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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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A diplomatic proposal

I’ve been having a nice discussion with some journalistts on diplomat-speak. So what’s the difference between note, consider and support? We’ve come up with some answers: Note – Oh, you’re here (and you look away). Consider: Oh, you’re here. How are you today? Support: Oh, you’re here. How are you today? I’m glad you could make it here….

It’s crazy how words play such a big part in the language of diplomacy. We’ve been having great fun with the phrase “cautiously optimistic”. We think it means: We really hope it will happen, but we think it won’t. Then there are the various degrees of….agree, affirm, endorse…..

Nothing gets my goat more than those long words that various parties use to describe things that make them gather together but cannot be properly described. Usefully vague words. Like instrument, platform, mechanism, architecture. My attempt at defining them. You SIGN an instrument, you SPEAK at a platform, you go through a PROCESS that is known as a mechanism and everything HANGS together in an architecture. Clearly, verbs do not belong in diplomacy.

And when verbs are used, it is preceded or followed by phrases that, in my view, simply make it pompous. You don’t consider something – it is under consideration; in consideration of. You don’t support something, you are supportive of. My favorite is: desirous of. Not good to desire anything I suppose.

What if one diplomat decides to propose to another:

Proposal: Desirous of forming a union with you, given our commonalities, I propose a common platform for the furtherance of our mutual interests.

Reply: I am supportive of your proposal and note that you are on bended knee. But our courtship is an on-going process which will be subject to a regular review. I am cautiously optimistic that a union can be achieved in interest of peace and stability. (In other words, no)


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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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