The American Association of Linguists (AAL) announced the discovery of a new language hiding unnoticed. They called it ‘American’. “Each time your boss says you just may want to consider doing something when he actually means you better do it, he’s using American”, said Josh Sesquipedalian, AAL chair. Other examples include when someone says “It was so nice to meet you” when they actually mean “I’m glad we’ll never see each other again”. Or when a waiter asks if “Everything is okay?” which in reality means “Here look I’m making you feel special so make that 15% into a 20% okay?”.
Raine Verbose Hildebrant says everyday life is peppered by American language. In fact, it is a metalanguage because it can embed itself into any language. He expects American to spread even further with globalization.The chief characteristic of the American language is that conveying any sort of judgement of the other person is avoided at all possible cost, under the understanding that when it comes to people’s egos you’re treading on eggshells, and eggshells crack easily under the weight of words. Says Sesquipedalian,”American stems from the need to communicate effectively with other people while simultaneously avoiding conveying any sort of judgement. It is extremely effective in suppressing any sign of criticism, except to a seasoned user of the language.” He goes on to explain that American has even seeped into non-verbal behaviours such as holding doors open for complete strangers as described here. The language is characterized by a need to take whatever is said to an extreme to derive the true meaning of the speaker’s words. If a speaker shows the slightest hint of prevarication or hesitation it means you have encroached on the speaker’s personal preferences and they really do not like that. If the speaker says you “just may want to think about something” it means you better had pay attention and figure that something out.
Hildebrant says,”What is really fascinating about American is that it is a language designed not so much to communicate as to miscommunicate, requiring extensive training and cultural familiarity before a speaker can say he or she has truly mastered the language. “We regard it to be an extraordinary culture artifact of the American civilization, worth of intensive study”, he finishes.
We were lucky enough to catch Lin Guist, AAL spokesperson later. He graciously agreed to give us a real life example below, with psychoanalysis.
A: Do you need a ride home? (A offers B a ride home, out of politeness or a genuine desire to do so, or some tortured mix of the two)
B: Oh no don’t worry about it. I’m close by, I’ll figure it out (B secretly does want a ride, but must prevaricate and demur lest A is actually asking out of politeness and not out of genuineness, but must not refuse lest A is actually being genuine and B can snag said ride)
A: Oh it’s no problem at all. I think you’re on my way. If you need it, no worries. (A now isn’t sure if B was politely refusing or if B secretly wants a ride, and treads the line of politeness without giving B any direction)
B: Well I live in X and y’know it isn’t exactly on your route. I wouldn’t worry about it. (B thinks A is trying to politely refuse without coming off as refusing, and so B is trying to give A an excuse to do so without conveying that he knows A is trying to refuse)
And the interminable back and forth goes on and on till both parties perform their incredibly. contorted social graces, and are satisfied that no judgement has been passed on either end, and the requisite amount of polite nothings have been said, to draw the matter to a conclusion.