I am reading Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson, for a marginal commentary, and I have to share what is perhaps the funniest example of typical English understatement in the work (p. 464).

It comes at the end of a series of strange adventures and mishaps that befall one of the protagonists, a ne'er-do-well by the name of Jack Shaftoe, and no summary can do them justice: you will have to read the chapter (pp. 450-64) for yourself.

The passage goes:
"We've missed you Jack," [Eliza] said, "where've you been?"
"Running an errand—meeting some locals—partaking of their rich traditions," Jack said. "Can we get out of Germany now, please?"


  1. I loved this book! I read it a few summers ago, and meant to continue on to the next one, but got too busy. I really want to continue the series because this first book was so much fun.

    1. It's been an enjoyable read thus far!

  2. You might like an example of understatement from here:

    "It is, by the way, very difficult to perform vasectomies on mosquitoes."

    1. From a literary perspective, the chief virtue, I think, of the line you quote is that it is easy to 'get' without having to read the whole of what has gone before.


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