Cameron-Obama: A UK-US special relationship forged in syllables?
Ever since Winston Churchill coined the phrase 'special relationship' in 1945, the number of syllables in US presidents' and British premiers' names have often matched. Was David Cameron destined to become a three-syllable premier alongside Barack Obama?
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All of the (Lyndon B.) Johnson years, plus two of the (Richard) Nixon years, coincided with the (Harold) Wilson premiership. The last two (Jimmy) Carter years, and all of the (Ronald) Reagan years, coincided with (Margaret) Thatcher's time in office. And five of the (Bill) Clinton years matched with the (John) Major premiership, which led us into the eight-year Bush-Blair-Brown single-syllable special relationship.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, after a chilly miss-match between three-syllable Obama and one-syllable Brown, the two countries are in syllabic harmony again.
“As I told the Prime Minister,” Obama said in statement posted on the White House web site Tuesday, “the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries – a bond that has endured for generations and across party lines, and that is essential to the security and prosperity of our two countries, and the world.”
"It was very notable," says Reginald Dale of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., "that Obama used the phrase 'special relationship' when he congratulated Cameron on becoming prime minister. He was surprisingly fulsome in his remarks to Cameron, given that he has not shown much fondness for Britain."
Mr. Dale says that Obama's relationship with Gordon Brown suffered from personality differences because of the former British premier's "crankiness."
But the younger David Cameron is seen as a charming, graceful, smooth-talking politician more akin to Obama, who is also a young father. And because Cameron is arguably a conservative in a liberal country, while Obama is a liberal in a conservative country, Professor Blyth says the two actually meet somewhere in the middle.
Cameron has in the past questioned the concept of a special relationship, saying "the sooner we rediscover the right balance, the better for Britain and our alliance," though he reportedly reaffirmed ties during Obama's call on Tuesday and pledged continued military support in Afghanistan.
It may be noted that as Russia and US relations have warmed up over the past two years, their syllables have also matched up.
Medvedev, like Obama and Cameron, is a three-syllable name.
“I wouldn’t go too far with this,” says Dale. “That’s more trivia than a policy question.”
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