A Figarist posted the inevitable question on Ask Figaro: does the BP chairman’s gaffe have a rhetorical name? Why, yes, it does, and Figaro is big enough to tell you what it is.
Aside from being appallingly classist and culturally inept, is BP’s chairman remark on how much BP loves the “small people” of the Gulf Coast a figure of speech?
Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, a Swede, clearly meant “the little guy” when he said “the small people.” The mistake is a soraismus (so-ray-IS-mus), a clumsy mix of languages. That’s Greek for “loading up a pile of caca.”
The incident reminds us of the time many years ago when famous Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci interviewed Henry Kissinger for an Italian magazine. Trying to impress the beautiful reporter, the plump, German-born Secretary of State described himself as a lone cowboy “leading the caravan” and entering the “village” alone. The American press gave Kissinger a lot of well-deserved grief for that interview. But in fairness to Kissinger, he probably actually said “wagon train” to Fallaci (carrozza in Italian) as well as “town” (villago).
Svanberg’s gaffe simply eliminated the incompetent middle man.
Is it unfair to attack Svanberg for his soraismus? Maybe. But the quote does amply illustrate BP’s reckless arrogance. Besides, a corporate chairman should be sophisticated enough to earn his giant’s salary by vetting his rhetoric. Figaro is available to help for a big person’s fee. Meanwhile, we say, ridicule away.