Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Levels of Certainty


My husband chortled a little when he saw this slogan on the side of a bus yesterday morning after running sprints in Green Park.  "Can you imagine President Obama using that as his campaign slogan?"

He picked up on a cultural difference I had only dimly appreciated: Europeans in general are more subtle in their affirmations than us blunt and direct Americans.

Compare TNT's slogan "sure we can" to that of FedEx "we deliver."  To an American mindset, one emphasizes results, the other hedges but doesn't quite commit.  I'm guessing that from a European mindset, the former sounds a lot less bombastic and over-zealous than the latter without diminishing the level of certainty.

This can also be detected in interpersonal communications.  I am far less likely to get a "yes,"  "absolutely," or "I will" from an English or European colleague than I am a "sure" or "sounds good."

I would love to hear how President Obama would moderate his slogan after four years in the White House here in Europe given this subtle difference: "Sure we did!"

I'm sure it would go over well in the American press.

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