Jim Hacker: But me no buts, Bernard. Shakespeare.
Bernard Woolley: Oh no, Prime Minister. "But me no buts" is circa 1820. Mrs Centlivre used the phrase in 1708, but actually it was Scott's employment of it in 'The Antiquary' in 1816 which made it fashionable.
Jim Hacker: Shall we keep to the point please, Bernard?
Jim Hacker: But if, as you say, he's not overstretched.
Sir Frank Gordon: Ah, when I say not overstretched, I was of course talking in a sense of total cumulative loading taken globally, rather than in respect of certain individual and essentially anomalous responsibilities which are not, logically speaking, consonant or harmonious with the broad spectrum of intermeshing and inseparable functions, and could indeed be said to place an excessive and supererogatory burden on the office, where considered in relation to the comparatively exiguous advantages of their overall centralisation.
Jim Hacker: You *could* do part of Humphrey's job!
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Prime Minister, I must protest in the strongest possible terms my profound opposition to a newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions upon the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and which will, in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a constriction of the channels of communication, and culminate in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis which will render effectively impossible the coherent and co-ordinated discharge of the function of government within Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Jim Hacker: You mean you've lost your key?
Jim Hacker: Bernard, I really don't want Humphrey putting his head round the door during this meeting.
Bernard Woolley: Well, I'll do my best, Prime Minister.
Jim Hacker: That may not be good enough, Bernard. Dorothy tells me that technically Humphrey's supposed to phone you from the cabinet office before he comes through to Number Ten; is that true?
Bernard Woolley: Well, perhaps in theory, but it's really just a formality.
Jim Hacker: Good. Humphrey likes formality.
Jim Hacker: People can wait in the lobby. Or in the state rooms.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Some people. But some people must wait where other people cannot see the people who are waiting. And people who arrive before other people must wait where they cannot see the people who arrive after them being admitted before them. And people who come in from outside must wait where they cannot see the people from inside coming in to tell you what the people from outside have come to see you about. And people who arrive when you are with people they are not supposed to know you have seen must wait somewhere until the people who are not supposed to have seen you have seen you.
Bernard Woolley: As they say, it's a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance.
Jim Hacker: Oh really, Bernard, must you and Humphrey really always express yourself in this roundabout and pompous way? "More honoured in the breach than the observance"! Must you always distort and destroy the most beautiful language in the world - the language of Shakespeare?
Bernard Woolley: That *is* Shakespeare, Prime Minister.
[the PM is considering taking the joint headship of the civil service away from Humphrey and making Frank the full head]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, Frank.
Sir Frank Gordon: Yes?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Good meeting with the PM?
Sir Frank Gordon: Yes, very good.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Good. Any particular subject come up?
Sir Frank Gordon: Any particular subject you're interested in?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, not particularly. He didn't raise the issue of service appointments and so on?
Sir Frank Gordon: It may have cropped up.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Did he foreshadow any redistribution of responsibility?
Sir Frank Gordon: Shall we say it was a wide-ranging discussion.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Did it move towards any conclusion?
Sir Frank Gordon: There were arguments on both sides.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Evenly balanced?
Sir Frank Gordon: Perhaps tending slightly more one way than the other.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: But nothing to worry about?
Sir Frank Gordon: Nothing for *me* to worry about. See you this afternoon.
Jim Hacker: Bernard, I want you to put Dorothy back into her old office.
Bernard Woolley: You mean, carry her there?
Jim Hacker: [the Prime Minister attempts to repeat Humphrey's explaination to Dorothy] Well, because if people came to see people who people didn't know people were coming... that is, if people saw people coming before people saw them seeing people, people would see people. The whole ship would go off the rails. You see.
Dorothy Wainwright: Did you work all that out for yourself?