I agree with that, too, Alan. Learning new vocabulary, practicing and communicating is what it’s all about. I’ve never claimed anything different. Never. And of course things very much depend on how you say them. Of course!
But that doesn’t change the fact that some words and phrases can carry unexpected connotations or result in unexpected reactions. Some to a greater extent, some to a lesser extent. It’s certainly not the case with the vast majority of words, but even some everyday words can produce expected reactions simply because there’s a difference in meaning between British and American English. You only need to think about using the “British” word “rubber” to realize that. If you ask an American co-worker for a “rubber” (because you want to “rub something out”), even asking with utmost courtesy and the sincerest of smiles, you’ll either get laughed at or looked at in dumbfounded consternation.
Tamara asked specifically about “at the end of the day” in her thread and I answered with a very basic description according to how I know it to be used in American English: “new” and “business buzzword”. You seem to have overlooked that fact, Alan. Was that off-putting information? Tamara’s information had been that the expression is not used in American English and that simply isn’t the case. Not anymore. Because I live in Europe and have a lot of contact with British English teachers (and British course books), I was aware that the phrase is nothing new in the UK. But the phrase is new the US.
I also mentioned another buzzword used in American business. It’s important that people working in an American company recognize and understand these sorts of words and phrases. They’ll probably have to deal with them on a regular basis and will probably also need to use at least some of them. Even when the office is located outside the US. But, I don’t find it inappropriate to inform people about how or when these words could also come across as somewhat negative or strange. Many of them sound completely inappropriate if used outside a business context. And many are simply laughed at even in a business context. Many of the buzzwords currently in use are on the receiving end of endless jokes and ridicule.
Is this sort of information to be kept secret at all costs? The number of business buzzwords involved is relatively limited. I certainly don’t suggest that people worry about every single word they ever use. As I said, my opinion is that is important to simply give it your best shot at communicating. I also don’t discourage learning buzzwords. What I agreed with is simply that some words and phrases have very specific uses and meanings and can result in unexpected reactions if used inappropriately. Why hide or deny that? It’s nothing new and it’s certainly not restricted to American English.
I used the word “miffed” in another thread and was promptly “accused” of sounding British. I didn’t take that comment negatively or even particularly seriously, but, still, it was made, wasn’t it? Not by me and not by Jamie. What was the underlying message? That British English is better? That is a typical mindset of many Brits and people who have learned British English, isn’t it. And, although I wasn’t aware of it, it’s apparently the mindset of a handful of “elitists” living in the US — according to Jamie. Since I’m just a peon, I’ve never actually met such people. But I understood what sort of person he might have meant.
To be honest, the “miffed” comments seemed pretty humorous to me in light of Jamie’s comments about “East Coast elitists who want to be British” — which I felt and still feel to be a wild over-generalization. Thus my attempt at a little ribbing. However, I was worried about even attempting any humor in the forum. You may have noticed that by the fact that I even added a little notation at the end of my post in an (apparently unsuccessful) attempt to make sure it wasn’t taken too seriously. It seems I had every right to worry about trying any humor. I’m even more worried about it now.
Then came a comment about my use of the word “peon” along with a comparison to “elitist”. Now, the dictionary definition (AmE) of “peon” is probably somewhat similar to the meaning of the Spanish word. But, since I have no idea whether the Spanish word is strictly used with a literal meaning or not, I thought it best to try to explain more fully the way it would be used in a business context in American English. Since I assumed the expression “slave driver” would also be understood even in British English, I thought that describing a “peon” as someone working for a slave driver would convey the correct meaning and usage and also be understandable. I also tried to point out that it is usually the “peons” themselves who use the term. Your comments seem to indicate that you don’t “approve” of this word. That’s fine. People are free to pick and choose their own vocabulary. But if a word is in use in American English, what would you have me do? Deny or hide the fact? Where is the idea of “Anything goes” in that?
I’d like to add that everything I wrote was in reaction to something/someone else, just as this is. The idea of “baggage” was brought up by other people. My description of “at the end of the day” as simply “new” and “buzzword” in American English would have been left at that otherwise. But, since Jamie brought up “baggage” and you also asked about it, I offered my two cents about “baggage” associated with business buzzwords. To be honest, I still find it interesting that “at the end of the day” has only recently come into American English and that it is considered to be a buzzword.
Finally, I’m also flabbergasted — flabbergasted at the apparent claim that there are no “undercurrents” in the UK and in British English.
Anything goes? Why bother with English tests if anything really goes? Whay have vocabulary tests if anything goes?
In the hope that I won’t be misunderstood and attacked again, I repeat: I agree that people learning English should enjoy the language, try to learn as much as they can and simply communicate. “Mistakes” are OK and are part of the learning process. I also don’t think language can be “tied down”. But as the English tests on this website would tend to prove, unrestricted freedom with the language also isn’t particularly advisable.