Mind your own Business!

If you’re very busy, what noun do you use to describe the state you’re in? Would it be… busyness? No, that doesn’t look or sound right, does it? It’s kind of uncanny, because it sounds like business, but it isn’t, and it looks weird with the Y before the suffix -ness.

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“Uno de… Those, Please? Numero Forty-Three?”

Today I’d like to share with you a short article I read recently. It reminded me of something I wrote not too long ago, about how we English speakers aren’t always the best at using the local language when we’re on holiday abroad. You can read the article here, which is based on a survey of British holidaymakers. It was specifically about ordering in restaurants on holiday, but I think it says a lot about how English speakers approach other languages in general. Here are some of the main statistics:

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Can you Trademark a Word or Phrase?

I’m surprise to find that the article I read the other daythe article I read the other day has inspired a second article by me, but here we are. Something else that interested me in the article was the fact that Michael Buffer, has become a millionaire by licensing the trademark for the phrase Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. It’s probable that you read that in your mind in a very specific voice, and that voice is Michael Buffer’s. Buffer, a boxing and wrestling ring announcer, became famous for his catchphrase, delivered in his unique style. In 1992 he registered the phrase as a trademark, and since then has earned about $400 million from it.

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Talking Business

When is good English a disadvantage?

When you’re in business.

Well, it’s not so simple obviously, but I was intrigued by an article on the BBC Capital website entitled Why Foreigners Hate English Speakers (well, the title is actually Native English Speakers are the World’s Worst Communicators, but the former was the carrot to entice me to click on it). Now I knew that the BBC were indulging in a little clickbaiting with such a provocative title, and that the actual content would be a lot milder than it promised, but still, I was curious.

And it was an interesting read. The basic gist of it is that non-native English speakers often have trouble understanding native speakers in business situations. This isn’t too surprising, as a native speaker is going to speak more quickly than a non-native speaker, and use more idioms (which may even be quite localised) which can be hard to understand. This can be particularly problematic for English speakers, as we often don’t have as much experience of learning a language to a reasonable level compared to those who’ve had to learn English, so we don’t usually realise how to adapt our speech to make ourselves fully understood. I see this cause problems all the time, but usually nothing serious. In business, however, it’s a different matter. Continue reading

Revert Back to Me

This phrase is one that’s become increasingly common in business emails in the last couple of years. Basically, it just means get back to me or reply to me. For example:

Revert back to me when you’ve finished the report.

Find out what time they want to have the meeting, then revert back to me when it’s been organised.

It’s part of the strange new world of business jargon: blue-sky thinking, move the needle etc. And while a lot of these short-lived buzzwords can be annoying, revert back to me tends to be the focus of particular anger. The main reason for that is because the word is basically being used incorrectly. Revert means to change to a previous state or action. So for example, someone might revert to a childlike state after a traumatic incident. A werewolf, with the passing of the full moon, might revert to its human state. It’s basically similar to return, but is more specifically similar to transform back. So what someone’s saying when they use revert back to me is transform back into me. Well, I never actually was you in the first place, so that’d be pretty hard! Continue reading