Monday, October 2, 2017

Jane Austen Lied to Me VBT

What college girl doesn’t dream of meeting Mr. Darcy? Lizzie was certainly no exception. But when Darcy Fitzwilliam comes into her life, he turns out to be every bit as aggravating as Elizabeth Bennett’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. So what’s a modern girl to do?

Jeanette Watts’ satire pokes loving fun at Jane and all of us who worship the characters who shall forever be our romantic ideals.

Well!  That was interesting.  My roommate invited me along to this frat party she was going to.  She went through something called rush week, and she is now pledged to a sorority.  She said the frats are less formal than the sororities, and even though I wasn’t a pledge I could go with her.  I figured, why not, it should be fun, right?

I got to meet the guy she’s chasing.  I couldn’t blame her for being interested.  He’s cute, and sweet, and considerate, and a total people-pleaser.  One of his parents must be the demanding sort who is never happy. 

He introduced us to his friend… whose name is Darcy Fitzwilliam!  I wasn’t sure at first that the guy wasn’t just pulling our legs.

“Your mother obviously loves Jane Austen,” I laughed.

“Obviously,” he answered.  Not much to go by.

“I love Pride and Prejudice,” I continued.

“I hate Pride and Prejudice.” I can only describe the look he was giving me as hostile.

“I think you will find yourself very much in a minority,” I answered, returning his look with one of my own.

We didn’t talk any more that night.  Talk about getting off on the wrong foot! 


It seems to be generally known that “nice” Americans travelling abroad should claim to be Canadian.  This is so that people won’t treat you as rudely, you’ll get better service, you’ll be safer, etc.

This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard of.  It’s cowardly.  It’s unpatriotic and un-American.

Have the guts to represent your home country.  Yes, there are a lot of really rude Americans out there travelling the globe.  Yes, we should be properly embarrassed that they’re out there giving the rest of us a bad name.  Now, it’s up to all nice Americans to fix the problem.  All travelers are, at all times, ambassadors for their home country.  You want it to be safer for Americans to travel abroad?  Demonstrate that all Americans aren’t rude, unfriendly, and ignorant.

How do you do that?  It’s actually pretty easy.  Yes, I know that every culture is different and it’s easy to offend without meaning to.  And yes, not everyone has time to spend studying the local culture idiosyncracies before embarking upon a trip.  But goodwill and basic kindergarten rules are worth a lot.  As you were told when you were six years old, mind your manners.

Every culture has words for “please” and “thank you.”  Learn them, along with “hello” and “goodbye.”  If one of these words is a lot of syllables, ask every waiter and waitress, every desk clerk at every hotel, every taxicab driver, to help you to say it properly.

It doesn’t matter if you ever actually say it right.  Try.  Foreign languages are really fun!  Everyone speaks English.  But that doesn’t mean you get to stop trying.  The goodwill that comes from your cheerful attempts to say “thank you,” or “excuse me” is invaluable.  Even if you never use a single other word out of your little pocket phrasebook beyond the pleasantries, you have demonstrated that you are not just another “ugle American” with that ugly attitude – “I’m an American – talk English to me!”

If you’re worried about the consequences – of you address them in French, or Spanish, or Greek, what happens when they answer back in French, or Spanish, or Greek? – don’t.  At first your accent is going to be so terrible, your listener if not going to be fooled into thinking you actually speak the language.  If they actually do you the honor of answering you in the same language and you don’t understand, the uncomprehending look on your face will speak volumes. 

Actually, one of my proudest moments was when I asked the man at the counter in Italian for a packet of Kleenex.  My request was fluent enough – or the cold I’d acquired on the plane trip TO Italy was bad enough – that he answered in Italian.  When I gave him the stupid look and said “Huh?” he switched to English.

Go for the brownie points of trying.  It’s polite to address people in their native language.  Once in a while, you get a surprise bonus for making the effort.  I got a free dessert from a waitress in Greece after I successfully ordered my dinner from the Greek language (and alphabet!) side of the menu.  It can lead to extra help from the hotel desk clerk.  I was once thanked by the Dutch stewardess on a KLM plane – for my manners.  I wasn’t even consciously trying – when she came by with the beverage cart I asked if I could please have some water, and thanked her when she gave me the glass.

I’ve never actually met any of those “rude” French people I’ve heard so much about.  I’ve spent a week in Provence, a week in Paris, and several days on several occasions among the Quebecois.  After I open a transaction with “bonjour” or “bonsoir,” (two syllables worth memorizing out of the pocket French-English book) and then stating my business in English (unless I work my courage up and cipher my way through an entire sentence, like “twenty postcard stamps to the United States, please”) I get an answering smile, and some very gracious help.  A lot more help than I would be able to give if someone walked up to me, said “hello,” and started talking to me in French….From my perspective, it sure looks like it’s not the French who are the rude ones.  They’ve gone and learned our language.

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Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

Author Bio and Links:
Jeanette Watts had been writing historic fiction when the inspiration for Jane Austen Lied to Me hit her on the drive home from the Jane Austen Festival. The idea was simply irresistible, and she put aside other writing projects in order to focus on writing a satire, thinking it would be a "mental vacation." It turned out to take every bit as much research to write a modern story as it does to write a historical one.

She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.  When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.

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