Here's a question I have for our UK readers: so my wife and I go to see Love Actually, the latest romantic comedy from Four Wedding and Funeral's Richard Curtis. And there's a scene where Hugh Grant (playing the Prime Minister) is asking his Monica-Lewinsky-lookalike assistant about where she lives. I can't remember the name of the area she mentions, but let's say it's Peckham. The dialog goes something like this:
Assistant: I live Peckham, the dodgy side.
Grant: What is the dodgy side of Peckham.
Assistant: All the way at the end of the Harwith Road.
Grant: That is dodgy.
Now, in the screening we saw here in New York, pretty much every mention of the word "dodgy" got a laugh, particularly the last two. And it's clearly supposed to be a funny exchange, and the word "dodgy" is crucial to the humor. In a way, this is representative of a lot of jokes that Curtis writes; they have a tendency to revolve around the comic potential of slightly, um, dodgy British expressions, like "bugger," and "shag," and -- several times in Love Actually -- "cockup."
I understand perfectly well why Anglophile American audiences eat this stuff up: the humor comes from proper Englishfolk talking trash. But how does it play on its home turf? I thought about how this scene from Love Actually would play if it were Americans talking:
I live in Newark, the seedy part.
What is the seedy part of Newark?
Over by the airport.
Oh, that is seedy.
To my American ears, that's not funny at all. So why should the British version be funny to Brits? Or perhaps it's not?