Monday smile – Interpreting meeting-speak

Today’s smile is an extract from a book first published in 1933, entitled “England, their England“, by A. G. Macdonell. It is social satire, and takes the form of a travel memoir by a Scotsman whose father’s will has obliged him to live in England. There he is commissioned by a Welshman to write a book about the English from a foreigner’s point of view. 🙂

The extract below ends a description of the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, involving an interpreter who would appear to be a proponent of plain language… 😉

“Honourable gentlemen and ladies of the Commission, of which I have the honour unworthily to act as Vice-Chairman, I would crave the permission of you all to put the following consideration before you. The hour is now a quarter to 2, and we have laboured long and earnestly this morning in the cause that we all have at heart, and I would put it to you, in all deference and submission, that the time is at hand when we must decide whether to adjourn now for midday refreshment and resume our task, our so important task, with redoubled vigour later in the day, or whether to continue without rest or interval until we have settled this problem while it is fresh in our minds. I submit, most honourable ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, that we should now come to a decision upon this matter. I will ask the most honourable interpreter to render into English the poor observations which I have had the honour to address to you.”

He bowed with old-world grace to right and to left and sat down. The interpreter, a rosy youth whose knowledge of languages was only equalled by the profundity of his thirst, sprang to his feet eagerly and said in a loud voice, “The Vice-Chairman says that if we don’t stop now we’ll be late for lunch,” and, snapping an elastic band round his note-book, he thrust it under his arm and walked out of the room. There was a helpless pause for a moment or two, and then the delegates, in ones and twos, headed by the British Dominions, streamed out into the corridor.


If this kind of English satire appeals to you, the book has recently been reprinted, and second-hand original editions are fairly easy to obtain.

N.B. Anyone who wants to find out more about the sport of cricket will probably enjoy the description in the book, for which it is famous.

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