Feedback Master: U.S. Cultural Norms

Relationship vs. Task Orientation: *

  • I found your statement that “Portuguese writing style is very different from English. English language is more compact compared to Portuguese. I feel like I need three Portuguese sentences to explain one English sentence” very interesting! I did not know that. However, I think it explains why I have sometimes felt my Portuguese-speaking colleagues “take a long time to say anything.” I wonder if this cultural difference is due to what our textbook Foreign to Familiar describes as the difference between the “task orientation” (common in U.S. culture) and a “relationship orientation” (which I assume, but do not know, is characteristic of Brazilian culture). When you read that chapter in Foreign to Familiar, I would love it if you could think about this and let me know whether you think it might be. . . .
  • I like how you include information on the current state of your friend, since Dr. Dorneich will almost certainly be concerned about any friend of yours you had to take to the hospital! However, this information is not related to the main point of your email, so you should enclose it in parentheses. Make sense?
  • X, you do an excellent job of balancing your explanation of why you need to reject the UNL offer with language that communicates genuine regret according to U.S. norms — Great writing! ☺
Relationship orientation in English (particularly in the U.S. Midwest): *
  • FYI: English speakers tend not just to say “please” when requesting a favor, but instead say something like “Could you please. . . .?” or “Would you please. . .?” (We tend to feel “please” by itself—especially in writing, when tone of voice isn’t available to help us communicate our politeness—still sounds too much like a command to be truly polite.)
  • “I will bring my paper to you.”—If X doesn’t yet know that you want to bring your paper to her to check (or that you’re planning to bring it to her tomorrow), you should use “would like to” to express that you’re not demanding her help, but only politely asking for it, e.g. “I would like to bring my paper to you to check.”)
  • You’ll want to use a compound question structure—”Can you. . .or can you. . .?”—rather than a compound question + statement structure—”Can you. . . .or you can. . . .” to make a request in writing. Although the question + statement structure is okay in speaking when your tone will clearly communicate you don’t mean to be impolite, using the “question + statement” structure can sound in writing like you think you have the right to “order” Jess to help you! (Although actually you do have the right to assume Jess will help you since that’s in fact his/her job, Americans still tend to use politeness words like “please” and “can you” or “could you” or “thank you” even when asking someone to do what is actually just their job — Have you ever noticed how people in Ames tend to thank CyRide drivers when they get off the bus even though driving the bus is the driver’s job? If you don’t show politeness in this way, you can sound in the American context like you think you are of such high status, you don’t have to follow the politeness norms that the normal person has to/ought to follow, i.e. you look egotistical!)

Direct vs. Indirect Communication: *

  • (I wonder if the reason you opted for a more indirect subject line is because our cultures differ in terms of when and where directness is expected — certainly over the years, I have frequently had to give feedback to English 101D students about their being inadequately direct per American norms, due probably to how Americans value “not wasting” one another’s time.)
  • Need to explain why you are unable to do what has been asked/is expected

    • X, why were you unable to come for the meeting earlier? In American culture, it’s impolite not to provide a specific reason about why you failed to meet a commitment/requirement/etc. (though you actually only have to provide one reason, as long as the one reason you mention is adequate for justifying your absence! This means that sometimes the specific reason/excuse people provide is actually not their primary reason for whatever they’re apologizing for). Here are a few examples of the kinds of apologies Americans are likely to write (and to consider appropriate and respectful):
      1. “I’m so sorry I can’t attend class today because I woke up feeling very ill this morning.”
      2. “I’m so sorry I can’t attend class today because I have a schedule conflict due to my professor only being able to meet with me today during class time or not until next Friday. I really need his help because I’m stuck in my research right now, so I thought I should go ahead and meet with him today even though that would mean I’d have to miss our class. I’m so sorry!”

      The problem with just giving American professors, colleagues, and friends generic reasons (or no reason at all!) for having failed to fulfill one’s commitments/responsibilities to them is that American culture trains us to interpret the meaning of generic reasons (or of no reason being provided at all) as: “I missed the meeting for some reason that I want to hide from you, i.e. the reason I’m not telling you what my real reason is is because 1) I actually don’t have a good reason, or 2) I don’t respect you enough to take the time to explain my real reason”! Obviously, such misinterpretations cause Americans to feel very disrespected and therefore hurt and angry, and I really don’t want such misinterpretations to end up hurting you and your relationship with your boss/colleagues and your chances for future employment in the U.S. if that’s what you’re targeting, etc.!

