What the Brits say and what they re­ally mean

Financial Times Middle East - - Letters -

Sir, As an Amer­i­can writer liv­ing in the UK, I have learnt that the com­po­sure locked into its people man­ages to es­cape to their lan­guage. So man­nerly are the British that even when they are seething with in­dig­na­tion, rarely do they speak up, and if they do, what they ac­tu­ally mean is al­most al­ways ob­scured by how they ex­press them­selves.

Last week, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s spokesman sug­gested that the British spy agency helped Pres­i­dent Barack Obama eaves­drop on Mr Trump dur­ing his cam­paign, where­upon a British spokesman for GCHQ re­sponded that the claim was “non­sense” and “ut­terly ridicu­lous”. What was re­ally meant was: “You are an id­iot and I don’t like you.”

Only when the British are ex­tremely irked do they draw a line; but, even then, it’s usu­ally fore­shad­owed by the ver­bal fair warn­ing of “with all due re­spect”. There was no “due re­spect” for the White House when the British govern­ment de­manded an apol­ogy. Why should there have been? And, here, the Brits have man­aged to ex­press pre­cisely what they feel. Eden Collinsworth Lon­don W1. UK

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