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Schama on UK elections
May 5, 2005 2:07 AM   Subscribe

Simon Schama compares UK and US elections and discovers that the most beautiful women in the world can be rather hairy.
posted by TimothyMason (22 comments total)

 
Sorry, this article lost me at the first incoherent run-on sentence.
posted by acetonic at 2:54 AM on May 5, 2005


Yobs, swabs, SBL

Translation?

a British election looks rather closer to Rousseau's ideal. In these few days I've heard colleagues say they've never seen an election more remote from the people, to which I can only reply, try coming to Baltimore or Minneapolis

Bah.

The cheers got as riotous as English cheers can get

... outside a soccer stadium, I suppose he means.

Or was I just nostalgic

A bit, yes.
posted by Turtle at 3:02 AM on May 5, 2005


this article lost me at the first incoherent run-on sentence.

Oxbridge dons have that effect on many! Not sure it was incoherent though!

was I just nostalgic; childishly elated to be on the electoral roll for the first time, after 20 years of residential disenfranchisement

For shame Simon. For shame.
posted by dmt at 3:03 AM on May 5, 2005


Sorry, this article lost me at the first incoherent run-on sentence.

What, this one?

It was when Michael Howard shifted into the conditional mood that I knew which side of the Atlantic I was really on.

I don't understand. Well, the article's a bit long and possibly a bit incomprehensible for Americans not familiar with British political figures but then it's not really written for you lot I suppose. I personally don't think you can beat imagery like 'cornflake-crisp optimism'. Schama's a great writer.
posted by Summer at 3:45 AM on May 5, 2005


There are some nice lines and jokes in that piece, but I found it rambled a bit too much. Could have done with some serious subbing in my opinion.

dmt

I presume he wasn't on the electoral roll in the UK because he was resident in the US.
posted by johnny novak at 3:48 AM on May 5, 2005


I don't want to be repetitive, but I'd like to know: what was the "first incoherent run-on sentence"? Do I win a prize if I guess correctly?
posted by mleonard at 4:35 AM on May 5, 2005


I presume he wasn't on the electoral roll in the UK because he was resident in the US.

He couldn't have voted by post? He's a history don. He's expected to know that overseas voters' ballots have decided some marginals in the past!

Speaking of postal voting, someone charaterised this one as the 'vote early, vote often election.' Sad.
posted by dmt at 5:40 AM on May 5, 2005


... outside a soccer stadium, I suppose he means.

Cultural misunderstanding here - the English never cheer at soccer matches.
posted by TimothyMason at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2005


For shame Simon. For shame.

I'm not sure what you're trying to shame Schama for, but I sincerely hope it's not for using "disenfranchisement." The people who think it shouldn't be a word are the same people who think that the phrase "double negative" has some bearing on how language should work and that crazed "rules" about splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions should be treated seriously, ie, deluded authoritarians. The verb "disenfranchise" has been around for 400 years and is in all the dictionaries; I don't know about the UK, but in the US it's the normal word for the meaning (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate defines it as "to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially : to deprive of the right to vote" and under its rival says simply "disfranchise : DISENFRANCHISE"). So if that's what's bothering you, move on to something more promising, like his prolix writing style.
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on May 5, 2005


"Yobs, swabs, SBL

Translation?"

Oh please... no-one's forcing you to take an interest in British affairs, but the meaning of this part is easily deducible from the rest of the article.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:10 AM on May 5, 2005


OK... I reread the article more carefully and caught that SBL stands for "Somewhat Beloved Leader". Perhaps a reference to something specific, or just a twist on the North Korean Leader's epithet?

A yob is "a rowdy, aggressive, or violent young man".

A swab might be a sailor or a lout. Oh, nope, it was a reference to an apparent cotton swab shortage in hospitals. By the way, a matron is apparently "a woman in charge of nursing in a medical institution". Not sure what Matron is, though.

