Columns » Bob Lancaster




Our last jingo lingo war was a few years ago against France. The French had refused to send troops to be blown up alongside ours in Iraq, or some such treachery. By way of retaliation, we renamed French fries "freedom fries," some of our patriotic breakfast places took French toast off their menu boards, and our snootier winos agreed to move over from French to Yellowtail.

We didn't go so far as to dress up as Indians and dump costly frog vintages into our harbors but we probably would have if Fox News had got aboard earlier. The YouTube with Rand Paul and Scott Brown in warpaint up there on deck tomahawking Lafite-Rothschilds.

We forgave the French in time — I guess we did: Obama probably pardoned them by executive order, and apologized — and now there are stirrings of a similar campaign against the British, on account of the big Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It began with Stephen Colbert, the comedian, proposing last week that we show our disdain for British Petroleum's handling of the spill by renaming English muffins "freedom muffins" and then eschewing them altogether. That won't be much of a problem for me. They'll just go on the list with jugged hare and spotted dick.

I suspect the Colbert initiative was just parody, like everything else he does, but there might be an idea there worth pursuing, if not very far.

For example, we might give the English horn — a dark orchestral instrument, cousin of the oboe — another name. By Congressional resolution, with Royal concurrence, it would become Stacy horn. This in honor of Thomas Stacy, by consensus the world's best-ever English horn player. This Stacy is an American, which should chap them, and a native Arkie, a true provincial, having grown up in sun-baked Augusta, which should chap them even more.

We could disallow calling an English accent an English accent. Dub it a bloke accent, or a limey accent. Something jocular and faintly derisive. Giving them to know we aren't impressed by it, and don't feel defensive because we don't have one. In fact we're glad we don't have one. Because if we did, some neck around here would hear us talking and say, "Hey! This sumbitch is English! Get 'im, boys!" We'd come to be seen as sludger cads who out of sheer greed go round tarballing the dreams of small people who pretty much live for the prospect of one more time-share summer getaway to Destin or Panama City.

We should hooraw them a little more, and a little more boisterously, about Yorktown.

Steer their bovine braggadocio from John Bull to John Cow.

Not let them get by a minute longer with claiming, over and over, endlessly, to the music of "Onward, Christian Soldiers," that Lloyd George knew their father, and their father knew Lloyd George. Censure them for plagiarizing "My Country Tis of Thee" for their national anthem.

Redesignate the English setter as an Irish setter and vice versa. (Cruel, I know, but in context not underserved.) Let them (or rather make them) go on calling English peas English peas, though. English peas have a quality that makes them simply nationality non-transferrable. That taste of ground-up manse lichens or pureed yew moss. With the telltale soupcon of grasshopper.

Also continue calling English sparrows English sparrows — considering that they've done for our car hoods and patio furniture what BP's bubblin' crude has done for our marshes and beaches. (That comparison might be unfair to the birds, however, since no feathered biped has ever affected to pity the small people it has just shat on and then pipped off to the yacht races.)

We should hoot them for their Twit Olympics, for their long run of silly historians from Gibbon to Toynbee, for the enduring typicality of "Such, Such Were the Joys."

The Republican view is that we've hassled BP, big oil, and the English enough already. They didn't kill our mother ocean on purpose and we ought to just shut up about it. I don't agree with that, perhaps because none of the perps have stocked my campaign war chest so liberally. My view is that we should kick them while they're down, pile on the humiliation while the piling's good, like we did (and they did) to Germany at Versailles.

I'd better not say that real loud, though, having the last name that I do. It was after all the founder of my illustrious line who in Richard II so eloquently defended the scepter'd isle, the blessed plot, against the envy of less happier lands -- and I reckon I'm still accountable for that to some extent. (Get 'im, boys!)

Uncle John takes refuge in senility in the same play, going round blathering what the principals consider nonsense — to the point that King Richard asks the Earl of Northumberland what it is the old man (geezered out at age 58) is trying to say, and Northumberland says in effect who the hell knows. "Words, life, and all, old Lancaster hath spent," he goes on to say.

Those deep-cutting words will be my epitaph, I'm sure. Eight years farther along than John of Gaunt, I have indeed about used up all my ammo. And it was a lot of ammo.

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