  • Need to explain specifically why you are unable to do what has been asked/is expected

    • In American culture, it’s actually not polite to give a generic reason—”because of some emergency“—for an absence, being late, etc. (though my understanding is that this is perfectly acceptable in Chinese culture). Because of this, unless the reason for your absence is really private (so that you have no choice but to give a generic excuse), you should always provide a specific reason (though you actually only have to provide one reason, as long as the one reason you mention is adequate for justifying your absence! This means that sometimes the specific reason/excuse people provide is actually not their primary reason for whatever they’re apologizing for). Here are a few examples of the kinds of apologies Americans are likely to write (and to consider appropriate and respectful):
      1. “I’m so sorry I can’t attend class today because I woke up feeling very ill this morning.”
      2. “I’m so sorry I can’t attend class today because I have a schedule conflict due to my professor only being able to meet with me today during class time or not until next Friday. I really need his help because I’m stuck in my research right now, so I thought I should go ahead and meet with him today even though that would mean I’d have to miss our class. I’m so sorry!”

      The problem with just giving American professors, colleagues, and friends generic reasons for whatever you’re apologizing about, e.g. “I am sorry that I cannot attend the class because of some emergency,” is that American culture trains us to interpret the meaning of generic reasons as: “I can’t attend class for some reason that I want to hide from you, i.e. the reason I’m not telling you what my real reason is is because 1) I actually don’t have a good reason, or 2) I don’t respect you enough to take the time to explain my real reason”! Obviously, such misinterpretations cause Americans to feel very disrespected and therefore hurt and angry when they receive “generic reason” apology emails from their Chinese students, colleagues, and friends.

      Please talk to me if you don’t understand my explanation of this American/Chinese cultural difference, because I think it’s really important for you (and all Chinese students studying in the U.S.!) to be aware of. Although I have no data to prove it, I suspect that misunderstanding due to this cultural difference is a key contributor to many conflicts and much hurt and anger experienced by Americans toward their Chinese colleagues and friends around the world. However, I really don’t want this cultural difference to affect your relationships with Americans!

    • Although you do explain that the reason you needed to miss class is because you are ill, if your illness is not one that’s embarrassing to talk about, it’s much better if your email indicates the specific illness you have to demonstrate it’s reasonable that you miss class because of it. The reason this is important is because, unfortunately, in the U.S. people sometimes “call in sick” when they’re actually not sick, and therefore your professor may feel like you’re “just making an excuse” unless you specify what your illness is. (Actually, though, since your email does make it clear you’ve seen a doctor about your illness and that you’re resting because that’s what your doctor has advised, the chances of your professor questioning whether you’re telling the truth are much reduced, and are likely to be none if you have a good reputation with your professor overall.)
    • A meeting with which professor? Why does the meeting need to occur during our class? (Although you do explain to some extent why you need to miss class, the reason you give actually isn’t adequate based on American norms—so if this were a real apology email, an American instructor could easily feel you’re “just making an excuse.” To adequately explain  why you need to miss class, you need to communicate 1) why your meeting with this professor is so important that it justifies missing class (e.g. she’s a visiting professor in your research area who will only be on campus this one day) and 2) why you can’t have the meeting at any other time than during class time (e.g.the only time slot the visiting professor had available for you to meet was during our class). Make sense? Please talk to me if you don’t understand this, because providing adequate reason for whatever you’re apologizing for is an extremely important part of American politeness (and failure to provide adequate reason can really hurt your relationships and reputation with Americans)!!!
  • Apologies often include explanations about what you will change to ensure that whatever happened won’t happen again
    • X, FYI: When English speakers explain what they plan to do differently in the future to ensure that whatever happened (that they’re apologizing for) won’t happen again, they tend not only to use the future tense “will” (like you have done J), but also explicitly to include the phrase “in the future” somewhere in their sentence (I think to emphasize to their reader the difference between present vs. future events that they’re promising.). I’m sorry I can’t find any online resource that explains/teaches this, though! L
  • U.S. Americans are likely to misunderstand (Asian?) indirectness/modesty
    • You don’t need to apologize. . . .the only reason I commented about your email’s indirectness is just because we recently talked in class about cultural differences as regards direct and indirect communication and also because I think many American teachers would have been confused had they received your email. Americans tend to think if reading “I. . .might not be able to go to class” that you’re uncertain yet whether you can come and think while reading “I sincerely ask you for your understanding” that you definitely won’t come—and so they would be confused (“Why didn’t she check her email before sending it so she actually expressed what she meant?”).
    • It is true that English speakers are sometimes indirect (at least in the U.S. Midwest!), but when summarizing what you need, you need to make sure what you’re asking for is clear (or it’s highly unlikely you’ll get it!) — Make sense?
    • In English, your phrasing “the publication I actually have” suggests that you think you should have more publications, i.e. the focus is on the publications you lack, not the publication(s) you have. Because such modesty is not common in American writing, Americans are likely to view it as an exact statement of truth, rather than as an expression of modesty, which I think is your actual meaning. In future emails within the American context, therefore, you’ll want to minimize your use of such “modesty” expressions, so you don’t accidentally give your American recipients an incorrect negative impression of your actual abilities and qualifications! — Make sense?
  • Indirect communication/modesty in the U.S. (Midwest?)
  • Hedged “promises”:
    • X, it’s impossible to be 100% sure that your situation of accidentally making a second appointment that overlaps with a first (temporarily forgotten!) appointment will never happen again. As a result, professionals in English tend to avoid making blanket promises they cannot be sure they’ll be able to keep (particularly in cultures like the U.S. where people can relatively easily sue and actually get money for individuals’ and companies’ small mistakes/wrongs!). Instead, professionals in English tend to phrase their promises more weakly, e.g., “I will try to make sure it will never happen again.” Make sense?

