The Queen’s English

the-queen-movie-posters-2006Have you seen The Queen? Great film in general: documentary-fictionalized mix, History Channel with behind-the-scenes tidbits, wonderful performance by Helen Mirren, etc. But towards the end I was knocked right out of the suspension of disbelief by an odd ambiguity in the writing. Unfortunately enough it comes out of the mouth of the Queen herself. As I remember, it occurs when the Tony Blair character comes in to see Elizabeth II after she has finally made her speech about the death of Diana. He praises her for the speech and she replies (a paraphrase):

“Some of your associates were not so fulsome.” There it is: the hypercorrecting belief that “fulsome” is a fancy way of saying “copious” or “abundant” when its primary meaning is actually “gross, offensive.” Certainly this is a slippage of meaning that is in pretty common usage, but in the mouth of the Queen? Is it the mistake of Peter Morgan the scriptwriter? Is it a sly bit of characterization in which the lapse in a precise use of the English language parallels the other problems of the royal family? Or is the Queen subtly attacking Blair’s previous speech in a way he is not able to appreciate because of his own faulty background? You decide. I’m just glad she didn’t say “between you and I.”

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