Oh, Come Off It: The English and Earnestness

An ethnographer through-and-through, I’m complementing my research on British culture with a book called Watching the English by Kate Fox. (Kidding about researching British culture. I’m just trying to blend in… #observersparadox) It was a birthday present from an actual Brit who offered that it might help me fit in better. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M NOT FITTING IN IS IT BECAUSE I’M TOO LOUD?) Anyway, the last chapter I read was on English* humo[u]r and mentioned a rule called the Oh, come off it rule.

The Oh, come off it rule applies when someone is being too earnest rather than actually sincere. You might say politicians do that a lot. You might also say I do that a lot. A relevant example is a Bernie supporter who says that if the US doesn’t #feelthebern they’ll abstain from voting rather than vote for Hillz. Oh, come off it. See what I mean?

Like I slyly mentioned, I break this rule pretty frequently. I’m constantly making grand, sweeping statements about something I will or won’t do or an opinion I’ll never change or a topic I love or hate. Ugh, like all those times I’ve said I’ll move to Canada if Trump wins. Oh, come off it, Christine. You like soft pretzels too much to do that.

What can I learn from the English and their aversion to earnestity? (Okay, that’s not a word, but doesn’t it sound like it should be a word? Maybe I should have gone into lexicography.) That I should stop treating my enjoyment reads like one of my actual research books? (I’m looking at you, Language and Superdiversity.)

In my effort to understand, is this post too earnest? Is there a quiz to tell me?

I’ll keep reading and let you know.

*I say English here because the book is about English culture, not British culture. British culture would include all the countries in Britain, meaning England, Scotland, and Wales. Great Britain is the island where they’re located. The United Kingdom includes those three countries as well as Northern Ireland.


The Pit

In the highlight of the weekend, Beyoncé has an athletic wear (athleisure wear?) line. There’s a video, there’s a website, there’s a lot of drooling. Just take all my money, Bey.

But the best part is the video, in which Beyoncé does Beyoncé things while wearing her Beyoncé athletic clothes and talking about running. And WAIT – what? She talks about running? *Replays video for the thousandth time.* The narration over the video is about how as a kid, she ran in a park in Houston and how those long, demanding runs made her who she is. How when she needs strength, she “goes back to that park”. Then she asks, “where’s your park?”.

When Beyoncé asks a question, you answer it, dammit.

My park was (perhaps still is) called The Pit. No, it’s not a setting from an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s a soccer field.

The Pit was called the Pit because it’s lower than all the other fields in the lot. The large grassy area between my middle and high schools contained all the fields for the school sports. The football field, track, baseball fields, tennis courts, and soccer fields. The high school soccer teams and the boys middle school soccer team got to play on the fields level with everything else. The girls middle school soccer team played below, in the Pit.

(Down with the patriarchy?)

It was really just down a bit of a hill, and though it got really muddy whenever it rained, it did allow us a bit of privacy from the rest of the world. (And by world, I mean the rest of the school. I’m an introvert.)

I remember summer soccer camps there. The camp was run by college kids from England, though my coach had a Jamaican accent (and now that I live in London I better understand why someone from England might have a strong Jamaican accent). I remember the day it poured but we still had a game to play and I wore a hot pink raincoat and it stained my clothes and skin. I remember not really minding. I remember being one of three girls in my group and needing to prove to the boys that I could hold my own.

I remember the middle school soccer team practices when we learned how to be “scrappy”. Our two goalies would stand six inches apart and we’d have to run through them. I remember having to fight for it.

I remember running what we then called suicides up and down the fields for hours. I remember hating running.

Back then I wanted to be an author, a journalist, a biochemist. I wanted to be everything. I’m not any of those things now, nor do I still want to be. But I still run, not in the Pit but on the Schuylkill River Trail when I’m training for a marathon. I think I’m still scrappy, but maybe more in mindset than in slide tackles. And I definitely don’t mind the rain.