Bigger and better, like

Short aside. Teaching English in Germany, I often hear the mistake in comparative forms where Germans use a similar-sounding conjunction to their own:

Die Grünen sind beliebter als die SPD.

The Green Party is more popular as the SPD.

Curiously, where speakers use an alternative colloquial or dialect form of the comparative, it sometimes results in similar ‘mistranslations’ in English:

Es ist schneller mit dem Zug zu fahren wie mit dem Auto.

It’s faster to go by train like with the car.

Britain’s European policy

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?

James Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

James Hacker: Surely we’re all committed to the European ideal.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Really, Minister.

[laughs]

James Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact. The more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes.

James Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes. We call it diplomacy, Minister.

Yes, Minister: The Writing on the Wall (1980)