Thursday, October 25, 2012

Does your speech audience look at you like you’re an alien from outer space?

Perhaps you are using terminology strange to them. Last week in his Accidental Communicator blog Jim Anderson wrote about International Humor: Is It Even Possible For A Speaker? He pointed out the need to first learn about how your audience communicates, which also includes gestures

On Friday October 5th I attended a half-day workshop in Salt Lake City on thermal spray technology taught by Dr. Chris Berndt. Chris is a professor in Melbourne, and has been president of ASM International, the Thermal Spray Society, and the Australian Ceramic Society. Chris started by joking about his Aussie English, and said he hoped we could understand it when he got enthusiastic and began to speak quickly. We laughed, but did.   

Thursday evening before Chris Berndt’s workshop he spoke at a meeting of the ASM Utah chapter. We met in the F.A. Sutton building on the north end of the University of Utah campus. When I headed down University Drive past their stadium in mid-afternoon the band was coming out from what I’d assumed was practice for the usual Saturday afternoon football game. Later when I pulled into the visitor parking lot near the Sutton building I was surprised to see that the gate was open, and the adjacent lawn was full of tailgaters wearing red. I asked one and found I had assumed incorrectly. The football game against USC (televised on ESPN) was starting at 7:00 PM on Thursday.  

We had a 1938 Encyclopaedia Britannica on our bookshelf when I was growing up. I remember being puzzled by their different terminology, like aeroplane instead of airplane. They also described tractors that ran on paraffin. In the U.S., paraffin is a solid wax used in candles. They meant a liquid fuel, which we’d have called kerosene. A decade ago I remember we bought a British magazine about kitchen planning and remodeling at a bookstore and were surprised at some of them like:

Many U.S. residents also would be puzzled by a March 28th Canadian newspaper headline that read:

“Millions in loonies and toonies spill onto Ontario highway after Brinks truck crash”

It’s quite logical though. The one-dollar Canadian coin has a loon on it, so it’s called a loonie - and  thus the two-dollar coin is called a toonie.

The image of aliens came from the infamous film Plan 9 from Outer Space.

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