Tuesday 8 June 2010

Hey - That's my Reputation You're Messing With

As a writer and a blogger, there are times when I take a slightly controversial stance, and yes, sometimes I end up getting "yelled" at and called a few things. I can take it and give it back when desired.


There are a few instances when it really gets under my skin however, and it's just happened again.

My book, "Rules, Britannia" was written for Americans travelling to the UK and has generally met with positive reviews. What's to dislike? It's helpful, funny, and I deliberately kept my own opinions out of of it because I wanted to deliver the facts, and nothing but the facts, about life in the UK. Each chapter was triple checked by resident Brits, and the entire manuscript inspected by one of my publisher's editors. I don't mind if people say it's not their cup of tea, or with people who never venture further than London, that they didn't find it particularly helpful. (I did say in the intro that it wasn't a tourist guide.)

What I do take exception to is people saying I'm wrong when they have no basis for their denouncement other than not having heard of the topic/custom/event themselves. Aren't many non-fiction books (like mine) written for informative purposes or am I missing something? If you think you already know all there is to know about the UK, don't read Rules, Britannia - but if you haven't been to the UK or read much about it, don't assume you know better than its English author and her editors. Any publisher worth its salt these days checks that the writer is credible and knowledgable.

Bristle number one happened a few years ago when an American academic implied that I must have made up Morris Dancers because he'd lived in London for five whole years and had never heard of them. Well, erm, no you probably wouldn't, living in London. (I secretly hope he was still there when the film came out.) Another person told me that he knew no one who called bread rolls "baps". Well, I didn't grow up using that term either but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. They're to be found on Wikipedia fer cryin' out loud.

I'm currently bristling at a woman from Ohio who, on a US/UK forum took issue with the fact that I'd said Sloppy Joes in England were long, baggy sweaters as opposed to the sloppy, meaty sandwiches they are in the States - see photo. (Just Google the sweater, there are so many references, I am completely vindicated.)  I mean, if you're an American in the UK, you need to know that if you talk about a Sloppy Joe, half the room will be too young to know what you mean and the older half will have worn one in the 1960s and before.  Despite the fact that several forum posters said they had actually worn a Sloppy Joe, she decided to post a review on Amazon doubting my accuracy.

The woman entitled her review "A really fun read, but I know of at least 1 inaccuracy", then went on to say that she had been told both that a sweater is NEVER called a Sloppy Joe in England, but then two other people had told her it was. What?!?

Amazon reviewer,-  I'm thrilled you thought the book was a "fun read", but do you really know of an inaccuracy? You think I might be wrong but you choose to believe the people who merely don't know of the Sloppy Joe sweater/jumper instead of those who confirm my factoid.  (There was even a discussion of the sweater versus jumper, exposing the forum commenters as fairly ignorant of the whole international  "wardrobe" conversation.) As I said, I don't mind if you don't like my work but please don't question my credibility because of your own ignorance. That's neither a fair nor a thorough review.



  1. Not surprised you are irritated! I'd be fuming.

    And we always called the extra big buns baps when growing up. Not to be confused with the other meaning for baps of course!

  2. As someone who grew up watching morris dancers on the village green, eating baps (in the nicest possible way, usually granary, and often filled with egg mayonnaise and salad), and seeing my mum wear her sloppy joe, I can completely understand your annoyance; I'm miffed and I didn't write the book!

  3. I bet the lady from Ohio doesn't even have a passport! Don't worry about her. Like there is notheing in America with a funny name- Hello, Whoopie Pie? What were the Amish thinking.

  4. Oh just give her a good kick in the goolies. Virtually, of course.

    Silly woman. Bet she thinks tha Americans 'invented' pizza too.

    Right. And the Neopolitans ate hot dogs for breakfast.

    LCM x

  5. You have every right to be angry - next time you're in Northumberland, pop by my farm and I'll lend you a field to scream in!! Some people are incredibly ignorant beyond belief. In Manchester, baps are often known as barmcakes. In Northumberland, they refer to potatoes as titties. So many different language barriers yet the same old ignoramus readers.

    I haven't read the book but I am sure it's fab.

    CJ xx

  6. My sympathies!! I lived in London for many years and frequently saw Morris dancers so no idea if this guy is simply an agoraphobic or what?? and we always called bread rolls baps.

    Don't let them get to you. xx

  7. I don't blame you for being irritated. She should check her information before posting for all the world to see on the Interwebs.

    Try not to let it get to you...I know that's hard though.

    Oh and I am American and even I know of baps (admitedly because of my British boyfriend). Bacon baps are a breakfast staple when we're together.

