The Rhodes Boysons Hour.

I was complaining bitterly about the hideous corporate-speak of an article I was editing, written by someone who had obviously had the rule of three pounded into them at an early age (and by “pounded” I mean “inculcated, instilled, and infused”), and a friend pointed me in the direction of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s brief skit “The Rhodes Boysons Hour“; it improved my lot (careful!), so I am passing it along in the hope that it will improve yours.

Comments

  1. “They’ll remember you in one breath with Newton, Einstein, Surak.”

  2. David Marjanović says:

    and by “pounded” I mean “inculcated, instilled, and infused”

    Wow. I was taught that Cicero did this (non feram, non patiar, non sinam), but not to do it myself!

  3. I suspect that the rule of three is part of the Indo-European inheritance, and I understand that in Native American rhetoric a rule of four takes its place. The motto of my not quite alma mater is a good example: respice, adspice, prospice.

  4. Bathrobe says:

    I’ve never heard of the rule of three (blush) but I’ve always suspected binaries. For instance, knowing two languages allows you to see that there is a another way of organising things, but also tends to give rise to pat binaries. Knowing a third blows binaries out of the water.

  5. I had forgotten about Rhodes Boyson but he only died in 2012 according to Wikipedia.

  6. I can go you one better — I’d never heard of him, and assumed Fry and Laurie invented the name and persona! Here‘s the Grauniad obit, for those as ignorant as I, delightfully written of course (“a conscious dressing for the part of a Dickensian heavy, with waistcoats and whiskers and a grumbling style of address which suggested a pedagogue lightly balancing a supple, therapeutic rattan cane… reactionary grumbles aside, he was a kind, companionable man, and excellent company.”).

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Same for me, LH! Thanks for sharing!

    JC: I suspect that the rule of three is part of the Indo-European inheritance,

    This was also the opinion of Georges Dumézil, the famous French Indo-Europeanist who did a lot of research on IE sociology and mythology.

    and I understand that in Native American rhetoric a rule of four takes its place.

    Four in many places, five in yet others! In some collections of tales written down by anthropologists/linguists, the published version shows two identical episodes, followed by a mention that two or three also identical episodes were recorded. But others give you the transcription of the entire story. It looks like some ethnic groups focused on the number 4 or 5 as a means of differentiating their own traditions from those of their neighbours. Such repetition is also a means of making sure that the audience becomes thoroughly familiar with the tradition.

  8. Trump has gone on record to the effect that if you tell (white) people a lie three times they will believe it. Per contra, Navajo culture allows a question to be answered with a lie the first three times it is asked, but the person who lies for the fourth time, it is believed, brings the consequences on his own head.

  9. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I had forgotten about Rhodes Boyson but he only died in 2012 according to Wikipedia.

    Likewise. He wasn’t one of my favourite when I was conscious of his existence but the Guardian obituary paints him in a more favourable light than I would have expected.

  10. I remember Rhodes Boyson as someone the Left was always trying to turn into a bogeyman. But his personality seemed to be such a caricature I could never take him seriously.

  11. The Fry & Laurie companion piece to this is “Welcome to the Smug Hour”, which is also on YouTube and which similarly transcends parody of a particular British phenomenon of the era.

    I’d forgotten the Rhodes Boyson sketch and was blithely assuming that the cant of “centre of excellence” only went back a decade or so. Stunned/elated/depressed to be reminded that it was already an object of mockery in 1990.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Trump has gone on record to the effect that if you tell (white) people a lie three times they will believe it.

    Lewis Carroll or one of his characters: “What I tell you three times is true.”

  13. Welcome to the Smug Hour, short and delightful.

  14. And of course Hardware Shop.

  15. Stu Clayton says:

    David:

    # “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
    That alone should encourage the crew.
    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
    What I tell you three times is true.” #

  16. marie-lucie says:

    repetition as a feature of tales

    Collections of traditional tales in languages barely understood not only miss many details of the languages but also miss the performance aspect of the tales, where a gifted storyteller is also an actor who can bring even a bare tale to life through voice control, timing and gesture.

    One story I remember (recorded by Boas) starts with the literal equivalent of (There was) One man. And one man. And one man. And one man.. It would not be right to translate this as There were four men. When I first thought about it I visualized a storyteller pointing to four different directions among the audience. Later in the story the men go to sea to hunt sealions and encounter One rock. And one rock. And one rock. And one rock, each one covered with sealions. Here again the storyteller would probably point to different directions as for the men earlier, each of whom deals with a different rock. So with the tales in which the same episode is narrated four or five times with the exact same words, I think that a good storyteller would gesture in such a way as to indicate non-verbally that each episode involves a different character.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    Fry & Laurie on language & beauty.

    “Let me explain, expound, expand and exposit.”

    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

    Ah, thanks – I think I knew that once…

  18. Off topic – in this New York Times article “Dutch Singing Road Silenced”:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/12/world/europe/netherlands-singing-road.html

    They give a pronunciation aid – “Ms. Poepjes (pronounced PO-pee-us)”

    I don’t know Dutch, but I thought I had a sense of how its diphthongs and consonants were pronounced. Is there a dialect or exception involved here? Or did the Times misinform to avoid letting us know it’s pronounced Poop-yes?

  19. Ha, I was going to ask the same thing! Anybody know?

  20. Poepjes (Dutch): it is pronounced as [pupjəs] (IPA notation), with the stress on the first syllable.
    Sometimes, in the northern part of The Netherlands, it’s pronounced like [pupis], again, with stress on the first.
    It’s a plural diminutive of poep, meaning turd.
    Poep is a singular noun, but it is also used as a collective, like hondenpoep (dog turds).
    I am a native Dutch speaker.

  21. Thanks! Someone should write the Times and rub their nose in their absurd error.

  22. Rodger C says:

    Just a guess: The Times asked someone from Grand Rapids, “How do you pronounce this?”

  23. It turns out you can get away with almost anything if you’re funny on “Have I Got News For You”. And the Northern accent helps; makes the press underestimate how much of an abusive SOB you are.

    Wikipedia notes:

    Boyson was first elected to the House of Commons in February 1974 for Brent North, and was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science 1979–1983. In this capacity he sought to uphold schools’ right to use the cane, and was nicknamed the “Minister for Flogging” by the anti-corporal-punishment campaign STOPP. He was Minister of State for Social Security 1983–1984, for Northern Ireland 1984–1986 and for Local Government 1986–1987.
    Boyson was a strong opponent of homosexuality and a supporter of Section 28. He said:
    “It is wrong biblically, is homosexuality. It is unnatural. AIDS is part of the fruits of the permissive society. The regular one-man, one-woman marriage would not put us at risk in this way. If we could wipe out homosexual practices, then Aids would die out.”

    A real charmer.

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