August 24, 2008

Ping pong’s coming home

Filed under: A long way from home,misc — Duchess @ 2:40 pm

Most Brits have probably already seen this by now, but Americans may enjoy hearing the Mayor of London look forward to 2012 while incidentally revealing the origins of ping pong and other Olympic trivia.  Keep watching past the introductory niceties.

My Ex, who sent me the link, said I was going to have to explain Boris Johnson to the Yanks, so I’ll try.

As you can tell by his accent, Boris is a toff, with aristocratic forbears on both sides of the family.  Educated at Eton and Oxford, he is a journalist and Tory politician and recently resigned his seat in Parliament to run for London’s Mayor, beating the Labour incumbent in May of this year.  He’s also something of a television celebrity after guest appearances on popular comedy shows.

He’s probably the only politician in Britain who is usually referred to solely by his first name (during the Mayoral election the Labour Party was said to have issued fines for any party member referring to him that way, because it might make him seem too popular). 

He has made something of a career of issuing apologies, to people as far away as Papua New Guinea. Here was his insult to them:

For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.

And this was his apology, following a formal complaint to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

I meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea who I’m sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity in common with the rest of us.

Though I would maintain that class war still wages in Britain today, I wasn’t surprised that Boris squeaked through in May’s election, despite the capital’s Labour voting tradition. In the UK, though we don’t on the whole care for toffs, we like our politicians clever, which he undoubtedly is, and we especially like them if they are funny as well.

Finally, Yanks probably won’t know that Boris’s statement “Ping pong’s coming home” is a reference to the official anthem for the 1996 European Championships, held that year in England, whose chorus is “Football’s coming home”. We take our football (the soccer variety) pretty seriously, even though we lose, but it is also characteristic that the words to the anthem were written by comedians.  We know how to laugh at ourselves while we lose gloriously (it’s the irony gene).  Every Brit, even ersatz ones like me, can sing along with this song. If you are a real glutton for British punishment, the link is below. 

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to more Boris on the subject of how you reconcile playing Wiff Waff with passing the Port to the left.  It seems to me that if we introduce this extra element to the competition, we might have a real chance at a medal.

Phew. That was a lot of explaning.  How did I do?


  1. Brilliant. I’m ready to buy my ticket today!

    Comment by ByJane — August 25, 2008 @ 10:41 am

  2. I understand almost completely. I think.

    Comment by Midlife Slices™ — August 27, 2008 @ 7:35 am

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