Welcome to another edition of How to Talk British!
With summer well upon us, my American friends are queuing up at their local passport offices already, having booked their seats to fly first class across the pond to visit us here in the Motherland.Or, as the Brits like to call it, The Mainland. America is just the second island to the west of us, Ireland being the first. All of America is, of course, rolling in money. In this economy, who isn’t?
As such, I thought I would do a special of edition of How to Talk British to get you acquainted with one very important fact: The British love silly names. You may have discovered this already in discussions about the English “public school” folk referring to one another as “Stinky,” Wellers,” “Muffy,” “Piggy” or “Lumpikins.”
Note: There is nothing “public” about British public schools. They may be officially “state funded,” but they are fee-paying, expensive, and entirely exclusive. Just think of what an American public school is and reverse that. As common and ordinary as your friendly neighbourhood junior high is with its Saturday Soccer meets and smiling, warm and involved teachers, its PTA and bake sales, the colourful mass of non-uniformed kids crowding past their metal detectors every morning? Well, this is precisely how uncommon and extraordinary an English public school is.
Just think Eton, and we’ll leave it at that, shall we?
So yes. The Brits absolutely love pet names, the sillier the better. Heaven only knows how many sitting in the House of Lords today were formerly called “Stinky.” (“Stinkers” for short. It’s kind of a British thing.) This penchant for silly names has found its extension into many things over here, which is what leads me to the Architectural Digestion issue of How to Talk British.
You will note the feature photo of the London Skyline above. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? A collection of monuments to prosperity and commercial dominance. Kind of like New York, but sparklier. And less tall.
Allow me to introduce you to some of our favourite buildings!
Meet the Gherkin. As in, a small pickle. Or, in this case, a really humongous, whopping great pickle. Actually, this beauty was originally known as 30 St. Mary Axe, and is located in the financial district where the former Baltic Exchange once stood. It now houses Swiss Re, so I guess you could call it the Swiss Re building, but Gherkin is way funnier.
I have heard there are plans to add a neighbour to the Gherkin… it has already been dubbed the Can of Ham, so that’s lunch sorted, then!
Welcome to 20 Fenchurch Street, home of The Walkie Talkie. This curved mammoth of reflective glass melted a Jaguar parked across the street from it last Summer, and has become known for its “death-ray” effect. Spot temperatures last summer were recorded at 196F and 243F on streets to the south of it, causing damage and much distress to local merchants. It has since been dubbed the Fryscraper. Plans have been made to install an awning, and there are screening measures being put into place.
Oh well. There’s 200 million pounds well spent. Who would have thought the sun ever shone in England, anyway?
Here we are at the Cheesegrater! Also known as the Leadenhall Building and due to be completed this year (maybe it is already – I need to get into town and find out!). Apparently the curved top was designed to allow unrestricted views of St. Paul’s below, but the net effect for the nickname-conscious Brit was to dub it the Cheesegrater. Plus, we really love cheese!
Not far away is The Stealth Bomber, a shopping centre near St. Paul’s actually called One New Change. It is a squatty, black complex built “under the radar” of planners who did not want any obstruction of cathedral views. Personally, I think it looks more like a slightly disgruntled crab. I am pushing for a name change, but so far nobody is joining me on the Slightly Disgruntled Crab bandwagon. Hop on. Be the first to join! You know it’s true. Just sayin…
Last, but certainly not least, allow me to introduce you to the tallest building in Western Europe: The Shard. It’s called the Shard because it looks like… well, a shard I guess. It is formerly known as London Bridge Tower, and it soars 87 stories. I know, I know. It’s no Sears Tower or Empire State, but then you gotta admit – it is pretty cool looking. And that name! The SHARD. It’s kind of like Bono. It doesn’t need any further introduction, and is so uber cool, nobody cares if it can sing or what it can do. It’s just – completely – awesome. If it could wear tinted sunglasses, it would.
So, my drippingly wealthy Yankee friends, I invite you to visit the Giant’s Picnic that is the London skyline this summer! We’ve also got a building called The Prawn (which sounds way better than The Shrimp, you’ve got to admit!) I didn’t put a picture of it because for the life of me, I can’t work out how it got the name. Best guess is they knew we were on a food theme here and wanted to jump on the bandwagon.
As it stands, we are lunching on gherkins, cheese, some disgruntled crab (work with me, people!), and possibly some prawns as well. We even have a way to cook it if we stand south of the Fryscraper! Plus, I hear Bono is bringing a can of ham. Sounds like a cracking picnic! I’ll save a spot for you on the blanket… bon apetit and tuck in!
- feature photo: Shutterstock.com
- Eton boys: theguardian.com
- Gherkin: c-r-l.com
- Fryscraper: thetimes.co.uk
- Cheesegrater: bbc.co.uk
- Stealth Bomber: shopspec.coom
- Shard: en.wikipedia.org
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