Update: Welcome Iain Dale readers
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Former warrior-diplomat Al Haig has died, aged 85.
The obituaries are noting his unique contribution to the English language:
The Washington Post’s George F. Will called him as “an aerobic instructor for the English language, making it twist and stretch.” His instructions took the form of “Haigspeak,” which uniquely combined periphrasis, convolution, and bureaucratese, with a healthy salting of neologisms. “Caveat” was a verb in Haigspeak, and “epistemologicallywise” an adverb.
Basically, he inclined towards convoluted vocabulry of an extreme order.
To the point where (I was told) the following remarkable episode occurred.
Haig was US Secretary of State during the Falklands crisis. The then British Foreign Secretary and a team of senior officials had a meeting with him in Washington.
It went well enough. They departed in the car. Then they started to analyse what he had said. It became clear that one important sentence had been so opaque and tangled that its meaning was quite unclear.
Hence, an awkward question arose. How to go back to the US side to try to get the sentence explained?
It was rather embarrassing for the Foreign Secretary to telephone Haig to ask him to translate himself. But if the Brits asked his officials they might give an answer which was not what Haig meant, if indeed Haig’s people themselves had understood what he had meant.
A lively discussion ensued.
Somehow it was sorted out.
And we retook the Falklands.