March 12th, 2012
11:22 AM ET
Washington (CNN) –Washington is rolling out the red carpet this week as Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive Tuesday for an "official" visit culminated by a State Dinner at the White House.
But wait. Why is the British PM's visit merely "offficial" and not a "state" visit to match the state dinner in his honor? Simple Washington double-speak it turns out. Cameron is Britain's Prime Minister and is not the head of his country. That's Queen Elizabeth.
"It's really just terminology," Caitlin Hayden, Deputy National Security Council spokesman told CNN in an email.
Hayden said state visits are reserved for the "head of state" like Queen Elizabeth and "official visits" are for the head of government like Mr. Cameron. But she says they both get the same perks with one minor exception.
At the official arrival ceremony on the White House lawn, there will be a 19 gun salute. Cameron doesn't score the extra 2 volleys for the 21 gun salute traditionally reserved for "state visits".
But Cameron will enjoy the traditional lunch at the State Department and finally the big state dinner traditionally one of the swankiest affairs the White House hosts.
White House staffers from the chef and her kitchen staff to the mansion's team of florists are likely working frenetically to prepare. A state dinner is the ultimate intersection of power and politics and celebrity. It's sort of like DC's wonkish version of Hollywood's Oscar night complete with all the trappings. There are no awards involved but there is the coveted invitation, the red carpet arrivals, a world class dinner and star studded entertainment. Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and James Taylor have all entertained at past dinners. No word yet on the menu or entertainment for the Camerons. This will be the sixth state dinner the Obamas have hosted.