Act I Scene 15


The Optimist and the Begrudger in conversation.

OPTIMIST:    It’s uplifting and at the same time quite touching, how fruitful patriotism proves, even in the nameplates and signs of businesses, a conjuncture that could reconcile one to their rising prices.

BEGRUDGER:    In that case you must remain implacably hostile to the Hotel Bristol[i][1], which still calls itself that, although London never had a Hotel St Polten[2], even in peacetime.

OPTIMIST:   Now come on, by transforming its English grillroom into a German broiler-room[3], the Hotel Bristol has proved it can muster the grit and backbone to reinvent itself. And look at this– ‘The Fleet’. So simple! An outfitter’s famously known before as ‘The English Fleet’.

(The shopkeeper appears at the door.)

BEGRUDGER:    Yes, but no one knows – hang on, I’ll ask him exactly which fleet he’s got in his head just now. Maybe with all the confusion he’ll knock something off the price of his shirts. (The shopkeeper retreats inside). Ah, it must be the Austrian fleet!


[1] As noted above, one of the Ringstrasse’s grandest hotels.

[2] Sankt Pölten is a city in Lower Austria

[3] There is no German word for grillroom as such. The English, with its echoes of the Savoy Grill, was commonly used. Germanising the word, as in earlier examples, has unlooked-for consequences. Rostraum, the word the Bristol has plumped for,does mean ‘roast-room’, but Rost also means ‘rust’, a less appetising concept. There is no English equivalent, but I have emphasised the English versus German distinction, and created a word that, given the familiar ‘boiler-room’, sounds unappealing as a name for a supposedly upmarket restaurant.