back catalogue: Anglophenia: 5 Newish British Slang Terms From the Kids

Anglophenia: Fraser’s Phrases: British Nerd Slang, ‘Swots and Boffins’

Anglophenia: Fraser’s Phrases: More British Nerd Slang, ‘Spods and Anoraks’

Anglophenia: 10 Old British Slang Terms That Deserve A Revival

Anglophenia: 10 Old Slang Terms for Crimes that Don’t Happen Anymore

Anglophenia: St. Patrick’s Day: 10 Irish Slang Terms Americans Should Adopt

Anglophenia: 10 British Words for Illness

Anglophenia: 10 Victorian Swears from the Real ‘Ripper Street’

Anglophenia: The Brit List: 10 Stinging British Insults

Anglophenia: Fraser’s Phrases: A Rhyming Slang Special

Anglophenia: 20 Victorian Terms That Seem Oddly Modern

Anglophenia: Fraser’s Phrases

Order your copy of Stuff Brits Like from: Amazon USBarnes & Noble BooksellersAmazon UK, Auntie’s Bookstore, Rediscovered Books, Bookworks, Antigone Books, and Malaprop’s Bookstore.

No. 2: Puns


Photo credit: Buzzfeed

 “To really experience the full glory of the British love of wordplay in action, it’s back to the high street, where it’s important for businesses to grab the attention of passing strangers and force them to remember who they are… As well as classics like Curl Up & Dye, A Cut Above, and Short & Curlies, there are specifically British-themed barber’s and hairstylist’s with names like British Hairways, Choppy Toff’s (toff being a gently pejorative term for a snooty member of the upper classes), and Jack the Clipper.”

Back catalogue: Anglophenia: Five Common Things Branded Slightly Differently In Britain

Anglophenia: 15 Great British Tribute Band Names, And One We Made Up

Preorder your copy of Stuff Brits Like from: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Green Apple Books, Left Bank Books, The Book Loft, La Maison Anglaise, and October Books.