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As you all may have figured out, I have an affection for Britishisms and peculiar colloquiaisms of British speech. Recently, I came across an inscrutable one watching the hilarious FX show Archer, and so wondered if someone knowledgeable might decipher the meaning of the phrase "God and my twin vicars" for me.

Now, something that complicates this question is that Archer is meant to be a humorous show, which means that proper interpretation requires taking into account prior context. The relevant context here, as far as I can discern, is that one speaker, Captain Reginald Thistleton, is supposed to be a parody of an upper-class officer, and the other speaker, Woodhouse, is a former Lawrence-of-Arabia type who fought in the War as Thistleton's protege, and is now an aged manservant flashing back to his exploits. I've included a brief transcript for clarity; Thistleton is just emerging from his fighter plane:

THISTLETON: I say, Woodhouse!
WOODHOUSE: Yessir?
THISTLETON: The Hun' did a fair job of stitching up the old kite this time, what.
WOODHOUSE: Thank God you're all right sir!
THISTLETON: God and my twin vicars, Woodhouse. Quart old Jerry au chandelle[??]
Old bastard went down like a quail.
THISTLETON (exclaims): You scoundrel! Is that brandy?
WOODHOUSE (beaming): Thought you'd like a pick-me-up, sir.
THISLETON: Woodhouse! You're a rose among thorns.

What does it mean? Would a native British English speaker easily recognize this reference?

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Well, readers, I realize now that this was another one of my "misinterpretation questions": The actual word was "Vickers," not "vicars." –  Uticensis Oct 28 '13 at 9:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 23 down vote accepted

The Vickers was a British machine gun, there were likely two mounted on Thistleton's fighter. The humour is in the confusion between the homophones Vickers and vicars in a sentence that references God.

The Vickers K machine gun, known as the Vickers Gas Operated (VGO) in British service, was a rapid-firing machine gun developed and manufactured for use in aircraft by Vickers-Armstrongs.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_K_machine_gun

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+1 Nice one Andy, obviously my pacifist tendencies do not lend themselves to subtle armament references. –  Orbling Mar 15 '11 at 1:37
    
I was so excited to post about this and then I saw that you'd beaten me to it. :-( –  Hellion Mar 15 '11 at 2:24

Right, the important line is the one above it.

WOODHOUSE: Thank God you're all right sir!

THISTLETON: God and my twin vicars, Woodhouse. Caught old Jerry au chandelle. Old bastard went down like a quail.

Woodhouse is saying, "thank God you're all right", and Thistleton is agreeing and expanding who is to be thanked. Not just God, but his twin vicars as well. ie. it took a lot of divine intervention to save him. It is not a standard phrase, just one invented on the spur of the moment no doubt.

Having said that, responding to "Thank God!", with "God and ..." is relatively commonplace. Either to add something genuine, "Thank God you're alive. / God and this man, he saved my life."; or to exaggerate as above. Also used with "God knows.", eg. "God knows where my husband goes Friday nights. / God and Mrs Smith at number 32."

The second part of that sentence will be "caught old Jerry", not quart. Old Jerry being the Germans. I do not know if you have transcribed the latter bit right, I would be expecting some state of being after that, "au chandelle" could mean caught them during the flight manoeuvre, the Chandelle. The fact he says the "old bastard went down like a quail", confirms that it is referring to a take down mid-air, a quail being a tiny bird.

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I was just writing that! +1... –  John Mar 15 '11 at 1:00
    
@John: Apologies for my speed. ;-) –  Orbling Mar 15 '11 at 1:04
    
Haha, no problem. :-) –  John Mar 15 '11 at 1:05
1  
Great answer! I thought "the old Jerry" line was referring to some special kind of French liquor; that's about the time that port and other spirits were all the rage in England, right? @John: Don't be afraid to add more if you can! –  Uticensis Mar 15 '11 at 1:07
    
@Billare: Expanded the answer a little bit on the phraseology you where questioning. –  Orbling Mar 15 '11 at 1:15

The joke is that it's a real machine gun, but if you don't know what it means it sounds like a euphemism for his balls. The episode is full of innuendo because there's nothing gayer than WWI. Another example is when Reggie initiates the tontine and says "Come on, lads, show some stones!" and Woodhouse (Wodehouse?) says "I'll show you my stones, sir!"

Edit: In light of the previous responses, I want to make it clear that I'm totally serious. Part of the context of the joke is that most of the audience won't be up on their turn of the century armaments, so will just hear a reference to two things that saved him in battle and a word that sounds familiar but clearly doesn't mean the usual thing. Most people in that linguistic situation (esp. Archer's writers) would assume you mean balls, at least provisionally.

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