RACHEL BOTSMAN: I always know when a word is having its moment in the sun when big conferences, it becomes the theme at the conference, or I get slightly nervous when you start to see it as the tag line in really big commercial brands because it's a word that's starting to become co-opted and commercialised, because people go, "Oh, it's resonating with a lot of people.” It's not a brand. Trust isn't a brand that you should use. It's a social glue that when it breaks down, it has really huge consequences to our lives. When terms become so broad that they lose their meaning, they become completely diluted. And this is actually my fear around trust right now, is that it's become the word of the moment that is being used in so many different contexts that are we actually diluting something? One of the most important words we have in the human language, that is so fundamental to our relationships, that are we taking the meaning and importance out of it by its overuse?Read more
Growing up in England reading American books and watching American films and TV, I deduced that 'pants', 'biscuit', 'chips' and 'fanny' don’t mean the same in the US as they did at home. But I thought I was on familiar ground with the word ‘please’. Technically ‘please’ does mean the same thing in both places, but I had absolutely no idea it is deployed quite differently on our respective sides of the Atlantic.
Until the piñata of my ignorance was smashed open by linguist Lynne Murphy, who has been researching ‘please’.
LYNNE MURPHY: Several people have observed that the British say ‘please’ twice as much as Americans do. But they generally hadn’t looked at if there was a reason for that, other than assuming the British are more polite - more particularly, the English are more polite than Americans. So we wanted to go in and look at when British and American people are using ‘please’, and see if it’s just that Americans don’t bother so much, or are they using the word for different jobs?Read more