Sheldon: Your shoes are delightful. Where did you get them?
Sheldon: Bazinga, I don’t care.
She found (or verified) that Germans really don’t do small talk, those little phrases so familiar to the British about the weather or a person’s general well-being, but which she describes as “empty verbiage”. In academic language, this is “phatic” conversation – it’s not meant to convey hard information but to perform some social function, such as making people feel good.
The German language doesn’t even have an expression for “small talk”, she says. It is so alien that in the German translation of A Bear called Paddington – Paddington unser kleiner Baer – it was omitted.
…For their part, the British have what House calls the “etiquette of simulation”. The British feign an interest in someone. They pretend to want to meet again when they don’t really. They simulate concern. Saying things like “It’s nice to meet you” are rarely meant the way they are said, she says. “It’s just words. It’s simulating interest in the other person.”
From a German perspective, this is uncomfortably close to deceit.
Ah, my father’s people, you make me so proud.
On a related note, I thought it was funny that I should happen across this very theme in a different context only shortly after reading this article:
Wittgenstein’s aim had been to stamp out posturing and empty verbiage, and his preference throughout his Cambridge career was for papers to be short as possible… English manners being foreign to Wittgenstein, he expressed many of his forthright views about Russell bluntly to his face. These included his low opinion of all Russell’s philosophical work since the First World War.