Letter: Empty rhetoric

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The Independent Online
THE phrase "You'll have had your tea" does not come from Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as Irvine Welsh claims ("Choose theatre, get ecstatic", 16 February). The phrase is an old and well-known piece of Edinburgh irony.

I heard an interesting variant of it from Professor Norman Stone. As a boy, Stone was taken to visit an aunt in Morningside, where he was given (in his words) "a slice of ham that you could see the plate through". After he had wolfed this down, the hostess took the plate away, saying "Would Norman have liked some more?" Stone described this kind of phrase as "the rhetorical negative".

DAVE DENNISON

Edinburgh

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