Jul 042013

There’s a question I’ve been wondering about for a long time and the video below reminded me of it. I think there may be a subtle difference between how acceptable it is to refer to somebody present in the third person in British and ‘merican. Has anyone else encountered this?

So for example, let’s imagine Mary, John and Bob are sitting in a room together and having a conversation. Mary says something about Bob to John, but instead of referring to Bob as ‘Bob’ she calls him ‘he’. Is that more acceptable in ‘merican English than it is in British?

I want to thank Steve Oakes for drawing my attention to this one. Cheers Steve!

And now here’s the video. It’s been doing the rounds recently and I’ve seen it cited as an example of a talk show guest demonstrating better manners and skills that his talk show hosts. The bit I’m interested in is the use of ‘he’ (which comes at about 5.20). Russell Brand calls his hosts out for addressing him as ‘he’ when he is present. I don’t think his hosts behaved very civilly at the start of the interview, but at the same time, I think Russell might have been unbraiding them a little unfairly on the ‘he’ issue. I’m not sure whether British and ‘merican politeness conventions are quite the same on this.

All thoughts welcome. Thanks!


 Posted by at 11:50 am
Dec 022012

I’ve just finished making the video below and it reminded me that when I first moved to the US, I found ending telephone calls a challenge. We used to get a lot of telemarketing calls back then (thankfully a law changed and we can now put our names on a no-call list). But the thing was, I could never find a way to cut the callers off. As Sabrina Gerland has commented elsewhere on this blog, it’s like British mothers fail to teach their kids how to say goodbye. But as you can see, I’ve got pretty good at it over the last 13 years…

 Posted by at 7:17 am
Sep 212012

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that British apologies can be very routine speech acts that mean, well, nothing apologetic really. By way of contrast, we see lots of the features we’d expect of a sincere British (and American?) apology here I think – the appearance (credible or not) of sincerity, an acknowledgement of wrong doing, a promise to learn from the mistake and hence the implication that you won’t err again, an explanation of how things went wrong (well, almost).

It contrasts well with the British BP chief’s apology, and of course Mitt Romney’s stance on the recent leaked video – how to stand your ground and not make an apology.

How far we’re willing to forgive and forget is always going to be determined by our political convictions, of course, but when we want to see how people handle the delicate task of saying sorry, politicians provide some lovely examples.

Here are couple of other past posts on apologies:

Japanese apologies

A Thai apology


 Posted by at 2:57 pm