The ‘Modelling of Speech’ in America and Britain

  • Stephen Mennell
Part of the St Antony's Series book series (STANTS)


Stephen Mennell met Hermínio Martins at Harvard in 1966. He reminisces how both were new to America and America new to them. Both began to strive to understand how Americans thought and how they perceived the world. How they spoke was one part of that. In this essay, Mennell takes Norbert Elias’s ‘Excursus on the modelling of speech at court’ to show how differences between American and British usage are related to social and international power ratios. A discussion of ‘the politics of euphemism’ and the functions of abstraction is related to American wars and violence. The emergence of ‘middling styles’ is related to more general processes of informalisation of manners. Finally, this in turn is related to shifts in power in the academic world and the emergence of the neo-liberal university that Martins so deplored.



I would like to thank Bridget Fowler and Cas Wouters for their comments on an earlier draft of this essay.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Mennell
    • 1
  1. 1.University College DublinDublinIreland

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