Friday, August 20, 2010

Quote of the Week: Complaining and Moaning

"Visitors to Britain are rarely able to grasp -- sometimes even after decades of residency -- the vital distinction its inhabitants make between complaining and moaning. The two activities seem similar, but there is a profound philosophical and practical difference. To complain about something is to express dissatisfaction to someone whom you hold responsible for an unsatisfactory state of affair; to moan is to express the same thing to someone other than the person responsible. The British are powerfully embarrassed by complaining, and experience an almost physical recoil from people who do it in public. The do love to moan, though. The background music of British life is a running aria of moaning about pretty much everything -- our weather, our politics, our permanently under-performing national sports teams, our reality-TV-obsessed media, and so on. Moaning, a source of entertainment in its own right, is also an important psychic comfort blanket, a way of venting resentment without taking responsibility for effecting change."
- John Lanchester, "Party Games," in the 6/7/2010 New Yorker

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