The odd British ambassador in Washington revels in it. But most cringe when they hear the expression, and at least one has tried to ban it. None, however, can escape it. Whenever a Prime Minister travels to meet a new President, the state of the "special relationship" is under the microscope - in London at least. And so it is today.
One thing should be said at the outset: British honour is intact. Though Taro Aso, the Japanese PM, has met Mr Obama, Mr Brown is the first European leader invited to do so. Indeed, had Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the ambassador, failed to deliver, and Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy got into the Oval Office first, our envoy's reputation would never have recovered.
Even so, students of the "special relationship" note Mr Brown has had to wait 10 days longer than Tony Blair, who spent two nights at Camp David as the guest of George Bush in February 2001, a month after the inauguration. Could that be sign of a new American coolness to her most ardent suitor? There are other worrying portents. Did did not Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama's spokesman, refer to a "special partnership"? This may have been no casual slip. Might the demise of the "special relationship", so often predicted, finally be coming to pass?
Continue reading at the Independent.