It is understandable that Ambassador Lyscom is disappointed at being misquoted by The Slovak Spectator, particularly since the misunderstanding drastically changed the meaning of his initial statement ["The chicken that never was," Letters to the Editor, Vol. 5 No. 24, June 21-27 - Ambassador Lyscom had been misquoted by us in the previous issue as saying the election of President Rudolf Schuster was "another chicken in the box" for Slovakia's EU ambitions. He actually said it was "another tick in the box," ie. another required task completed - ed note].
Nonetheless, Ambassador Lyscom's illogical criticism of North American English is unfair and biased. Though I'm sure he felt happy with his felicitous "chicken in a basket" versus "chicken in a bucket" metaphor, it has little to do with the fact that a writer misquoted him in a newspaper article - a writer, I should add, with a distinctively Slovak name. People get misquoted in newspapers all the time. This is certainly not the province of The Slovak Spectator, and most certainly not that of North American speakers of the English language.
Since Mr. Lyscom is fond of catch phrases that sum up entire arguments, let us try one a bit more fitting: People in glass houses should not throw stones. Taking into account that England is infamous for some of the worst tabloid journalism, it would be prudent for a representative of England to use more diplomatic language when dealing with a newspaper he accuses of having made a mistake. That same prudence might also help him avoid statements based on generalisations and stereotypes.
As he points out, the United States has colloquialisms like "y'all." Aside from the fact that this utterance is very regional and not representative of the many other variations that can be found all over North America, he uses it completely out of context. Though not clearly stated, it appears that the Ambassador is either accusing The Spectator of being a North American publication, or he is suggesting that its staff is unduly under the influence of American English.
In either case, these assertions are wholly unsupported. Perhaps Mr. Lyscom should explain better the connection he makes between y'all, a spoken variation in the southern United States, and being misquoted in written form by a Slovak who uses English as a second language.
American English exists on an equal plane with the Oxford version. This has been true for quite some time and can be supported in part by the fact that the American version of English has won its fair share of Nobel Prizes for Literature. It would behoove Mr. Lyscom to act more objectively the next time he finds himself misquoted or misunderstood. At the very least, he should act more diplomatically. Unless, of course, I am suffering the ill effects of American English and diplomacy has an entirely different meaning across the pond from North America.
12. Jul 1999 at 0:00