separated by a common language: please find attached…
A friend of mine with whom I often discuss US/UK differences sent me the link above pertaining to American use of “please” versus usage in the UK. The same friend and I often talk about how we feel we ought to have been born Brits, but for the purposes of this post it doesn’t matter. We were born Americans.
The blog post speaks specifically to the use of please in declarative (US) versus imperative (UK) sentences but also makes mention of studies that find how much more often British folks tend to use the word compared with the US. While the linguist makes no sweeping conclusions (nor should she; nationalized generalizations are always off base), she does make sure to point out that the lacking American use of please (perceived by some to come off as bossy) is not a lack of politeness but rather a trend towards indirect declarative sentences. The work of politeness is being done, just not by deference.
It is a statement she makes regarding language choices in the UK in which I’m most interested:
“The imperative could be seen as more imperious (or at least officious) than putting the same message into a declarative sentence.”
If the campaigns of Trump and Sanders can be firmly said to have done anything productive so far–which I’d say is the case on both sides for numerous reasons I won’t go into–I believe it is in pointing out the extent to which Americans like to pretend we are not a hierarchical nation.
As far back as De Tocqueville, outsiders have acknowledges that while there are clearly distinct and ever present hierarchies in America, Americans prefer to pretend there are none. While there is some obvious deference to those in ascendant positions (CEO’s, celebrities, politicians), we regularly judge people on the “would you have a beer with him/her” metric. We at once need these people and would prefer to pretend there is nothing intrinsic or learned that makes them special.
For me, one of the reasons–undoubtedly there are many–that Americans don’t like to use the word please as much as our English-speaking kin across the pond comes from this pretense against hierarchy. We perform the work of politeness else where, and for the most part we want to be kind and courteous. We just don’t like doing so in obvious deference to others.
vsauce takes on word oddities in yet another perfect episode. I could watch these on loop.
Does Fiction Exist? (ft. Harry Potter) | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios (by PBS Idea Channel)
Presented without comment, because I’m processing.
History of English (combined) (by OUlearn)
With greater interconnectedness and the availability of instant communication nearly world wide, do you think English will lose many words from here on out? I’m inclined to think the big changes from here on out are likely to be the result of (1) necessity (new science, medicine, tech, etc) and (2) vogue (thanks, French).