Sunday, 28 February 2010

Requests and Requires

The second best* thing about being British is the bit of text written in preposterously florid italics on the inside flap of your passport.

Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely etc etc

(Blogger cannot do justice to the font and neither can Word, I just checked. The original typeface was developed by a secret team of crack orthographers in 1864 to assert British hegemony and Maintain The Empire).

There is something so laughable yet laudable about the phrase "requests and requires". It has a tone so deliciously, unprovokedly bellicose. It asks politely - requests - and then, without waiting for acquiesence or rejection, just requires, casts away the sham of good manners and jolly well tells the mischievous Johnny Foreigner to stop mucking about. "We asked you nicely two words ago, now we're fucking telling you." It makes me nostalgic for the days when a thoroughly disproportionate gunboat would follow each and every Briton on his unfortunate but necessary ventures into the bloodiness of foreignland (where foreigners come from). And yet... and yet... the dignity is maintained by that simple "and". As though Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State (currently David Miliband) cannot request without also requiring, such is his Dread Might. Rhetorically, it is not correctio - a retraction and restatement - but a grand epexegesis - a redefinition of a previous word. David Miliband's merest whim is your solemn decree. But I'm sure you knew that anyway.

I don't know why I keep mentioning this guy.

*The best thing is being absolutely certain that you're not Dutch.

1 comment:

  1. Could it be Milli's clip on 'Lego' hair that attracts you so?