  8. She is plain wrong, that is all...how CAN she say morris dancers don't exist? We may wish they didn't, but that's another matter.

    This is the problem with the internet - you get some right nutters posting reviews. That is why I never believe an online review I read of a hotel, restaurant or anything else - you don't know what agenda the reviewer has, or whether they are just crazy.

  9. I very much understand your annoyance. I'm an American living in Peru, been here for 6 years, and have done quite a bit of traveling. I write a lot of travel articles and it never fails that someone who visited Peru for a week will send me a tweet to tell me I've got it all wrong.

  10. I can assure your critic that there ARE Morris dancers in most of the major towns/cities. My son is one of them and we live in Bristol, a city second to London.
    We definitely call buns baps where I live!
    Surely there aren't people who haven't heard of a sloppy Joe?
    Well you haven't lived folks!
    Give Expatmum a break for heaven's sake!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  11. Morris dancers, baps, seen 'em and like them (love it when they bring out the sticks -- the morris dancers, not the baps). Never heard of "Sloppy Joes" in that context, but my wife assures me you are correct, and she can't imagine eating one.

  12. GOod for you! I have an idea -- send that person to Whitby in N. Yorkshire for folk week and he'll get his fair share of morris dancers. Everywhere! Ooh, I can just picture them dancing in the streets there now!

  13. That is rather annoying to say the least. I have not only heard of Morris dancers, but have seen them and heard them with my own eyes and ears. They are not an uncommon occurence in tourist Cumbria where they eat butties and not baps. Bacon baps- ate them all the time as a kid. Haven't worn a sloppy Joe but have heard of them as jumpers/sweaters and not as sandwiches (ever). Wonder if folk know what 'slacks' are?

  14. Well I can vouch for all these my friend! I swear there are some people out there who just love to take the shine off someone else' day.

    Yesterday I made a post on an immigration forum about being 'done with immigration finally'. Well along comes a commenter with "Congrats, but I hate to burst your bubble, but you're not a US citizen yet" and then went on to warn me against stating I was!

    Well hello dip-sh*t, I believe I said I was done with immigration, not I am now a US Citizen. And I mentioned still having the Oath ceremony to get done. OMG I was also fuming, I tell ya!

  15. believe me you can't please everyone and I am learning the hard way by doing a recipe book for our church as a fundraiser. You would honestly think I was raising funds for my own benefit with the amount of grief I am getting.

    One thing me and you have in common is a thick skin right?

    Hang in there,

    Gill in Canada

  16. you go girl, with you all the way! Sounded a very 'sloppy' remark this Joe Bloggs posted.

  17. My Gran used to say all my jumpers looked like Sloppy Joes....I could never understand what she was talking about but now you have enlightened me!!! See something useful/good came out of that review...though perhaps you'd prefer not to be the fount of wisdom on my road to enlightenment if the only way I'll get there is through inaccurate reviews of your book. ;)

  18. I'm very annoyed on your behalf. I can't believe anyone would actually go to the trouble of writing such a review if they don't know more than you. Which obviously they don't. Also fuming over here.

  19. Interesting, had never heard of Sloppy Joe's meaning sweaters. Will have to get that into conversation at some point. But has Google search passed by these people who loudly pronounce that there's no such thing as morris dancing or that you're wrong on Sloppy Joe's.

  20. I know this is an "older" post, but it made me laugh out loud...and I don't "lol" that often! As children we'd call our long sleeved, baggy t-shirts, sloppy joes (evidently wrong...but we were kids!); my BH calls rolls, baps (and I often worry in polite company), and I've seen the dancing men in skirts and bells...in real life! Reviewers can be crass, particularly when they have no idea what they're talking about! Right, I'm off out to buy your book!

  21. "A really fun read, but I know of at least 1 inaccuracy"... funny, why don't these people pester newspapers?

  22. Oh God I would be livid if someone was petty enough to do that.
    I hope she removed the review.
    What a small-minded person she must be. Either that or she must be wishing she could write a book, but is wasting her time pulling down others instead.
    Liska x

  23. I thought of this blog post, when I read this BBC article and he mentions all the responses he gets. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22105898

  24. Hey, these things happen more than you know. Take the public commute companies for example. There just oh so happens to be a train wreck and people start talking about things they don't know, other people will either miss hear or over hear and will share what they've been hearing to others, even they themselves know absolutely nothing about what they are talking about. It's a common problem related to stupidity, but obviously you get used to noticing it with people, else we'd go insane and would most likely kill'em all for it. The same thing happens with drain repair in Toronto as well. It's so easy to ruin a company's reputation and people don't even realize, except for the ones who start the negative talk of course.


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