"the apocryphal HDAS III"

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Wed Aug 4 01:23:37 UTC 2010

On 8/3/10 6:27 PM, Dave Wilton wrote:
> There may be a sample bias here.
> An American is more likely to encounter an English writer who makes their living off writing--novelists, essayists, etc., but will typically encounter a much broader range of American writers, including business people, doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc. Creative and witty writing is not necessarily rewarded in these other field. (Nor should it be, especially; I'd rather have an ironclad contract written in impenetrable jargon than one with clauses of dubious legality that is a wonder to read).
> As to my experience in negotiations, I'd give my American colleagues higher marks for wit, creativity, nonconformity, and argumentation any day. But then I only dealt with a single British diplomat on a regular basis, so I wouldn't judge the entire British diplomatic corps on that one example. (I'm not saying he wasn't competent, just not a sterling example of rhetorical and literary expertise.) Plus, I knew a bunch of zeroes on the American side, too--including one who, in a very late night of negotiations lost it and called the Israeli delegate a "liar." (Not the most shining moment of American diplomacy.)

Indeed. Back in the 80s, PBS stations in the US regularly aired various
British sitcoms. These were much wittier than the comparable American
comedies. In the winter of 1985 (or so), I went to England for a
conference at Oxford. One of the things I was looking forward to was a
chance to see more British sitcoms. Well...then I saw the ones that PBS
hadn't picked up...All I can say is ouch.
Alice Faber                                       faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                            tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                               fax (203) 865-8963

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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