Too many Americanisms? So shoot us.

People love getting into a lather about language. If you needed proof, the BBC published an article last week about the supposed tidal wave of Americanisms overwhelming British English. And got a deluge of people’s personal peeves.

Now, never mind the fact that lots of these so-called Americanisms started off in British English in the first place. Or that many of the moans depend on people being wilfully dumb so they can pretend to be confused.

What’s amazing is that 1,295 could be moved to mither. It’s not just Americanisms, either. Start a conversation ‘I hate it when people say...’ and almost everyone will pitch in.

Why? Why do we care so much if someone says something different from (or ‘to’, or ‘than’) us?

We don’t think this argument is about language at all, really. After all, most of us have got bigger things to worry about than if someone says ‘normalcy’ when we’d have said ‘normality’. But to get het up, there must be something bigger at stake. Not just the odd word, but our identity. Our very culture. Somewhere, subconsciously, every time someone says ‘I’m good’, we believe a little patch of England dies. Maybe.

It’s why we think every business should be thinking about language. Because for lots of people, it’s the most obvious expression of a business’s culture and identity. And we judge our employers, suppliers and colleagues on these tiny little things.

While we’re on America...

we’ll be putting our own prejudices to the test in September. We’re taking up residence in New York to talk at The Economist's Human Potential summit, and running an open writing workshop on the morning of September 13. If you’re in NYC and want to come, or know someone we should take out for coffee and bagels, just email [email protected].


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on Jul 29, 2011

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