History of the English Language

 

 

 

Dinner for One

I wonder if midnight on the 31st December (called “New Year’s Eve” in English speaking countries) is celebrated in the same way in your country as it is in England. There’s always lots of alcohol, lots of drunk people, non-stop fireworks, a shouty 10-second countdown to the magic midnight moment and then kissing strangers! Then it’s kind of ‘gotta catch the last bus’ situation, or it will be about £437 for a taxi home. Of course, most of the population spends New Year’s Day nursing a hangover and trying to remember the night before… or the nightmare trying to get home in the freezing cold. On Jan 1st, it’s traditional to make a New Year’s Resolution, where you make a promise to yourself to do something (or refrain from doing something) in the New Year, which will make you a better person and ultimately, a happier individual. For lots of people, the New Year’s resolution is to go on a diet, eat less chocolate, drink less alcohol, do more exercise… something like that. Resolutions like these usually last until about the second week of January. In Germany, there is a New Year’s Eve tradition of watching an old, black-and-white TV programme called “Dinner for One”. The strange thing is that all the dialogue is in English! The comedy sketch was written in the 1920s and played in little theatres in UK seaside towns for holidaymakers. In 1962, a German entertainer saw Dinner for One in Blackpool and thought that Germans would love it because it is filled with slapstick humour and the dialogue is simple and repetitive. He invited the actors (there are only 2 performers in the sketch) to record the show for German TV and now it is an integral part of celebrations in Germany on New Year’s Eve – or Silvester as the Germans call it. In a 1972 colour recording, the show began with a German presenter, Heinz Piper giving an explanation of what was about to happen. The key phrase that is repeated several times in the sketch is ‘The same procedure as last year’, which Heinz Piper incorrectly said as ‘The same procedure than last year’. This is a common grammatical mistake that lots of German speakers make. After years of complaints (apparently mainly from English teachers) the TV channel edited out the mistake in 1988. Germans think that the sketch is a typical example of British humour, but Dinner for One has never been shown on British TV. English people who have seen the show (while in Germany, or on YouTube) generally don’t find it very funny. What do you think? Does it make you laugh?

What are the New Year’s Eve traditions in your country?

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