Transatlantic language barrier

Matthew Barzun, American ambassador to the UK, on adjusting to the local way of speaking English:

In my work it sometimes causes difficulties, like when I told a British staff member his work was “quite good,” causing a confused expression. He processed it as, “not quite good enough.”

But mostly, I find it pretty funny.

“Scheme” is one of my favourites. My British friends use it as a synonym for plan. They’ll say, “our financial scheme” or “retirement scheme.” For Americans, the word has connotations of scam. “Retirement scheme” sounds like thinking you’d read out in an indictment against fraudsters. The modifier “ponzi-” is inferred by Americans but implied by the Brits.

Processed”? Yet another example of continental drift, you might say.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: www.facebook.com/clive.davis.10 Instagram: clivephotos
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