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The Non-Expert

Is He Cute or Is He British?

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we help a forlorn reader determine if her new guy actually looks as good as he talks.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.

 

Question: I recently started dating a British guy. I think he’s cute, but maybe it’s just that he has an English accent. How can I tell the difference? —Carrie F.

Answer: Like many romantic dilemmas—“Your place or mine?,” “Is it warm in here, or am I just drunk?”—this is a question that has long plagued American women. The British accent is Kryptonite to the female resolve, and though the evening may start with him innocently “chatting you up,” it ends with your knickers draped on a lamp in his sketchy midtown apartment. Would this happen if he didn’t have that damn British accent? Yes, because you’re a slut. But it wouldn’t have happened twice. And not while his mum was visiting.

When it comes to the attractiveness of British men, American women are simply incapable of rendering a proper judgment. Bad teeth, the unibrow, Guinness bloat, doesn’t matter; hell, we think Tony Blair is hot. Studies have proven that British accents are, in fact, the number one cause of hot women dating nerdy men. (Number two cause? Woody Allen.) There’s nothing wrong with dating men who have British accents; Madonna liked her husband’s so much she got one of her own. But there are scoundrels out there—those who use their cute British accents to lure innocent birds to their flat for a friendly game of hide the blood sausage. Sorry.

The following prompts will help as you try to decipher whether your new bloke is a winner or a wanker. Beware the British accent, ladies, and remember: The country that gave us Shakespeare also gave us Simply Red.

What kind of accent does he have?

Even more than in America, British regional accents are the key to deciphering class and social stature. Does he speak with a crisp London clip? A slurry cockney? Does it matter? No, because they all sound freaking adorable. What do you care?

What’s his education like?

Decades of BBC and English Lit classes have genetically programmed the American female to believe the British are culturally superior beings, skipping around Oxford making puns with their Byron under one arm and a pot of marmalade under the other. This isn’t always true, of course—at least according to The Full Monty. Apparently England is also full of working-class people who watch telly and prevail against overwhelming odds. But talking about books and stuff makes you look smart. The other day I told a British guy I read Irvine Welsh, and he was so impressed he called me “brilliant.”

Does he have a nanny?

This could be trouble. On the other hand, if he is currently dating a supermodel or a foxy but curiously cold English actress, he is so yours.

How does he dress?

The archetypal British chap wears tweed jackets, a fine cashmere sweater vest, and a dashing Burberry coat. (Well, that’s what they wore in Closer. Hell if I’ve ever been to London.) But most British blokes I know are less formal, prone to wearing World Cup-sponsored clothing and jeans. This is fine. It’s to be expected. With one caveat: If there is any chance of a gold chain and a yellow tracksuit in his closet, I say run.

Beware cultural nuance.

Though we speak the same language, Americans and Brits have famously different words to describe the same thing. Everyone knows what we call “fries,” they call “chips.” But there are subtle phrases which, if you’re not careful, can cause grievous misunderstanding. For instance: When he says, “Can I bum a fag?” he’s not trying to expand your relationship—he is simply asking for a cigarette. When he says, “I could murder a taxi right now” he means only that he wants a taxi very badly. When he says, “I’m off to the pub with me mates for some tipple,” it means he’s going to pee the bed. Watch out.

Does he ever drag you to a soccer match at 9 a.m., and get you drunk on Irish whiskey, and then tell you he’d fancy you if you just beat up those two bloody Welshmen in the corner?

No? Crap. I am such a sucker.

OK, pretend he did do that. So, in that case, do you think when you asked him about it later, bringing up fairly legitimate concerns about health and legal matters, he would respond to you with phrases like “what a bunch of bollocks,” “stop yer whingeing,” and “for fuck’s sake?”

Because that would be rude.

And then what are the chances that, in the middle of what you would consider an innocent fight, he might shock everyone in the subway by suddenly calling you “a bloody cunt?”

Because when it happens, it’s not pretty.

But wait a minute: Does he say those things in British accent?

Cause that’s cute.

And does he spell “labor” like “labour?” And “theater” like “theatre?”

I know! CUTE!

And does he measure things in metres and talk about weight in stone? And reference the Queen? And when he speaks in that British accent do you forget all about how he called you a cunt and pissed in your bed and wears the tracksuit and made you beat up that poor Welshman?

I say go for it. Cheers, mate.

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TMN Contributing Writer Sarah Hepola is the Life editor at Salon. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Nerve, and on NPR. She lives in Texas with a sweet orange cat who is not fat, he’s just big-boned. If you just read her story about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, she’d like to point that it is fiction. More by Sarah Hepola