You can imagine how my ears perked up when the fictional character of a consul appeared Season 9, episode 2, of Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO). How was Larry David going to deal with this person? Was he going to (incorrectly) say “c-o-u-nsel” when speaking with this official? I couldn’t wait.
Well, kudos to Larry’s character. He certainly inadvertently educated millions of viewers, if they were paying attention to this, when he very clearly said “c-o-nsul” even when addressing him as “Mr. Consul.” But there was also a learning moment for watchers of the show, when Larry asked what a consul does, and the consul answered that if Larry wanted to visit his country he’d need his (the consul’s) services.
So, what does a consul actually do? Aah, that’s always the question. We can be a little academic about it and say consular functions fall broadly in two categories: giving assistance to locals who are citizens of the country that the consul represents, and the furtherance of the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations. But that’s using a heavy tone that watchers of Curb Your Enthusiasm probably wouldn’t appreciate so I simply urge you to check out some of my old blog posts.
I do want to say here, though, that functions vary and often depend on the consuls themselves as they have a certain amount of freedom to perform tasks (such as commercial or educational leads) that particularly interest them. And this reminds me of something I just read when researching the history of the Consular Corps of Florida, about one of the earliest consuls in Miami (functioning in the 1920s) who, when asked about what he really did as a consul, said he’s the local PR person for her Majesty, the Queen. An interesting statement on many levels!
One final observation: the Hollywood Reporter wrote about Larry’s friend as a pal of the consulate where, clearly, the meaning was that he was a friend of the person, the consul himself. Remember, consulate is the office of a consul.
Let’s see how the plot develops this season and if the consul appears again. I, for one, will be paying attention to how this foreign official is described and spoken of.