Germans and Brits And "Anglo-Saxons"
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My piece on Anglo-Saxon-ness ("-icity," whatever) generated a lot of email.  I am particularly grateful to the reader who sent in this link to a British newspaper story from a year ago.

After analysing tooth enamel and bones in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and comparing the genetic make-up of Britons and Germans, [geneticists from University College London] have come to the conclusion that about half of us have German forebears.

The reporter then urges his British readers to "embrace your inner Jerry." (N.B. "Jerry" was WW2 British slang for a German.)  

More controversially, he goes on to suggest that the Brits and the Germans may share a common sense of humor. 

Now, it is often said that the Germans do not have a sense of humour, but this is just stereotypical nonsense. On an anecdotal level, every German I have met has made me laugh as much as any Brit.

That's a bit of a stretch, if you ask me.  At the blue end of the humor spectrum, at any rate, Germans go for scatology much more than the Brits, or any other nation, do.  In his 1977 pop-linguistics classic Word Play, Peter Farb noted that "scatology . . . dominates all other themes when [Germans] talk dirty."  By contrast: "French dirty jokes are usually concerned with seduction, adultery, and sexual technique; British with homosexuality and incest; American with oral-genital themes and the debasement of women."

Be all that as it may, on the main theme I'd direct readers' attention to a good piece by Razib Khan at Gene Expression.

Razib's attention was caught, as mine was, by Max Fisher's column on the Atlantic blog.  While I was comparatively gentle with Fisher, though (I'm too darn nice, everyone says so), Razib shows the ceorl no mercy.

Razib's closing paragraph bears reproducing in full.

At this point you may be exhausted by the exploration of picayune facts. But the point is that when we debase facts, and sacrifice them at the altar of expediency, we eat the very capital which is the basis of modern civilization. Without objective facts we are thrown into the world of conspiracies, where everything is illusion. Max Fisher and many others objected to the anonymous Romney aide’s imputations, and so he went out to tear down every aspect of the argument and all its assumptions. In the process he prostituted reality, and misled thousands of readers. This is shameful, and we should all hold ourselves to high standards, no matter where we stand on matters of politics. When history becomes a tool of polemic, then we live in a far poorer world indeed.

[Razib's boldface, and I've corrected some typos.]  That's a brilliant statement ? a manifesto, almost ?  of empiricist moral rectitude.  If I were a Victorian gent with a house full of unemployed women, I'd set them to embroidering samplers out of it.

High-culture buffs seeking a shot of Germanophilia might want to try Peter Watson's 2011 book The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century.  It was my Christmas present to myself last year.  Too long, I thought, and oddly proportioned ? I didn't want to know that much about German dramatists ? and with signs of that same odd diffidence I noted in my review of a previous Watson book, but welcome as a corrective to the widespread popular perception that German history began in 1933 and ended in 1945.




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