Friday, June 18, 2010

Small People

So the Chairman of BP (boo - hiss) is a native Swedish speaker.   English is a second language for him, and it shows.   He does it well, but seems a step removed from being easily fluent.

Yet the brave new world of rigid political correctness makes no allowances.   In a spoken statement clearly meaning (whether he's sincere is another matter, but this was the meaning) that even a big company like his cares about individuals, he used clumsy English.   The concept was the individual, in contrast to a large organization.

And to state that idea, he used words that a well-educated native speaker of English wouldn't use, referring to the "small people."

Meaning the contrast of the big, like a corporation, with the (comparatively) small, like an individual person.

Those words, or words close to it -- "the little guy" -- are often used by many Americans, even American politicians, to refer to the individual citizen, in the context of discussing the actions or influence of large institutions.

But making the effort in his second language brought Carl-Henric Svanberg face-to-face with what passes for thinking in this country today.

Actually, there are small people.   They're the people with small enough minds and small enough character to make this petty criticism of a foreign-speaker's attempt to convey a note of sympathy.

1 comment:

repoman said...

I could not agree more. When did we become a nation of people just waiting to be offended?

When I first heard the report, I thought it was an odd comment. Then I heard an audio tape and realized, as you point out, that the guy does not have a full command of idiomatic English.

This criticism is simply over the top.