God Save the Homer

Sunday, June 13, 2004
Is Britain the bastion of sophistication and class that the stereotypes would have? Actually, the British are crass, brutish, and alarmingly ignorant of history - we must've got it from them.

Exhibit A:
D'oh! Homer's catchphrase tops British poll

LONDON (Reuters) - Homer Simpson's emphatic exclamation "Doh!" has topped a British poll of favorite TV comedy catchphrases, easily beating an array of home-grown classics.

The bumbling hero of American animated TV series "The Simpsons" -- who often accompanies his trademark saying with a slap to the forehead -- topped Nuts Magazine's poll with 34 percent of the vote.

"Doh" has even found a home in the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as:

"Expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned or that one has just said or done something foolish. Also implying that another person has said or done something foolish."

Exhibit B:
England soccer fans rampage in London after defeat

LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - About 400 frustrated football fans rampaged in south London, throwing things at police and injuring two officers after England lost to France in their first match at the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal on Sunday.

Police said on Monday serious trouble erupted in Croydon near London shortly after the final whistle, while there were other smaller disturbances across the capital as stunned fans, whose team had been ahead til the last moments, vented their frustration on police.

[...] Police said 14 people were arrested following the hour-long disturbance there, which saw police vehicles and a tram damaged, and two officers needing hospital treatment for minor injuries.

The trouble broke out after France's Zinedine Zidane struck twice in injury time to take title holders France to a 2-1 victory.

Exhibit C:
British kids see D-day as New Zealand invasion

It is 1899 and Denzel Washington, the American president, orders Anne Frank and her troops to storm the beaches of Nazi-occupied New Zealand.

This may not be how you remember D-Day but for a worrying number of Britain's children this is the confused scenario they associate with the events of June 6, 1944.

A survey of 1,309 pupils aged between 10 and 14 and from 24 different schools found alarming levels of ignorance about the invasion of Normandy 60 years ago.

Only 28 per cent of primary and secondary pupils who sat the quiz last week were able to say that D-Day, involving the largest invasion force ever mounted, was the start of the Allied liberation of occupied western Europe.

[...] One 10-year-old in a Northamptonshire school thought it was the day the "Americans came to rescue the English". Another thought D-Day involved "the invasion of Portsmouth". Various dates for the assault were 1066, 1776, 1899 and 1948.

Children also had great difficulty in naming Britain's war-time prime minister. Less than half of the overall sample and only 39 per cent of primary school children correctly identified him as Winston Churchill; a significant number opted for Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair.

Seventeen per cent of the sample and only 38 per cent of secondary school children identified Franklin D Roosevelt as the then President of the United States. Other candidates offered by both age groups were Denzel Washington (the Oscar-winning actor), George Washington, John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and George W Bush. Some said simply: "George Bush's dad."

[...] Only one in three could identify the broad location of D-Day, with a number saying that it happened in New Zealand, Skegness or Germany.

Thirteen per cent could name two of the beaches involved, and only 10 per cent of the sample knew that Dwight D Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander. Others thought that the invasion was led by Anne Frank, Private Ryan (the eponymous hero of the Steven Spielberg D-Day epic), or Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Eisenhower's deputy.

[...] There were some exceptions to the general ignorance. One teacher at Great Addington Church of England Primary school in Northamptonshire was amazed to find that one of his pupils had scored 100 per cent in the test.

He said: "I asked him how he knew material which we had not covered in school. He told me he had picked it up from a D-Day game he played on his computer."

Exhibit D:
Hitler wasn't real, say 1 in 10 Britons

British people are ignorant of some of the most important events and people in this country's history, a new survey has revealed.

As well as an inability to recall the dates of military victories and the personalities involved, there is also huge confusion about which characters and battles are fact and fiction.

One in 10 of the 2,000 adults questioned in the survey commissioned by Blenheim Palace thought that Adolf Hitler was not a real person, and half were convinced that King Arthur existed.

[...] One in five believed that Harold Wilson was prime minister during the Second World War. [...] One in 20 thought that Conan the Barbarian, a character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a genuine person. Some also believed that Lord Edmund Blackadder and Xena Warrior Princess, characters from television series, were real.

Children are similarly ignorant of British history. Thirty per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds in a recent survey thought that Oliver Cromwell fought at the Battle of Hastings. A similar proportion did not know in which century the First World War took place.

I rest my case.