Monday, August 11, 2008

What Tourists Ask in England

On my other blog ("Where Are the Copy Editors?"), I have a new post on embarrassing misspellings in an article in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

It was the substance of the article, however, that first drew me to it.

Apparently tourists -- not all of them American -- are asking what the Telegraph politely calls "embarrassing" questions of docents at various English Heritage sites (the stately homes of England, as it were). A British tourism organization has revealed the ten most embarrassing questions posed by visitors to these castles, manors, and estates.

The Telegraph's Andy Bloxham explains:

The series of questions were released to mark the start of an English Heritage campaign to encourage shy tourists to ask guides if they have a query about the building they have come to see.

The organisation's hope is that more questions will mean that the buildings make more of an impression, which will encourage the visitors to tell others of what they have experienced and could boost visitor numbers.
It seems to me that by publicizing what are often -- not to be as polite as English Heritage -- stupid questions, the organization might actually stifle inquiries by tourists who are now afraid of embarrassing themselves.

While the questions English Heritage has compiled are not exactly fodder for David Letterman's Top Ten List, a number of them are amusing in a "boy-i'm-glad-that-wasn't-me" sort of way.

Here are English Heritage's top ten, in no apparent order (and including the misspellings):
"Is this where Sharon and Ozzie actually live?" - a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of Wight

"What time do you switch the mist off?" – a visitor to Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels, in Kent

"Where are the monkeys?" – a group of children at Cleeve Abbey in Somerset

"Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?" - a tourist at Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

"Is it a bouncy castle?" - a little girl at Clifford's Tower, York

"Can you tell me where I can see the Hobbits?" - a visitor to Kenwood House, Hampstead

"Did they all have the same dad?" – a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of White, who learned of Queen Victoria's nine children

"How many bricks are there?" - a visitor to Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire

"Does my ferret need to be on a lead in this area?" - a visitor to Kenwood House, Hampstead

"How long does life membership last?" - a visitor to Osborne House, Isle of White

"Did Lady Rachel ever de-bone her fish before eating it?" - a visitor to Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire

"Are the tunnels underground?" - a visitor to Dover Castle and Secret Wartime Tunnels, Kent

"Is that a manmade jetty?" - a visitor to Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, pointing at a 300 million-year-old rock formation

"Is this Dracula's Castle?" - a visitor to Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire.
Embarrassing or not, English Heritage also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions on its own web site.

I do have to admit that asking whether all of Queen Victoria's children had the "same dad" is not as silly as it sounds. As Art Linkletter might remark, "Kids say the darnedest things."

No comments: