strange Americans in the oddest uniforms, and the usual dreary English that are so hopeless abroad

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longxianchen

Senior Member
chinese
Hi,
Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover(page 376, chapter 17) by Lawrence (planetebook,here):
(background: Connie was in Paris. She felt the people there were weary, worn-out and mechanical ……)

Connie found herself shrinking and afraid of the world. Sometimes she was happy for a little while in the Boulevards or in the Bois or the Luxembourg Gardens. But already Paris was full of Americans and English, strange Americans in the oddest uniforms, and the usual dreary English that are so hopeless abroad.

I don't think American strange and odd, and I disagree the English are dreary and hopeless abroad.
But I'm sure Lawrence meant something special. So could you tell me how to understand this sentence please?
Thank you in advance


 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think American strange and odd, and I disagree the English are dreary and hopeless abroad.
    I'm not sure what you are basing your opinions on, but it doesn't matter what we think, because Lawrence is telling us what Connie thought and, no doubt about it, what he himself thought. He was a life-long expatriate.
    Those opinions are common nowadays too, as generalisations of course. The English Connie would have observed and spent time with would have been her own class and we know how she felt about them.

    I'm wondering what is meant by the "oddest uniforms".
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    At the time DHL was writing I expect most British civilians had never set eyes on an American military man in uniform; in fact it was quite unlikely they had ever seen an American in the flesh. Cinema newsreels would have been the closest most of them got.

    When large numbers of them were seen in England during WWII, it was still quite a shock for the locals:

    How the GI influx shaped Britain's view of Americans - BBC News

    I'm not surprised that Connie, especially in her somewhat alienated state at that time, felt they were strange and their uniforms odd.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Except this was in the 1920's. American troops played a significant role during WW1. Or maybe it's supposed to be at the time of the Paris Peace Conference, January 1919 - January 1920, which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.
    If the soldiers were wearing hats like those below they would have looked odd. I don't know if this was the standard uniform or that of certain regiments only.


     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I know it's the 1920s, and it was my point that an Englishwoman, a civilian like Connie, who hadn't travelled extensively, (was she brought up in London? - I forget) would most likely not have had contact with Americans in uniform before.

    Yes, I wondered about those hats too.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Thank you a lot.
    When large numbers of them were seen in England during WWII, it was still quite a shock for the locals
    I guess you made a typo here. It's WW One:)
    I'm not sure what you are basing your opinions on
    I now know it only refers to the Americans during World War Two, not including the current Americans.

    But how should I understand the usual(=ordinary/non-military?) dreary(=dismal/bored?) English that are so hopeless abroad(hopeless of the war,and couldn't see the victory?)?
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    No, I didn't make a typo.

    I don't want to labour the point, but if the appearance and behaviour of the troops during WWII was a cultural shock for the British, just imagine how much more of a shock it would have been soon after WWI.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    But already Paris was full of Americans and English, strange Americans (Americans who were not as Connie expected Americans to be) in the oddest uniforms (Uniforms that were very unlike European uniforms), and the usual dreary (boring) English that are so hopeless (inept) abroad.

    Up until probably the late 70s, the English idea of the English tourist was that they were not very good at dealing with foreign ideas and people - that the English were insular and expected everywhere to be "like England but warmer and with less rain."

    This use of "hopeless" is quite common:
    A: "How did John perform when he had to do the job?"
    B: "He was hopeless - he did everything wrong."
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Oh. That is to say, the English are a little awkward, incompetent in personal relationship and foreign things, and that's why Lawrence use are(always so), rather than were(just a past state
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    If the soldiers were wearing hats like those below they would have looked odd. I don't know if this was the standard uniform or that of certain regiments only.



    Unlike in the British army, there were no distinct and different uniforms for members of different units in the US Army at that time. The hat in the picture is known as a "campaign hat", and was the standard headgear for the US Amy and the US Marine Corps from 1911 to 1942.
     
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Good, I was rather surprised by the reference to WWII. :) She'd been brought up in Scotland but she and her sister had travelled and studied in Germany in their late teens. Presumably they'd spent time in London as the upper middle classes did, for 'the season'.

    But there's no reason she would have known any Americans still less servicemen way back then.
    I was about 30 when I met my first Americans in the early '80's. I've never seen large numbers of foreign servicemen. I remember seeing the first armed policeman abroad and being quite shocked. I think that may have been the first time I'd seen a gun, for real!

    I want to know why there were so many Americans that she noticed them. I keep meaning to do a time-line but never get round to it.
     
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    But how should I understand the usual(=ordinary/non-military?) dreary(=dismal/bored?) English that are so hopeless abroad(hopeless of the war,and couldn't see the victory?)?
    LongX this is Connie talking, so she's using the present tense about her reality. This is after WWI and the war had been won.

    She thinks the English she saw were boring people. 'Hopeless' means they didn't know what to do or how to behave or whatever.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I really doubt that there were many 'tourists' as we imagine them nowadays, people from all classes. The tourists would be people like themselves, middle to upper class. The working classes simply didn't have the leisure or the money or any inclination whatsoever deeply suspicious of anything 'furrin'.

    Even after WWII, in the fifties, it was very unusual to meet other English people touring around.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    American troops played a significant role during WW1. Or maybe it's supposed to be at the time of the Paris Peace Conference, January 1919 - January 1920, which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.
    I want to know why there were so many Americans that she noticed them. I keep meaning to do a time-line but never get round to it.
    I think that's a possible reason why there were so many English and American soldiers in Paris at the postwar time.

    You are really familiar with WW One:thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
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