Individualism vs. Group Identity: *

  • I’m glad to know more about what your previous schooling was like. It’s especially useful to know ” the assignments were like writing answers to questions which teachers taught before hand in the class (students are not encouraged to find their answers).” Actually, I think many of my Asian students from various countries share the same experience. In research, though, (and I think especially in the U.S.!), students ARE encouraged, and in fact expected to figure out answers to questions (and sometimes even what questions they should be asking) by themselves, based on what they’ve read in the research literature and learned in class. If you can learn to do this, it will really help you. And honestly, I think it will help you in your future job, whether you decide to work in academia OR industry. At least in the U.S., employers are looking for and value employees who can think independently, troubleshoot, and to some extent, “think out of the box” in order to find solutions to problems in the field. I don’t know if I’ll be able to help you very much in learning how to do this because I don’t know your field and I don’t know what’s innovative synthesis of previous research findings or developments and what’s not, but if I feel like you’re just “telling me what you think I want to hear,” I’ll let you know that.

Inclusion vs. Privacy: *

 

Different Concepts of Hospitality: *

High-Context vs. Low-Context (High-Power-Distance vs. Low-Power-Distance) Cultures: *

  • FYI: American English speakers use terms of respect like “ma’am” (and “sir”) much less frequently than many other cultures and we basically never use “ma’am” as an email greeting. If possible, it’s considered best in the U.S. context to find out the actual name of the person to whom you’re writing and use that (i.e. “Dear Dr. X”). Also, we would also be highly unlikely to include the word “sir” in the body of our emails (especially as frequently as you did!). If you must use “ma’am” (e.g. because you can’t find out the name), however, you really don’t want to misspell the word, as that will signal disrespect of your email recipient — Make sense?
  • X, one very advanced-level comment: To make it clear that you’re not saying “Western employees never follow their boss’s directives,” you may want to add the clarifying “rather than just automatically following them” — make sense? (Western employees do often do what their bosses ask, but often only automatically do so when the employee agrees with the boss that that’s the best thing to do. Otherwise, the employee is likely to express to the boss his/her concerns about what the boss has suggested and then the employee and boss are likely to discuss the boss’s directive and the employee’s concerns together in order to determine the best thing to do — though the boss does generally make the final decision if the boss and employee don’t ultimately succeed at reaching true agreement. Make sense?)

Different Concepts of Time and Planning: *

  • Provide only relevant information in your email (specifically tailoring emails to each recipient!)

