What does a conductor do?

This is one of the most common questions that I have been asked over many years. If anyone else has had difficulty in giving an adequate/eloquent response may I humbly suggest the answer is here - see the link.

If anyone asks in the future you could save this link to pass on - it saves a heck of a lot of explanation.


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  • Composting would also have been an acceptable answer
  • Longfellow (he was quite tall) wasn't actually talking about English humour when he wrote:

    There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very good indeed,
    But when she was bad she was horrid.

    I mentioned something in a post on CF that Winston Churchill once said when a woman accused him of being drunk (bearing in mind he had a speech impediment which made him slur the letter 'S').

    'And you madam are ugly, but in the morning I shall be shober'.

    I have a feeling this didn't go down too well - it could be construed as unpleasant - but I think it's a good comeback to someone who was ill-mannered herself in making the initial comment. Incidentally, it's reported that the (English, 'upper class' (as construed in the 1940's)) woman understood the irony and genuinely laughed at Churchill's quick wittedness.

    In truth I have often heard that English/American, American/English humour doesn't travel well (we don't even spell the word the same way). I found this on the internet which goes some way to understanding the issue (not that I agree with it in it's entirety):

    Why do Americans fail to understand (mainly British) Ironic statements?

    (by Melanie Kenney, Ecologist, mycophile, and tinkering enthusiast)

    Yep! It’s cultural. I’m half French, and the French also appreciate irony, but I’ve had trouble integrating irony into my every-day life (outside of intimate relationships) in the United States because of cultural barriers that make irony a hard sell in most places outside of New York. I’ve put some thought to the matter, and here are my conclusions:
    Ironic statements are usually made either deadpan (no facial expression indicating a joke), with a slight grimace or angling of the head, or with a very slight vocal inflection, or with an eyebrow raise. Americans are generally not primed to pick up on implicit humour, so it’s very easy for them/us to misunderstand an ironic statement presented in these ways. They aren’t used to paying attention to irony cues, so they usually don’t understand. In the United States, humour is usually fairly explicit; a joke is told with a punch line, or the humour has a very physical or visual element to it (think slapstick) that marks the statement or depiction as a joke. Even if you don’t “get” it, you understand that a joke was made.
    Secondly, American humour is fairly earnest; it’s considered risqué or bad form to make statements at something or someone’s expense, which is fairly standard when it comes to irony. Combined with the fact that American humour is presented explicitly, you end up with a sort of void of understanding among most Americans when they’re confronted with small, ironic statements that are a little bit deprecating. Such statements aren’t expected, and therefore aren’t on Americans’ “radar.”
    We can also think about it in a different way. “British” irony requires a tacit understanding between the person making the statement and the person(s) receiving. Mutual understanding presupposes a certain set of shared values and a basic capacity to perceive subtext, neither of which are sure bets in the US. Ironic statements aren’t totally absent in the states, but few people pick up on them because our methods of humour function as reinforcement of a totally different perceptual habit.
    Furthermore, unless among very close friends, Americans like to maintain a veneer of “niceness.” Irony is not “nice.” Never mind that in cultures where irony is common, it’s taken as a given that ironic statements aren’t Serious Jabs, so people are not so easily offended, or appreciate the joke too much to bother taking it personally. In the US, however, to make an ironic statement in company that you don’t know very well might be construed as mean-spirited, or, if someone else among the company also appreciates the joke while it flew over the others’ heads, it creates a dynamic in which some people are included (those who caught on) and others are excluded (those who didn’t). This makes Americans very uncomfortable.
    These are all rank generalizations; inclusion/exclusion in regular conversations (especially in company of mixed gender) is very common in the U.S., but seldom on the basis of humour alone.

    Have any of our American cousins come up against this problem themselves I wonder?

    Incidentally, I sincerely hope I haven't offended anyone on CF by quoting Churchill, or in any other way for that matter.


  • Interesting, because in America we tend to think that it's the Brits that maintain a veneer of niceness. Right now many Americans out and out don't like each other, and aren't shy about showing it. This seems to be especially true on social media where one can hide their identity (though not a requirement) and the humor is especially harsh. 

  • Kind of ironic that Longfellow wasn’t talking about English humour
  • Dark humour is a British speciality and a good way of dealing with things psychologically. I did a 2-week riding course with the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in the 70's. On arrival we 6 students were met by 6 horses attended by 6 grooms - one of which was in the process of feeding an apple to his charge. When the horse had finished the groom kissed it on the muzzle - something he'd been doing for 3 years with that particular horse (this is a true story by the way). Bad timing meant the horse was bothered by a fly at that very moment and shook his head to get rid of it. The horse's top teeth caught the groom's bottom teeth and the shake was sufficiently powerful to rip the grooms jaw open - it was just managing not to fall off in its entirety.

    Afterwards I overheard one of the other students telling the story to someone else: his truly ironic punchline was: 'You should have seen it, the bloke was speechless'.

    There's British irony for you. 

  • Lol!  Stephen, you need to set that story to music.  You might also say the bloke mouthed off to (by) the wrong horse :)

  • Gav,

         There's a new web site for funeral directors.  It's called Decomposers Forum.  It's quite an undertaking.

  • Oh come on Gav, how low can you get?

    ..... 6 feet? :-)
  • I’ve always thought Necroica was his best undertaking

  • If you're thinking of Orpheus he went a bit deeper than that.

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