We have been watching “The Crown.” Just when you think you’ve had your fill of English period pieces about rich English people who don’t know a pot from a pan or cannot fathom how they can live without an under butler, along comes “The Crown.” The Netflix series covers the life of Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy) from the 1940s to modern times.
We’ve mainlined it. Binged like TV crack addicts. We have done everything but pull down the shades Saturday morning and not seen natural light until Monday. Before we knew it, and could extend its viewing life, we’d rifled through all 10 episodes of season two and were hungry for more.
Hungry, yes. Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things British. Queens, hunting lodges, castles, servants, Corgis and side saddles.
An appetite for British humor because no one does snarky better than the English. An appetite for the British accent that makes Americans feel as if they are in the presence of an older, wiser, more worldly adult no matter if that adult is 30 years our junior.
We are charmed by the sound of the Queen’s English and seduced by its inflection even when we suspect both the speaker and speech might be ordinary.
Everything sounds better spoken with an English accent. Everything sounds more intelligent. Everything sounds more important.
Said with an American accent, “I’m going to the store” sounds like it might include picking up a carton of milk along with a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats. In other words, no big deal. We’ve gone before and we’ll go again unless there is another BBC show in which case we will be staying put.
When an Englishman says, “I’m going to the store,” the impression is entirely different. It sounds like an adventure. One on which anything might happen. An opportunity, a celebration and maybe a pilgrimage. Nothing ordinary about it and certainly an errand on which we would like to accompany them.
The English speak as if they have been born and bred on stage, each sentence calculated to carry the length of the theater and bounce off its back walls. The English enunciate, turning words over in their mouths, as if they were exploring all flanks of a ripe strawberry.
The British might as well have taken speech lessons from Richard Burton or Sir John Gielgud and each year returned for a refresher course.
Conversation rises to the level of dialogue written by some talented playwright. If you listen carefully, part of the English speaking genius is the hesitation in the middle of sentences, where the speaker doubles back and re-emphasizes a word or phrase and thus endowing it with even more importance. The repetition may not have explained anything else or revealed anything more but the words light up the room as if it were a dark landscape lit by a spotlight.
“Are you sure we’ve seen the last episode?” Sue lamented, as we both sat stunned in front of the TV.
The show went so fast. We just started. You mean there aren’t going to be more episodes until next year?
There was only one solution: Find another show.
Then sit back, close your eyes and listen to the magic courtesy of the English tongue.