    • Usually, to show respect for their email recipient’s time, American English speakers will, if at all possible, go directly to their point in their first sentence. (If it’s absolutely unavoidable, Americans will use the first sentence to provide their recipient with background information to explain why they’re contacting them, but this is still going directly to their topic—Make sense?
    • Also, one other thing, you do not in this email clearly express what you’re asking for from Dr. Y until your very last paragraph. I’m afraid this violates American norms in that usually, to show respect for their email recipient’s time, American English speakers will, if at all possible, go directly to their point in their first sentence. (If it’s absolutely unavoidable, Americans will use the first sentence to provide their recipient with background information to explain why they’re contacting them, but this is still going directly to their topic—Make sense? (I know we haven’t yet read this chapter in Foreign to Familiar yet in our English 101D course, but you may also find helpful the feedback I’ve given to previous English 101D students explaining how differences between how perhaps their home cultures view time and planning and how Americans tend to view time and planning can affect email norms.)
    • Because professional emails are generally written to busy people, American English speakers tend to view short greetings as better than long greetings (especially long greetings that include ideas irrelevant to one’s main point!). Therefore, it would be best if you deleted “I am so excited to be a part of this department. I have a little tour in Hamilton Hall today, everything looks so great,” as these sentences don’t relate to your main point of asking Dr. X for an appointment.
    • X, although sentences such as “I hope this email finds you well” do sometimes appear at the beginning of English emails, this is usually only in cases where we have a personal relationship with someone (perhaps in addition to a professional relationship). Such personal comments are not usually made by at least U.S. speakers of English in cases where our only relationship is professional. This is because not wasting other people’s time is a key cultural value in the U.S., so American English speakers instead tend to get to the main point of business emails a little more quickly and directly, e.g. “X”
    • FYI: X, although “I hope this email finds you well” does sometimes appear at the beginning of English emails, it’s basically only used for people with whom you already have a personal relationship. Because not wasting other people’s time is a key cultural value in the U.S., American English speakers instead tend to get to the main point of business emails a little more quickly and directly, e.g. “As you may remember from my previous email, I’m XXXXX who emailed you earlier about having not yet received my housing assignment.”
    • “I hope you are fine.” — American English speakers generally feel it is unnecessary to include personal sentences like this one in business emails (partially because we believe keeping emails as brief as possible shows respect for the email recipient’s time). Actually, your sentence “I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for the laser cutter training course” would be a perfect way to begin your email because 1) it immediately shows your politeness by beginning with the “politeness marker” phrase “I just wanted to let you know. . . .” and 2) it shows respect for your email recipient’s time by immediately following “I just wanted to let you know. . .” with information relevant to the point of your email, i.e. “I signed up for the laser cutter training course.”
    • “Do you have any extra time and room?”—Actually, the only professors I’ve met during my 5 years of grad school who have actually had extra time and room for taking on additional students are brand-new professors. Otherwise, all professors I’ve ever met are super-busy, and so they only agree to join committees because they care about students, a student’s proposed research topic, and/or because participating in POS committees is part of their job. Therefore, it would be better if, rather than asking whether Dr. X has “extra time,” your email just directly asked for what you need, “Is there any chance you’d be willing to join my POS committee?”
    • Dr. X doesn’t need to know it’s your second day at Iowa State or that you’re currently participating in an orientation program to be able to understand and respond to your question. (So reading the sentence is actually a waste of his time!) It would be better if you omitted this sentence and just indicated in your first sentence that you are a new master’s student—Make sense?
    • American English speakers believe it shows respect for someone’s time to (fairly) directly let them know what you want from them, especially in email communication. Therefore, it would be better if you directly let Professor X know that you want him/her to join your committee. You can make your direct request polite by adding a “politeness” marker so that your request is phrased something like “I was wondering if you’d be willing to join my POS committee” or “I was wondering if you’d be willing to be one of my POS committee members.”
    • Most Americans would consider being so direct when emailing a request to someone you don’t know well as being rude. To avoid this, your request needs to include “politeness markers” such as “I hope you’ve had the chance to look at my research proposal (although I know you’re super-busy, so maybe you haven’t quite had time yet!). I’m wondering whether it would it be possible for us to meet some time after this Friday to talk about it.  If so, can you let me know what time is convenient for you?”
    • Because you clearly know X, your direct mentioning of the research proposal you sent, immediately followed by your request to meet with him, is fine — you are showing your respect for his busy schedule by keeping your email brief and direct. However, for people you don’t know well, remember that being so direct would be considered rude by most Americans. To make this kind of request to someone you don’t know well, you would need to use politeness markers like “I hope you’ve had the chance to look at my research proposal. (Although I do know you’re super-busy and that you maybe therefore haven’t quite had time yet!)  I was just wondering whether it would be possible for us to meet some time after this Friday?  If so, can you let me know what time is convenient for you?” You would also need to give more explanation about why you want to talk to them.
  • Provide all relevant information in the current email:
    • It would help Dr. MacDonald be interested in meeting with you and in joining your committee if you explained in one or two sentences why you are asking him (vs. someone else) to be on your committee, e.g. “With your extensive knowledge of the wind industry in Iowa, I’m sure you’ll be able to help me identify the most useful research articles for my thesis.”
      • Great job letting X know why you want him (her?) on your committee! I’ve noticed many students write email requests without explaining why they need what they’re asking for, and this makes it very difficult for their readers to decide whether or not to help them. Great job!
