The arcane language of diplomacy…. and what it actually means II

“He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle…” said legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow about Winston Churchill – a quote later appropriated by US President John F.Kennedy while conferring honorary American citizenship on the late English premier. Interestingly, scores of diplomats do the same all through their careers but do not receive such fulsome praise.

I had acquainted you with some examples of what the otherwise innocous-sounding statements of diplomats do actually mean. You can read it here:

Most of the examples given in the post above related to how discussions and the outcomes are presented. Lets continue and take some formulaistic reponses to proposals and actions, in which the linguistic and semantic resources of the magnificent English language are stretched to the maximum limit they can be reasonably be expected to bear. Like the last, the phrase on the left, in bold, is the diplomatic phrase, and the italicised equivalent on the right is what it actually seeks to convey in a diplomatic way.

“We have our reservations” : “We refuse to acquiesce in this course you seem determined to pursue”.

“We respect….” :“We cannot agree completely with your stand, the wisdom of which we reserve judgment on….”.

“We praise….”“We are definitely not in total agreement with you but cannot but pay a backhanded compliment to your mental status”.

“We regret…..”  : You will regret. We are not at all satisfied with what you have done/failed to do.”.

“We are unhappy….” “We seriously oppose what you have done/propose to do“.

“We express deep anger”“Well, you have done it. There is nothing we can do about you now except take serious measures you will soon regret….”

“We are seriously concerned at the state of affairs” : “Do what we have asked you to do, otherwise we may interfere”.

“We are gravely concerned at the state of affairs” : “This is your last chance. Do what we want or we will probably interfere”.

“We cannot ignore….” : “We can’t believe what you have done, inspite of what we said. We will soon take action”.

“We reserve the right to react further”“We’ll take revenge for what you have done inspite our warnings”.

“We’ll review our position on this matter” : “Since you will not listen, we’ve decided to change our original (friendly) approach”.

“We will wait and see” :“This is our last warning in this matter to do/refrain from doing what we have been saying for so long”.

‘This is something we cannot possibly tolerate”:  “The gloves are off. We consider what you have done to be  an unfriendly act, an antagonistic act aimed at us, which may lead to war – but it is all you’re doing.”

And finally, to the biggest threat that can be made in diplomatic discourse.

“You will have to bear all consequences arising from….”“Now, you’ve done it and will pay for it. If possible, we will use force – but whatever happens to you is entirely your fault “.

To me, this word is one of the chilliest and dreaded threats one can face. You may laugh it off if someone who shakes his fist in your face but if someone calmly tells you “There will be consequences”, it is time to worry and make amends……)

After this, I don’t think there is anything more to be said……


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