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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pardon my Bollix-ing, ta....

I have been thinking about a presentation I have to give next week in Nottingham to a group of British accounting professors. The issue at hand is why there is so little communication and cross disciplinary work among those engaged in the study of accountability. My approach is to build on the often quoted comment that the US and UK are 'two countries separated by the same language' -- and of course my attention was immediately diverted to that very topic (I am a terrific procrastinator!)

Indeed, everyone knows that it was Winston Churchill who provided that insight, right? Well, not quite. According to one site, the quote is more likely attributable to Oscar Wilde (‘We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’- 1887), G.B. Shaw (‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’ -- no origin date provided), or Bertrand Russell (‘It is a misfortune for Anglo-American friendship that the two countries are supposed to have a common language’ - 1944).

Whatever its source, there is considerable anecdotal support for it. Just ask any of us US-types who work on the other side of the pond. There is, of course, the spelling issue. My computer language and speller programs are now set at 'English (UK)', so if you are looking over my shoulder while I write this and note all the 'red line' highlights, you would judge me a chronic misspeller. And then there are the problems with determining one's weight (how many Americans know how much a 'stone' weighs), the time of day ('meet me at the office at half two') or even when you should come by to pick up some document ('it will be ready this day week'). And don't get me started on words like 'remit' or 'subsidiarity'.....

Some webloggers have had fun with the problem. Chris Linfoot relates the story of one poor soul who ran into a wee-bit of difficulty when he asked someone in a Chicago bar 'Can I bum a fag?' And Richard Schwartz posts photos of road signs warning of 'humps' ahead.

The situation gets even more complicated when you are located in Northern Ireland and have the added pleasure of dealing with tidbits of Irish-English slang as well as words carried over from Irish. While I have yet to pick up the brogue, I do find myself blurting out 'brilliant!' and 'in a wee bit' without much thought, and I am on the verge of automatically screaming 'bollix' when faced with the absurdities of academic life....

Finally, to all those colleagues and acquaintances who have been so patient when I respond to their words with blank stare, many ta(!) for your tolerance.....
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