      • X, it would be better if you demonstrated the genuineness of your interest in Dr. X’s research project by specifying in a phrase or two exactly why his research’s group’s research area particularly interests you. Right now, your expression of interest in joining his research group is so generic, it looks like you may have sent this same thing to all the professors you’ve emailed!—i.e. it looks like you may be somewhat disrespectful of how busy professors are (and selfish?) by asking Dr. X (probably along with many other professors!) to deal with the information about you in your email before you bother to look online to find out their information and see whether their research area actually matches your background and interests!) — Providing a few phrases or sentences that demonstrate you actually do know what Dr. X researches will thus show your respect for his time and also your seriousness about your request for the chance to join his lab — Make sense? (Most people view emails sent out en masse to lots of “approximately relevant” people as basically spam. . . .and feel irritated and delete them accordingly!)
    • It would help Dr. X if you let him know in your email why you wish to meet with him so he can estimate how long your meeting will be and whether/how he needs to prepare for it.
    • “for a few days”—X, it would help Y schedule a time for you to meet with him if your email mentioned the exact dates of your proposed Cincinnati trip/suggested in your email a few specific days you should be available to meet, e.g. “Would you have time to meet some time next week, maybe on Thursday or Friday?”. According to American thinking, minimizing the number of emails needed to arrange something with an email recipient shows respect for their undoubtedly busy schedule (i.e. If your original email had included your proposed visit dates, Y could have directly let you know his availability on those dates; however, because in fact your original email does not include this information, Y must 1) send you an email requesting that information, 2) wait for your response, and then 3) send another email letting you know his availability on the dates you’ve proposed—a much longer communicative exchange than necessary).
    • In addition, in case Dr. X needs to do TA scheduling before you finalize your decision, you should let him know the meeting times of Dr. Y’s 690 class so he doesn’t need to look them up himself in order to avoid scheduling you during them.)
    • Try always to put yourself in the shoes of your receiver whenever you write an email. For example, it’s unlikely that Professor Rilett, from UNL, will know that the ISU you’re talking about = Iowa State University. (After all, “ISU” could also be Indiana State University, Illinois State University, Idaho State University, or a private university with those initials.) Obviously, your appearing to have “center-of-the-universe syndrome” will not help your case!
    • X, it’s highly unlikely Dr. Y (based on his U.S. vs. Sri Lankan context) understands the significance of your having received your “batch top gold medal.” In the U.S. context, it’s important to show respect for your email recipients’ time by concisely communicating enough information about each point your email discusses to ensure your email recipient can appropriately evaluate each point’s significance when he/she decides whether or not to take the time to look at your attachments—Make sense? (If what I’ve said doesn’t make sense, please ask me for further information. This is very important!)
    • X, Dr. Graves undoubtedly gives many students many different work assignments and probably sometimes forgets what he’s assigned to whom, so it would be better if you reminded him in a brief phrase what your “pending work” is, so he doesn’t have to go back to his previous email to find out. This will show your respect for his time and busyness—Make sense?
    • It would be much more considerate of X’s undoubtedly busy schedule for you to attach the formatting information for Iowa State letters of recommendation to this email rather than asking him to search his email inbox for formatting info you sent earlier. That is, you’d be showing consideration of X’s needs and busy schedule by putting all information he needs to fulfill your request in a single place: this email. Make sense?
    • It would have been much better if you had indicated the titles/topics of the 2-3 journal articles of which you are most proud (along with the title of the journal in which they were published), as well as the title of your book and who published it. After all, if you were Dr. Jones, wouldn’t you want immediately to know that information? (Of course, your publication information is also included in your CV/resume, but you show respect for a person’s time when you concisely communicate all the most important and relevant information in your email so they can decide based on that whether or not they should take the time to look at your attachments—Make sense? My dad used to always say, “You have only one chance to make a good first impression”!)
    • Of course the only way you can share your resume with Dr. Lee is by attaching it, but you don’t want to force people to open any more attachments than you must, because that communicates that you care more about sending the information in a way that’s convenient for you than in a way that’s convenient for them. When you ask someone to open an attachment to see your schedule rather than just copying and pasting it into your email, it can thus look like you’re at least thoughtless, and maybe selfish—Make sense?
  • Communicate that you value the other person’s time:
    • “I would really appreciate if you schedule a time for me to meet.”—Because you are inconveniencing your recipient by asking to take some of their time, it would be better if you additionally included the polite request marker “could,” i.e. “I would really appreciate if you could schedule a time for me to meet.”
    • Fantastic job writing an email implicitly suggesting that your goal in asking for the paper is to ensure you don’t waste the professor’s valuable time by not being adequately prepared for the meeting! Wow!!! Your awareness of and concern for your reader’s undoubtedly busy schedule, demonstrated in this email, should definitely strengthen your relationship with Dr. X. Absolutely excellent!!!
    • Because your mistake caused Dr. X to have to email you (at such a busy point in the semester!) about a rule you should have known, it would be better if you used a stronger apology form than just “I am sorry,” e.g. “I am very sorry,” or “I am so sorry,” underlining your “very” or “so” like I did in order to emphasize how sorry you are—Make sense?
    • “Feel free to ask me at anytime.”— X, if 1) you think Y will want to/need to know whether you plan to take Dr. Z’s STAT 690 class and 2) Y is either your superior or is administrative staff, you should promise to tell him your decision as soon as you’ve finalized it. It is not respectful of his undoubtedly busy and overwhelmed brain for you to “require” Y to remember he needs to ask you later about your decision by saying “Feel free to ask me at anytime”! (Although you definitely can use the phrase “”Feel free to ask me at anytime” with peers or lower-status colleagues and students, especially in cases where you think they don’t actually need to know.)

