Almost any utterance can have different meanings depending on the way it is spoken. Take the three words “It is raining.” If it is pronounced with an emphasis on the word is, it becomes an affirmation. If it is said with a rising intonation, it is interpreted as a question.
Or take these three words: “Death to America.” According to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, this seeming death wish is actually nuanced and should not be taken literally. In an interview in with CBS’s “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, Rouhani explained via a translator:
This slogan that is chanted is not a slogan against the American people. Our people respect the American people. The Iranian people are not looking for war with any country, but at the same time the policies of the United States have been against the national interests of Iranian people.
Maybe it loses something in the translation. In English, the message “We respect you but hope you drop dead” sounds pretty harsh, but maybe in Persian it comes out differently.
Or maybe Rouhani is lying through his teeth in an effort to silence critics of his nation’s deal with the Obama administration, which unfreezes $100 billion in Iranian assets and lifts crippling economic sanctions on the state sponsor of terrorism.
A video of Rouhani’s sit-down with CBS’s Steve Kroft follows: