American test pilot Chuck Yeager certainly had “the right stuff” when he broke the sound barrier (in injured condition) while flying the .50 calibre bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947. But he was never a man to mince his words.
Famously critical of the flying skills of his fellow test pilot Neil Armstrong, he was also one of those who decried the early NASA astronauts as “spam in the can” (though this might have been because his degreeless academic record was not enough for him to join the astronaut corps).
Now Yeager has a new, or rather an old, target in his sights: the British.
Yeager, 93, has noted his view on Twitter that from his wartime experiences, and from a visit a few years ago, that the British are “nasty” and “arrogant”.
Possibly true. But try some Parisians first before you judge us Brits so harshly.
And don’t forget, Chuck, the saying that “you don’t like in others what you see in yourself”.
In your correspondent’s experience (as he recently rediscovered when he inadvertently jumped the queue at a news stand at Phoenix Airport), it is the Americans who are the politest people you can meet on Earth…right up until they pull a gun on you. Figuratively speaking, of course – well, if you are lucky.
Of course, politeness itself is not necessarily a solid indicator of underlying goodness. It can sometimes disguise evil.
Adolf Hitler, was often said to be very charming and polite – well, in between his infamous tantrums – and while he was plotting the murder of millions. Hitler was, at least, good to his dog “Blondie”, well right up until he fatally tested out his poison on her.