Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


Unnamed EU officials described EU Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand to The Guardian in these terms:

“She has got a real affection for and understanding of the UK,” said another EU official who knows her well. Several say she has a very British sense of humour, with a taste for sarcasm and irony. “She is really fun to work with; very direct, very quick, no bullshit,” said the official.

The comments “understanding of the UK” and “no bullshit” are direct quotes, whereas “British sense of humour” is not, which I note because I am wondering whether anyone who was not British would particularly associate the British with humour. Sarcasm possibly. But irony*? I wonder if the EU officials might have said she had a sense of irony and the British journalists translated that into “British sense of humour”, because that’s how they like to imagine themselves.

It seems like the UK had settled on the line, we may have lost our Empire, our power, our influence in the world, our manufacturing base, and even most of our self respect. But we haven’t lost our sense of humour about it all.

And then they did.

* I am supposing irony to be used in its everyday sense, and not in the technical sense used in literary criticism, a dramatic device where

the words and actions of the characters contradict the real situation, which the spectators fully realise.

Brexit has shown the British to be true masters of this device, but it is conventionally reckoned to tragedy, not to comedy. Perhaps they were misinformed.

If it is revealed in the end that Brexit was actually a piece of performance art, it will have been retrospectively hilarious.

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