The Non-Expert

God Save the Queen From You Chumps

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we defend Britain against a cursing student of Anglo-Saxons.

HM Queen Elizabeth II

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


Question: I don’t have the slightest fucking clue about the difference between British and English, and I expect you to fucking tell me, Nonexpert, rather than let me look up one more fucking thing in Wikipedia. I double-dog dare you. Peace to my brothers in the editorial. —Jared

Answer: To be English is to be British. To be British is not to be English. To be Irish is not to be either of these things. To be owlish is possibly to be all three. To be moreish is a pleasantly agreeable situation, while to be a nebbish is perhaps unfortunate, although brutish is a characteristic we would, regrettably, associate with some of our countrymen. Brutish, too, is the phrasing of your vulgar query, a blunt interrogation that instantly marks you out as a dweller on the lower reaches of the scale. In the right circumstances, we welcome any invited questions that conform to our exacting standards of (written) presentation. Specific font size and paper weights are available on request. However, the circumstances of your approach are, shall we say, regrettable.

We’d normally encourage you to go and “look up one more fucking thing in Wikipedia,” rather than have to patronise the rest of the internet. But, since you have thrown down a (rather threadbare and cheap-looking) gauntlet, we are compelled by good manners and social convention to compose a pithy put-down of your abject ignorance.

It was not just because of the careless double profanity that contained a whiff of the docks (instead of the scent of wisteria-clad redbrick towers of learning and familial honour). Nor was it the vulgarly alliterative incitement to a challenge. Instead, it was the breathtaking ignorance that drove you to ask the question in the first place, rather than simply wait for your station in life to be made abundantly clear through the relentless, ongoing disdain and disgust with which you must surely be treated by everyone else.

Castes and cliques have nothing on our skill to make precise codifications based on subtle cultural variations.Such questions are the mark of jealousy and ignorance, envy for our isolation, our superiority, our perpetual, cooling precipitation, and the global political and cultural influence that is both big stick and toothsome, knobbly, prize-winning carrot. The grand continental archipelago known as the United Kingdom is a unique landmass that plunges down beneath the foaming waves to bedrock of iron-flecked granite. The rather chalky, wishy-washy coastlines of Europe begin their flaky recession a few hundred miles to the east, across a deep and largely unnavigable stretch of ocean, strewn with the aforementioned barbed bombes of self-imposed social isolation. However, we presume that you come from over there, across the ocean of filth, flotsam, jetsam, and bubbling scum, a nation of turgid equality, corn dogs, and air conditioning. Happily our Noble Isle is ring-fenced by an etiquette minefield, a densely laid expanse of conversational depth charges, bouquet mines, and Hertz-horned boluses of pure social embarrassment that help corral our fine sensibilities from the barbarian hordes.

“Friend,” the existence of our sacred isle depends not just on the clear distinction between social groupings but on the ability to discern the simple difference between a single country and a grouping of several states. Or the stark differences between jam, jelly, preserve, and compote. Or between custard, confectioner’s, powdered, and plain sugar. Or between rain, drizzle, showers, and sleet. Or between Cockney, mockney, Estuary, Essex, Geordie, and Brummie. Need we go on? Perhaps your ignorance of these distinctions is forgivable. But not to us.

Ours is a world-leading class structure, the system that taught snobbery to the world, a grand and noble tradition of segregation, isolation, rejection, and blunt ignorance of the other that stretches back centuries. Castes and cliques have nothing on our skill to make precise codifications based on subtle cultural variations. To be English, to be British, to be brutish, you have been foolish.

It is clear you have fallen at the first hurdle. Rather than stoop to offer you a strong hand to help raise you to a higher station, it is perhaps better for us both that we walk on without looking down, head held high and nose aloft. Next time—should there even be a next time—we expect humility and intelligence. But we won’t hold our breath.


TMN Contributing Writer Jonathan Bell lives in South London. He co-edits Things Magazine and likes to write about architecture. More by Jonathan Bell