To listen to a conversation between Britons about their careers, say, or educational histories, an observer from a more forthright culture might be forgiven for assuming the participants were morbidly depressed. Chances are they’d be wrong. Self-deprecation is an inescapable part of British discourse. The only socially acceptable way to talk about one’s achievements is to diminish them. The affection held for that paragon of self-mockery, Stephen Fry, is testament to the national love of this brand of humour. The UK is, after all, a country where showing off is considered the height of bad form and boastfulness regarded as the very height of vulgarity. Charm and wit, by extension, are demonstrated by making oneself the butt of one’s own jokes. Outsiders might conclude that this tendency to self-effacement reflects the UK’s diminished global status as a former imperial power. But don’t be fooled. Times columnist Matthew Parris argues that this tendency is, in fact, a subtly disguised form of self-aggrandisement. “British self-deprecation is actually quite boastful,” he says. “Its primary purpose is to show how relaxed, at ease and confident you are. It’s a sign of being so in command that you can undersell yourself.” So is British self-deprecation just one big humblebrag? We really are useless, aren’t we, utterly useless."