Don't Mention the War!

Germans have real problems understanding British humor. Okay, so the Germans are not the only ones who don’t get it.

The French, Spanish, Swedish, Polish, Swiss, Austrian, Finnish, American, Chinese and the penguins in Antarctica also seem to be standing on the sidelines with no idea of what’s going on. British humor is like cricket. It goes on and on, none of it makes sense, and nobody has a clue what’s going on except the people dressed all in white, drinking tea and yelling, “Good form”.

The reason I bring up the Germans having problems understanding British humor, is the fact that a lot of it is aimed at them. Well, the French also get their fair share of punch-line positions, but that’s more of a global thing.

One particular joke has become a sort of standard phrase for the English. In the TV-show Fawlty Towers, by John Cleese and Connie Booth, there is an episode known as “The Germans”. A group of Germans have checked into the hotel. Basil (John Cleese) is worse off and more confused than usual, due to a head injury and a subsequent concussion. Here’s the clip, look out for the quote “don’t mention the war”:

The reason why this is so funny to British people (especially back when the show was popular on TV) is that the British will go to great lengths not to mention the war when in the company of Germans. The reason for quoting “Don’t mention the war!” is to make the person concentrate so hard on not saying it that they make a Freudian slip.

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