"I want a table for three," or "When does the train go to Poughkeepsie? "
Just as we in America have regular people to attend to these things, so do they in England; and as the English respect each other's right to privacy very much more than we do, they resent invasions of it very much more than we do. But, let me say again, they are likely to mind it only in somebody they think knows the rules. With those who don't know them it is different. I say this with all the more certainty because of a fairly recent afternoon spent in an English garden with English friends. The question of pronunciation came up. Now you will readily see that with them and their compactness, their great public schools, their two great Universities, and their great London, the one eternal focus of them all, both the chance of diversity in social customs and the tolerance of it must be far less than in our huge unfocused country. With us, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, is each a centre. Here you can pronounce the word calm, for example, in one way or another, and it merely indicates where you come from. Departure in England from certain established pronunciations has another effect.
"Of course," said one of my friends, "one knows where to place anybody who says 'girl'" (pronouncing it as it is spelled).
"That's frightful," said I, "because I say 'girl'."
"Oh, but you are an American. It doesn't apply."
But had I been English, it would have been something like coming to dinner without your collar.
That is why I think that, had my friend in the train begun his question about the buildings by saying that he was an American, the answer would have been different. Not all the English yet, but many more than there were fifty or even twenty years ago, have ceased to apply their rules to us.
About 1874 a friend of mine from New York was taken to a London Club. Into the room where he was came the Prince of Wales, who took out a cigar, felt for and found no matches, looked about, and there was a silence. My friend thereupon produced matches, struck one, and offered it to the Prince, who bowed, thanked him, lighted his cigar, and presently went away.
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