Differences or not?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 6:51 | Posted in languages, Not serious | 3 Comments

I am quoting Secretary Clinton according to the US State Department’s official blog (Boldface added by me.):

This follows on the work that we began over the last many months to transform the relationship between our two countries, to find common ground wherever we can, to further mutual respect and mutual interests, without in any way accepting the fact that there are not differences between us, because there are.

Wait a minute! I know that diplomatic language is tricky but this one takes the cake. There are three statements in the last boldfaced part of the sentence which are partly contradicting each other. Namely:

  1. It is a fact that there are “not differences between us“, i.e. Russia and USA.
  2. Russia and USA do not accept that fact.
  3. There are differences between Russia and USA.

So would somebody please explain whether there are differences or not and if there are not, do the two countries accept it or not. Or do they accept that there are differences but pretend there are not?

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3 Comments »

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  1. I think this must have been an improvised comment rather than a planned one. It sounds like she started in one direction, tried to change course, then the double negative confused her and led to her unfortunate reference to the “fact” of no differences.

    I just thank God I don’t have to speak in public.

  2. That is obviously what happened if you watch the video on the State blog. They could have made it right in the transcript, though, to eliminate the very sort of ragging I am performing here :-)

  3. I think the original statement would make more sense and read better if “accepting the fact” were changed to “accepting as factual”, or, even more naturally sounding, “accepting the assumption”.

    As to “differences between us (the US and Russia)” the Secretary is referring to policy stances and not to something abstract as to what it means to be similar or different on a human or national level. It is a fact that there are quite wide policy differences between the US and Russia. Clinton’s statement should be read to say that “we are working together to find common ground with the Russians, but nobody harbors the illusion that we don’t have major disagreements between ourselves.”


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