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Another Englishman takes the world to task for its tea-time heresies!

Adams, author of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wrote this article back in 1999 and includes it as an entry in his ‘H2G2’ website, a sort of irreverent encyclopaedia for visiting aliens. I found it, by the way, on this site, via Google; I was searching for a defence of the Starbucks method of making tea but couldn’t find one. Anyway, I enjoyed Adams’ article, and thought it would be instructive to look at some of the similarities and differences between it and Hitchens’ article on the same topic.

Italics

Italics are used for emphasis here, albeit in two slightly different ways than the uses we looked at on Wednesday. When Adams writes ‘the water has to be boiling (not boiled) when it hits the tea leaves’ he italicises parts of words to emphasise the differences. In this sentence:

The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea.

Adams highlights an important part of a sentence. One shouldn’t use italics too much – it really should be an important piece of the text being highlighted. ‘Boiling’ is important because that is the essential word in the essential rule about making tea. The fact that Americans ‘have never had a good cup of tea’ is essential because that is the very reason he is writing the article.

Parenthesis and Digression

Adams has the same tendencies as Hitchens as far as brackets and dashes go, though he favours brackets more (as, I think, more British writers do). He uses a footnote too, something usually saved for academic writing, either to acknowledge a source or to make an important point that is not directly relevant to the main line of argument. Here, the effect is pseudo-academic. That is not a criticism: the whole idea is that we are reading an encyclopaedia for other visiting extra-terrestrials, most of whom are intellectually superior to us pathetic earthlings.

Tone

Adams is not indignant (or mock-indignant) as Hitchens was. The article is generally informative, with a bemused (or mock-bemused) undertone. Much of the humour in ‘A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ lies in abrupt changes in tone, and there’s a good example here:

Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t have milk with Earl Grey, just a slice of lemon. Screw them. I like it with milk.

Your encyclopaedia just turned obnoxious! Not a recommended strategy for an English exam, mind you. (I do agree with Adams here, though – Earl Grey is nice with milk.)

Challenge

Describe the best way to make a particular beverage. Be informative and only a little sarcastic. Then shock your reader with an abrupt (though not obscene) change of tone.

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