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.

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