Learning Euphuism

Samved Iyer
3 min readAug 7, 2021

I have often felt, and it may on some occasions prove true, that euphuistic sentence constructions may often prove good substitutes for code language.

I adduce here four instances of euphuistic sentence constructions from the timeless classic British T. V. series Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister from the 1980s — those monologues which I managed to memorize for sheer fun.

Prime Minister James Hacker: It was the one question to which I could give a clear, simple, straightforward and honest answer.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes. Unfortunately while the answer was indeed clear, simple and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated is such as to cause epistemological problems of sufficient magnitude, as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they may reasonably be expected to bear.

Summary: So difficult is it to reconcile what you said with what is true that the logical and semantic resources of the English language would be under too great a duress should they be employed for that purpose.
Laconic interpretation: You told a lie.

In view of the somewhat nebulous and inexplicit nature of your remit and the arguably marginal and peripheral nature of your influence within the central deliberations and decisions of the political process, there could be a case for restructuring their action priorities in such a way as to eliminate your liquidation from their immediate agenda.

— Sir Humphrey Appleby

Summary: You are too unimportant a policymaker to be of an interesting target of assassination to terrorists.

Minister, the traditional allocation of executive responsibilities has always been so determined as to liberate the ministerial incumbent from the administrative minutiae by devolving the managerial functions to those whose experiences and qualifications have better formed them for the performance of such humble offices thereby releasing their political overlords for the more onerous duties and profound deliberations that are the inevitable concomitant of their exalted position.

— Sir Humphrey Appleby

Summary: Minister, the details of administrative functioning are best left to us civil servants to determine while the political masters are best suited for deeper policymaking decisions.
Laconic interpretation: You are not here to run this department.

(Prime Minister Hacker says that he was considering the transfer of some duties of the Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, to the Treasury Department, administratively under the control of its Permanent Secretary Sir Frank Gordon. Before Hacker reveals his thoughts, Sir Frank had said that Sir Humphrey was not really overstretched with work. Seeing an opportunity to be given more authority, Sir Frank changes his mind).

When I said ‘not overstretched’, I was of course talking in the sense of total cumulative loading taken globally, rather than in respect of certain individual and essentially anomalous responsibilities which are not logically speaking consonant or harmonious with the broad spectrum of intermeshing and inseparable functions, and could indeed be said to place an excessive and supererogatory burden on the office, when considered in relation to the comparatively exiguous advantages of their overall centralization.

— Sir Frank Gordon

Summary: While on the whole Sir Humphrey may not be burdened with too much work, there are some inevitable and generally unnecessary functions that could be said to constitute somewhat of a hindrances to his overall duty.
Laconic summary: He has not much work to do, but I want some of it nonetheless.

The civil servants are absolute masters of the English language, so far as the endeavour of employing a profusion of words to say but a little is concerned.



Samved Iyer

Write as I do for contentment alone, it is made more worthwhile still by the patience of readers, and for that virtue, herewith, my sincere appreciation.