21 June: a roller-coaster ride; the language of ambivalence

Many years after the Battle of Waterloo Geoge IV (was it IV? I think so) used to tell everyone that he had fought in the front line at the battle. Wellington who was now Prime Minister used to say to him when asked for confirmation ‘I have heard your Majesty say this on many occasions’. There is a language to use when asked to complement someone or something that can, if you are skilled enough, leave open the interpretation whilst appearing to praise. The word ‘roller-coaster’ springs to mind. When asked to comment on whether or not you liked someone’s book, say to the author that the reading of the text was a real ‘roller-coaster ride’. They will be flattered. Do not add that you dislike roller-coasters and that for you they induce vomit. You may find other terms that fit this bill. They are words that for many have a positive connotation but for you are negative. Here, as in so many cases, the more different you are from the throng, the more your capacity to retain ironic distance is enhanced.

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