In the late 1980s, I wrote a book called ‘Business Objectives’ for Oxford University Press. Many years on, OUP wanted a new edition. As well as updating texts, they wanted it to be American. So I found myself making changes like these:
I was blissfully unaware that the phrases on the left were Britishisms when I was writing the first book. It seems distracting images of John Cleese spring to American minds when Brits say things like ‘Right then’ so I felt pretty pleased we could provide a more universal ‘Okay’ the second time around.
I also liked dropping some of the formal British vocabulary. In a world where English is becoming a work-a-day tool for so many people, it seems helpful to be dropping the formality down a notch or two.
Notice the way ‘sorry’ becomes ‘thank you’ here – so a show of concern about imposing becomes a show of appreciation. Politeness is being conveyed rather differently in the two varieties. This is a bit of a crude description, but in the re-writes, where people had been saying ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ in British English conversations, they now began saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’
So a couple of things in parting… Firstly, I do hope you don’t feel that these examples have been a waste of your time and I’m sorry if I went on a bit. And secondly, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to write this, and thank you all so much for hanging on in here till the end.