Irreverent Mama

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mustn't grumble. Can't complain.

Recently had an evening in a pub with a friend who's retired home to Canada after having spent twenty-five years or so in the UK. After all that time, he's more Brit than Canadian in many of his attitudes, quirks, and social mannerisms. He has a tendency to the pendantic and a predilection for ranting, both leavened by a piercing sense of humour. In short, he's wicked fun.

"Oh well. Mustn't grumble," he says, a bit tongue-in-cheek, poking a bit of fun at a certain mindset, but hearing it, I laughed out loud. That is SUCH a Brit thing to say, SUCH a Brit mindset he's poking fun at.

Thinking about it later, I decided the North American equivalent is probably "Oh well. Can't complain."

Think about that for a sec. Brits say "Mustn't grumble." Americans say "Can't complain."


Both patently false. North Americans are tremendous whiners. Inveterate, even. We complain about all manner of things. Whining is a national pasttime. Everyone indulges. It's small talk, socially expected. Those who don't complain, those who decry whining are "unrealistic", obviously mental featherweights, not to be taken seriously.

And Brits? No whiners there, nope, not like N. Americans. But grumblers? Oh my! How they grumble. They gripe, they grouse, they deplore, they harrumph. How does this differ from whining? Comes down to expectations. Americans expect someone to do something about what they don't like. If we can't get the government to fix it (Canadians), we'll sue the ass offa someone (Americans), because if I don't like it, I shouldn't have to put up with it, and how could it happen to meeeeeee?

Brits don't whine, not like that. Throughout all their harrumphing, they feel superior to that which they criticize. They don't feel victimized - they are vindicated. Ha! I knew it! Country's going to hell in a handbasket. What else can you expect, in this day and age? Bloody hell!

"Can't complain."
"Mustn't grumble."

Oh, but why not, when it brings you so much satisfaction!

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  • I love grumbling....

    By Blogger crazymumma, at 10:41 p.m.  

  • I must say I've never heard one of my statesmen/women say "Can't complain." Perhaps it's more regional, and not in my region? All I EVer hear is, "Just wait till I tell you this," or "Get a load of THIS story," or somesuch nonsense.

    I, however, am totally going to start saying, "Mustn't grumble."

    By Blogger Candace, at 11:17 p.m.  

  • Crazymumma - I confess I'm more of a grumble-harrumpher than a whiner-complainer. (But then I'm only first generation Canadian of English stock.) :-)

    Candace - Could be regional. It's also probably a bit dated - something our parents might be more likely to say. Is 'mustn't grumble' similarly dated? Maybe Zoe can tell us.

    Zoe? You there?

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 8:10 a.m.  

  • I feel like such an idiot! I came to the blog via a link elsewhere instead of through Bloglines, as I usually do. I saw your "mustn't grumble" post...and thought to myself "OH! Plagiarism somewhere! I've read that somewhere very recently!!" I searched my favorite blogs immediately, determined to find out which of my favorite blogs was being plagiarized!

    Ummm...ooops. Where had I read it before? Here. On your blog. When I came to visit via Bloglines.

    I'm an idiot. And you are indeed one of my favorites.

    By Blogger Carolie, at 9:21 a.m.  

  • 'Mustn't grumble' is an expression our parents would have used. But it's still a British sentiment. We don't really make a fuss. We're embarrassed when someone does, especially in public.

    I think it's down to the weather. In England, the weather is a source of interest every day. There are no guarantees. We expect it to rain, but often it doesn't. This is fun for a couple of days, but then we get twitchy. "The garden needs the rain" we say. "Lovely weather, but we'll pay for it." Then it pours. We are vindicated. "Mustn't grumble" we say, happily, dripping wet.

    By Blogger Z, at 4:38 p.m.  

  • Carolie: Why, thank you. Too bad about the mix-up, but good for me, if it means you read my post TWICE! LOL

    Z - Ah. So both expressions are similarly dated. Still, I agree that they're expressive of their respective cultures. Americans are more publicly effusive than Canadians, who are more so than the British.

    My grandad used to tell us about the British love-hate relationship with rain, and he described it almost exactly as you did. "A week without rain! They'll be praying for rain in the churches!"

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 5:55 p.m.  

  • I always thought complaining about the weather was an essential part of the Canadian identity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 a.m.  

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