Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Pleasant and elastic phraseologer for hire

Daughter am I in my mother's house; But mistress in my own.

A SMALL but not unimportant incident in the recent Canadian national election would have passed unnoticed except that I remembered Kipling's poem (``Our Lady of the Snows,'' 1898). The Dominion of Canada and the British Empire resolved their separation sometime since, but a curious fact remains - Queen Elizabeth II is still Queen of Canada.

About these ads

(Except that Cape Breton Island still has Highlandish Scots who will tell you the real Queen Elizabeth I was never queen of Scotland, so Queen Elizabeth II is really only Queen Elizabeth I. On the other hand, more than a few New Brunswick loyalists still hoist the old Union Jack and refuse to fly ``Mr. Pearson's flag.'' We've heard a good deal about the French culture of Quebec, but less about other aspects of Canada's mixtures.)

Anyway, in the recent elections, Mr. Turner attempted to bounce Prime Minister Mulroney, a Liberal against the Tories, and Mr. Turner spoke disrespectfully about the trade agreements Mr. Mulroney had arranged with the United States.

To give Mr. Mulroney a leg up, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opinionated from London that she thought the trade agreements were worth supporting and with (I thought) needless rudeness, Mr. Turner told Mrs. Thatcher those agreements were none of her business.

In a way this is so, but I felt Mr. Turner could have found a more tactful way to tell the busybody that she should keep her long nose out of things that don't concern her. My immediate thought was that if Mr. Turner should win the election, his first sticky moment would come when Mrs. Thatcher telephoned to convey Her Majesty's congratulations on a stirring victory.

I'm sure Mrs. Thatcher would be a lady and conceal her disdain at Mr. Turner's clumsy words, but Mr. Turner would certainly be in a feckless situation and would be wishing all during the official conversation that he had been more careful with his remarks. I would not like to have Mrs. Thatcher mad at me.

Under the circumstances Mr. Turner would have to be uneasy, and he might feel so upset at his own foolishness that he would become quite unready to assume the awesome duties to which he had been elected. He might well have chewed his thumb and wished he'd lost.

My worries about Mr. Turner went no further than that, but that was enough to teach us that all politicians should be cautious with remarks made in the heat of battle.

About these ads

If I had nothing better to do, I might turn consultant for ambitious political campaigners and spare them (for a fee) such an error as Mr. Turner made. I couldn't guarantee election, but I could promise pleasant (if elastic) phraseology and syntax that would let a man put his foot in his mouth with some way of extricating it later.

I would probably have written a few words for Mr. Turner that quoted Rudyard Kipling (as above) and told Mrs. Thatcher politely that Canada now wears long pants and Mother's ap'n strings are shorter this season. I would choose the words for their soothing sounds and persuasive values, so that Mrs. Thatcher would know she'd been told to mind her own affairs but wouldn't go up in the air about it and take umbrage. I would invite her to take tiffin along the Miramichi when the salmon run next season and all the world is serenity and gladness, and all options could be considered with calm reflection, and meantime to lay low and say nuffin'. She would be entranced with my affability and good humor, but she'd know dad-blamed well she'd been told to tie a rag around her tongue and sit down.

I would want her to say, ``Well, I may have been a mite off on that one, but the man is pleasant and seems to want to be friendly.'' Mr. Turner, for his part, would be happy that he could shoot his mouth off without stirring up a long-term animosity.

Years ago we had a local election. Judge Dudley ran against Stanley Studley for humane officer, and we had the famous Studley-Dudley Debates. Studley took the podium, bowed at Judge Dudley, and extemporized: ``Dishonorable and disreputable Sir, whose ignorance is bliss and where folly is wisdom, oppressor of the Truth, despoiler of probity, voilator of righteousness, friend of the wicked and enemy of justice, besmircher, prevaricator, vile and contemptible, and ladies and gentlemen....''

When Judge Dudley's turn came, he began: ``My dear Studley - I acknowledge and accept the compliments you have paid me, and have listened as well to the rest of your persiflage, preposterous palaver, and irrepressible flapdoodle....'' But the thing is that neither Studley nor Dudley got wrought up. If you say it right, you can say just about anything.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.