Ten sinister biases afflicting English universities
1. The majority of English departments continue to exist, which means that they have (implicitly or explicitly) chosen ‘to be’ over 'not to be’. This is a clear insult to the memory of Shakespeare’s most thinksome hero, Hamlet.
2. Similarly, French departments refuse to go back to France, even though they are taking up valuable real estate that could be used by English departments. Many French departments have been in England for decades.
3. One of the fundamental questions of History is: should we learn from history, or repeat it? It is nearly impossible to find an academic historian to support the latter view. We believe a more equitable situation would be to install an equal population of repeaters in our halls of learning.
4. Engineering departments continue to work on technologies designed to prevent buses lying on their sides. They refuse to acknowledge that this is as valid a position as any other.
5. Any child could tell you that the moon is made of cheese. Nonetheless, we could not find a single astrophysicist willing to support this idea.
6. Geography departments continue to insist that Britain is in Europe, erasing its true geographical position on the glorious continental shelf of Great-Britannia.
7. Physiologists have failed to provide guidance on stiffening the country’s upper lips, to which end great teams of bankers are trying to prop up the pound with faceparts that are frankly a bit wobbly and is it any wonder that they are failing and also getting bits of disintegrating pound down the fronts of their shirts, the poor souls.
8. The country’s physics departments slavishly obey the so-called law of gravity, even though it has never been officially incorporated into English law. If only our physicists were more open-minded on this matter, we might be able to embark up on an independent space program at almost zero cost.
9. Mathematicians continue to insist that there are more than two sides to each polygon, a confusing viewpoint which seems likely to cloud debate over which side is best.
10. Similarly, it is useless to debate with archaeologists. Once they are in a hole they will not stop digging.
If you follow absolutely anyone on social media who’s British, you will undoubtedly hear about how “people are setting off their bloody fireworks and it's EIGHT O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING” around the end of October/start of November. This is because, on November 5th, it’s Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day. This post will explain the history and traditions behind this slightly strange event to celebrate!
It’s 1605, and the Protestant King James I is on the throne, doing his James-y thing. Some Catholics are Not Happy™ about this, and so an incredible plot is conceived: the Gunpowder Plot! It’s purpose is to make the Houses of Parliament (where the government go meet) go ka-boom, as expressed in this 100% accurate gif:
Actually, they were going to use gunpowder to blow them up. That's why it’s called the Gunpowder Plot.
I can imagine the process for naming it went something like this:
Robert Catesby*: Anyone got a name for this plot? We need something really unsuspicious, so we can talk about it in public.
Some dude: How about the Gunpowder Plot?
Robert Catesby: I love it.
*Robert Catesby led the Plot, although Guy Fawkes is usually credited for it. Fawkes was in charge of guarding the explosives, and was found and arrested near it.
Anyway, because of an intercepted letter, King James found out about it, and Catesby, Fawkes and the rest of the gang were arrested and executed.
To celebrate the failed assassination of the King, it was decreed that on November the 5th (when the Plot was discovered) people should have a Good Fun Time.
Which brings us on to the next part:
How is Bonfire Night celebrated?
As the name suggests, bonfires are built. However, often people will put a “Guy Fawkes” made out of rubbish on top of the fire. Sometimes, they’re made in the likeness of other people (last year loads of people made ones of Trump).
As well as this, there’s firework displays across the country (think 4th of July, but British).
And most importantly, food! Traditional Bonfire Night snacks include toffee apples, marshmallows and digestive biscuits (a bit like s'mores), bonfire toffee, and sausagesor chestnuts roasted on a fire. Nowadays, anything containing caramel, toffee, apples, or marshmallows is generally served (although you can often find hot dogs sold at big firework displays).
Thanks for reading! If you’re in Britain, remember to keep your pets safe this Bonfire Night.
If you have any questions about British culture, don’t be afraid to ask!
Wood is a remote high-altitude oakwoods on Dartmoor, England. While
obviously not a rock, the forest is actually situated on top of a large bank of
exposed granite boulders where pockets of acid have formed, and loamy brown
earth soils have accumulated. It is home to a surprising amount of poisonous
adders as well. (Maybe this is where all our hag stones come from?)
The Wood has been mentioned in writing for hundreds of years, but
has existed since 7000 BC and was partially cleared in 5000 BC by Mesolithic
hunter/gatherers. It’s thought the name derives from the dialect word “wisht”
meaning eerie, uncanny, or “pixie-haunted,” and some legends tell that the
Heath Hounds (aka – hellhounds) originate from these woods, and are set loose
to chase the region’s sinners or the unbaptized into hell.
This story is itself a distinctly British offshoot of the Wild
Hunt legend that pervades many Northern European cultures, and describes a
gathering of ghostly or supernatural hunters who streak the sky in dogged
pursuit of something. The identities of the hunters vary and can be elves,
fairies, or simply the dead; and the leaders of the hunt are typically Gods or
Heroic figures of some kind. Seeing the hunt is said to presage a catastrophe,
or at best the death of the person(s) who witnessed it. Witnesses may also be
dragged to the underworld or a fairy kingdom, or their souls could be dragged
from their bodies to join in the hunt.