Absolutely no offense intended. I just sometimes have trouble understanding British English. Even in written form apparently.
posted by Turtle at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2005


The Daily Show had a good contrast segment on the two elections last night.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 7:52 AM on May 5, 2005


"Absolutely no offense intended. I just sometimes have trouble understanding British English. Even in written form apparently."

None taken - please forgive the exasperation though, we Brits have to cope with a lot of fairly opaque US-speak on this site, and we seem to manage.

'Matron' is/was the form of address for matrons in hospitals - and (in a cultural reference you're definitely forgiven for not getting!) commonly heard in several 'Carry On' films... a relevant one here
posted by altolinguistic at 8:27 AM on May 5, 2005


languagehat: I don't think it was any single word that particularly bugged him.

The comment he complained about was was I just nostalgic; childishly elated to be on the electoral roll for the first time, after 20 years of residential disenfranchisement

Which while not incoherent, is certanly pompus sounding.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on May 5, 2005


So if that's what's bothering you, move on to something more promising, like his prolix writing style.

I love Simon Schama to bits but was disappointed that he hadn't been registered to vote by post during one of the most controversial periods of modern British political history - I see it as a civic duty and thought that he'd feel the same way. We've had postal voting since 1918 - it can't have passed him by so this 'residential disenfranchisement' is, while a glib phrase, clearly bollocks.

My second comment clearly indicated as much which you'd have noticed if you'd bothered to read on before making unfounded assumptions. I'm surprised of you - you're one of my faves here, having a bad day?

He is terribly prolix here isn't he? A surprise. His books aren't and he doesn't sound like this on television.
posted by dmt at 8:44 AM on May 5, 2005


He teaches at Columbia University in New York City, at least, when he actually teaching and doing history and not off writing rambling articles on which he is no more expert than any other moderately literate expat. Now if he were writing on seventeenth century Dutch culture, I would sit up and pay attention.

I'd give it a B for some good analysis, but he really needed to strengthen his thesis and argument structure.
posted by jb at 8:50 AM on May 5, 2005


dmt: Was he referring to not being able to vote in Britain, or wishing he had the right to vote in the US? The policies there do affect him directly.
posted by jb at 8:52 AM on May 5, 2005


He must have voted in a previous UK election, either by post or proxy, while resident in the US. Otherwise, according to this article, he would have lost his right to vote.
posted by mleonard at 9:47 AM on May 5, 2005


I'll correct myself before someone else does it. In order to retain the right to vote while resident overseas he must have registered as an elector within the last 15 years. Although I find it unlikely that someone would register and then not bother to vote.
I'm assuming that he hasn't returned to the UK on a permanent basis? If that were the case, I expect he would regain his voting rights.
posted by mleonard at 9:59 AM on May 5, 2005


There aren't any run-on sentences in the article. There are, however, quite a few sentences without predicates. "About himself. About Britain. Proud. Immigrant roots. State school. Really proud. Work hard. Do well. What Britain's all about. Not layabout." I think that these capture the general tenor of a political speech pretty well, so I am not complaining.

As to incoherent, I don't think so, but I have friends who are British so my ear is attuned to British English. He's not writing for an American audience.
posted by tkb at 2:00 PM on May 5, 2005


delmoi: It certainly is.

dmt: Come now, you can hardly expect me to read through all your comments seriatim and parse them to decide what you might have meant in the first one. I wasn't so much making unfounded assumptions as unburdening myself about the "dis(en)franchisement" hoo-ha, using your comment as a peg; you'll note I wasn't snarky about you but about the people who obsess about that. Since you're not one of them, the only part addressed to you is a recommendation to complain about his prolix writing style, which it turns out you agree with. And I agree with you that in general he's an excellent writer (I loved Citizens when I was immersing myself in the French Revolution); I too was surprised at the substandard prose here. Friends?
posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on May 5, 2005


For sure. You do after all, rule.
posted by dmt at 6:59 AM on May 8, 2005


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