Friday, October 31

Tumbrel Remarks

From an article by Christopher Hitchens. The rest of the article's pretty dull--shocking, I know--but this part was pretty neat:

I like to consider myself an expert on what writer Joyce Cary once called "tumbrel remarks." A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. I can give you a few for flavor. The late queen mother, being driven in a Rolls-Royce through a stricken district of Manchester, England, said as she winced at the view, "I see no point at all in being poor." The Duke of St. Albans once told an interviewer that an ancestor of his had lost about 50 million pounds in a foolish speculation in South African goldfields, adding after a pause, "That was a lot of money in those days." The Duke of Devonshire, having been criticized in the London Times, announced in an annoyed and plaintive tone that he would no longer have the newspaper "in any of my houses."

See what I mean? It's easier for some reason to imagine this in the tones of the English upper class, though you do get examples of it in American accents as well. A Bostonian donor to my old college at Oxford was named Coolidge, and when I asked him if he was related to the president of the same name, he acted offended, and said: "Why, no. I believe he was one of the working Coolidges." Barbara Bush, acting the gracious hostess to refugees from New Orleans after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, managed to say that since many of them were underprivileged, life in a Texas sports stadium was "working very well for them." One sees what she was perhaps attempting to say.

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