Before reading the text, discuss in pairs or groups how you feel about English traditional weather-talk. 

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Before reading the text, discuss in pairs or groups how you feel about English traditional weather-talk.

2. Read the text and discuss the following questions:

a. Do you agree with the author’s point of view about the topic? Why?

b. Which conversation-starters are typical for Russia?

c. How can this information help in business communication?


The Weather [27]

Any discussion of English conversation, like any English conversation, must begin with The Weather. And in this spirit of observing traditional protocol, I shall, like every other writer on Englishness, quote Dr. Johnson’s famous comment that ‘When two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather’, and point out that this observation is as accurate now as it was over two hundred years ago.


This, however, is the point at which most commentators either stop, or try, and fail, to come up with a convincing explanation for the English ‘obsession’ with the weather. They fail because their premise is mistaken: they assume that our conversations about the weather are conversations about the weather. In other words, they assume that we talk about the weather because we have a keen (indeed pathological) interest in the subject. Most of them then try to figure out what it is about the English weather that is so fascinating.


Bill Bryson, for example, concludes that the English weather is not at all fascinating, and presumably that our obsession with it is therefore inexplicable: ‘To an outsider, the most striking thing about the English weather is that there is not very much of it. All those phenomena that elsewhere give nature an edge of excitement, unpredictability and danger – tornadoes, monsoons, raging blizzards, run-for-your-life hailstorms – are almost wholly unknown in the British Isles.’


Jeremy Paxman, in an uncharacteristic and surely unconscious display of patriotism, takes umbrage at Bryson’s dismissive comments, and argues that the English weather is intrinsically fascinating.


Bryson misses the point. The English fixation with the weather is nothing to do with histrionics – like the English countryside; it is, for the most part, dramatically undramatic. The interest is less in the phenomena themselves, but in uncertainty… one of the few things you can say about England with absolute certainty is that it has a lot of weather. It may not include tropical cyclones but life at the edge of an ocean and the edge of a continent means you can never be entirely sure what you are going to get.


My research has convinced me that both Bryson and Paxman are missing the point, which is that our conversations about the weather are not really about the weather at all: English weather-speak is a form of code, evolved to help us overcome our natural reserve and actually talk to each other. Everyone knows, for example, that ‘Nice day isn’t it?’, ‘Ooh, isn’t it cold?’, ‘Still raining, eh?’ and other variations on the theme are not requests for meteorological data: they are ritual greetings, conversation-starters or default ‘fillers’. In other words, English weather-speak is a form of ‘grooming talk’ – the human equivalent of what is known as ‘social grooming’ among our primate cousins, where they spend hours grooming each other’s fur, even when they are perfectly clean, as a means of social bonding.

UNIT 7. Risk Management

Lead in: taking risks

Vocabulary: key terms

Reading: successful risk management

Speaking: risk identification

Grammar: Wish

Case Study: risk management at MegaFon

Translation: key terms

Writing: risk management process; essay

Culture: home rules


Lead in

Comment on the quotation.

If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake. [28]

2. Answer the questions:

1. What major risks do businesses face in today’s fast-changing world?

2. Give an example of a well-known company that managed/didn’t manage to handle risk. Mention the type of risks.



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