Is it still English if the accent is on the wrong syllable? I want to argue that it’s not. Rebel is a noun. To rebel is a verb. “The rebels opted to rebel.” is English. “The rebels opted to rebel.” is gibberish. It’s not the fault of the call centre employee that I can’t understand her gibberish. It’s the fault of whoever hired her.

But perhaps I’m begging the question. There are more people in India and Nigeria claiming to speak English than there are in England, the U.S., Canada and the Antipodes combined. Indians understand each other, as do Nigerians. So why shouldn’t I learn to speak Indian English rather than insist they learn to speak Canadian? 

Because, I might argue, they can effortlessly understand us, whereas try as we might, it’s often impossible for us to understand them. Colonialism has nothing to do with it. It’s simply the asymmetry of intelligibility.

Alright, so I’m not begging that question. But I am ignoring the more relevant one. For the more relevant question is, what would it cost me, in lower interest rates on my savings, and/or higher on my loans, if the banks didn’t staff their call centres with these gibberish-speakers?

Banks and other service providers compete. And so we can well imagine a bank or a telecom company guaranteeing its customers that its call centre staff will be non-gibberish-speakers only. But in these days of political correctness, how exactly would it advertise this service? Hmm …       

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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1 reply

  1. The irony of communication companies has always been, it seems to me, their lack of knowing how to communicate.


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