What does the phrase "anachronistic British sense of fair play" denote? I read it in the following sentence

The soldier believes in torturing information out of captured Germans while Blimp still holds to the anachronistic British sense of fair play.

  • where did tha read that sentence
    – James K
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 0:34

2 Answers 2


"Colonel Blimp" was a newspaper cartoon character invented in 1934 by the New Zealand cartoonist David Low. He was intended to satirise a certain type of pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British person. In 1943 the British film makers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made a film called The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp which is a satire on the British Army, especially its leadership. It suggests that Britain faced the option of following traditional (and anachronistic) notions of honourable warfare or to "fight dirty" in the face of such an evil enemy as Nazi Germany. The text in the question is slightly altered from that in a book about English film-makers.

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  • Could the quotation perhaps be a reference to something in the film? Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 13:49
  • @KateBunting - that is exactly what it is. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 13:54

Traditionally and stereotypically, British culture and particularly upper class British culture is supposed to particularly value fair play. Torture would presumably violate this valuer.

"Blimp" is a nickname often used (particularly in the period of say 1850-1950) for a British officer, particularly a Colonel (the standard phrase was "Colonel Blimp"). It suggested an officer from an upper class background, who was pompous and ineffectual. Thus the sentence suggests that the soldier favors obtaining information by torturing prisoners, while the officer objects to this, and says also that the officer's view is outdated, and by implication, that the soldier's view is better or at least more modern.

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