Correcting: *

  • Thanks for sharing this very helpful feedback with your classmate. It’s the kind of comment that can really help one’s peers grow! (Also, you were successful in maintaining the delicate balance of offering clear advice that’s easy for classmates/colleagues to learn from and being polite. Maintaining this balance is often not easy to do.) Great job!

Informing: *

  • I suspect you’re right about the future writing demands X will face in his career. . . .great thought to share!

Sympathizing: *

  • You do an amazing job of communicating empathy to your peers regarding their professional challenges! Your skill in doing that is very valuable, as I’m sure your current and future colleagues and probably also employers (will) recognize! Good writing!

Thanking: *

  •  FYI: In a context like yours where you’re thanking someone, Americans tend to be more specific about what they’re thanking the person for (i.e. if you merely say “Thanks” or “That was nice,” it can sound quite generic, which Americans may interpret as sounding insincere — Make sense?).

I wish the U.S. would join the rest of the world by switching to the metric system, too: *

  • I totally agree with you regarding measurements! I very much wish the U.S. would join the rest of the world and switch to the metric system — it’s soooooooooooo much more logical!

    It’s very inconvenient when Americans travel abroad that we haven’t grown up using the metric system because although I can guess pretty well how many centimeters or meters something is because a meter is basically the same as our yard, I’m not very good at estimating the weight of something in grams or figuring out what clothes I should wear if the temperature is 30 degrees Celsius. I know my international friends in the U.S. have the same problem converting from our so-called “English system” (though the English do now use the metric system to I think a much greater extent than Americans!). However, unfortunately, I don’t think the U.S. will change any time soon ☹ . . . .it’s one of the really bad side effects of being a big country. Because relatively few Americans travel abroad since our own country is so large, most Americans never have to deal with switching systems when traveling — therefore, they don’t see why it would be so helpful to change our illogical, outdated system. Arghh!!!

I wish the U.S. would join the rest of the world by switching to a 24-hour clock, too: *

  • I won’t take points off for your use of the 24-hour clock I highlighted above because I don’t know whether your email recipient was an American or from some other country, but FYI: Although Americans are most familiar with the 12-hour clock (used twice each day as either a.m. or p.m.), most people in the U.S. do understand 24-hour clock times (though we call the 24-hour clock “military time” because it’s most well-known among Americans for its usage in the military); and because I think the U.S. norm should be changed to follow the international standard!

“Football” vs. “Soccer”: *

  • Do you happen to know if the U.S. is the only country in the world that doesn’t call the game that’s now being played for the World Cup “football”? I suspect so but am not sure. I suppose we call it a different name because we have our own “football” that has (historically, anyway) been more popular here. . . .but I’ll admit the name “soccer” is very non-obvious! ☹

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