Jan 182012

‘Roast’ is an American term used to describe a heartwarming ritual where someone is singled out and publically subjected to a stream of funny insults from their friends and peers at some event – usually some kind of ceremonial dinner. We don’t use the term ‘roast’ in the same way in the UK, but the ritual is not unfamiliar. A British best man’s speech would be a prime example. And on both sides of the Atlantic it’s understood that the ritualized insults and embarrassing revelations can actually demonstrate fondness, affiliation and somewhat contrarily, respect.

In both the UK and US, the person being ‘roasted’ is required to take the jokes and insults with good humor. In fact taking the jokes in good part is actually an opportunity for them to demonstrate what a good natured soul they are, and thereby gain more esteem. However, there are some transatlantic differences. US roasts include more praise and tributes. And in the UK, where ambiguity is rife, the jokes are allowed to be more barbed and vicious.

When I heard Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe awards last year, I thought “Uh oh, this ‘roast’ is pitched this wrongly for this audience.” What is acceptable in London can easily go over a line in LA and his reviews weren’t good. But he was given another go at it this year so I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I think he’d been well coached in the interim and he was more on target this year. His most vicious jibes were reserved for British actors, who he could be sure would play by his rules and show no offence.

But I have a question about this year’s award ceremony. To me it looked like the recipients of Ricky’s jibes seemed to have prepared responses which I found odd in various ways. Did you think the same? I’m wondering what other folks made of this.

(Ah, what a shame! Since posting the video it has been removed from Youtube. – sorry folks!)

 Posted by at 5:01 am
Dec 052011

By: Jinx!

It’s not always clear to me what is and isn’t politically correct in the US, so I’ve given my American husband some uncomfortable moments. He still winces when he remembers the time I complimented our gay friends on their fairy lights. (“But that’s just the word we use for holiday lights in the UK.” “Yeah, but Vick….”)

And without sharing the same history, I think it’s hard for Brits to see why using the adjective ‘niggardly’ should cause controversy. It simply means stingy or mean to us, and we’re insensitive to its phoenetic similarities to racial slurs.

But it seems Brits can go in for a pcness all of they’re own. The other day, Chris Adams (author of the wonderful Bits ‘n Bobs blog) pointed me towards a surprising article about pcness and canteen workers in Wales who were serving up spotted dick.

Spotted Dick....lip smackin goood!
For readers who haven’t come across it, spotted dick is a dessert made from currants, sultanas or raisins (the spotty bits) and a sponge or suet pudding. I try to keep some in the cupboard at all times here, because you never know when you might want to whip your dick out. And in my experience, ‘Do you fancy some nice warm custard on your spotted dick?’ invariably raises a chuckle with American guests who rarely turn down the offer.

But back to the canteen workers in Wales. It seems spotted dick raised a few chuckles when they served it there too – well, isn’t that the point? But there the innuendo was unwelcome. So to put and end to what were felt to be “immature” comments, they came up with the idea of calling in “spotted Richard”. I kid you not.

 Posted by at 6:48 pm