Globish Friends

I must have half a dozen friends who have told me they learned English by watching the American TV sitcom, “Friends.” 


My buddy Akmal from Uzbekistan even has the accent from his favourite character, Joey. (I have to say it was a little odd to hear him say “Hey! Fuggetaboutit!” — perfectly in character, in a street market in downtown Tashkent … but I digress.)


This occurred to me while reading the reviews of what I believe will be the first book I download on my spiffy new Father’s Day present. The book is called “Globish,” by Robert McCrum. Its premise is that English has now become the world’s default language, birthed by non-native English speakers who found they could communicate through an exchange of a basic vocabulary of English words. 


“Globish” (so named by a French former IBM executive) is “overwhelmingly an economic phenomenon,” according to a recent piece in the New Yorker — “(It’s) the language of Singaporean businessmen closing deals with the help of a small arsenal of English words, and of European officials calming financial markets by uttering stock phrases on television.” A review in the International Herald Tribune called Globish ‘”the worldwide dialect of the third millennium” sustained by, McCrum asserts, “the Internet, global marketing, mass consumerism, instant communications, international soccer, and texting and (Mr. McCrum is English) cricket and the legacy of Winston Churchill.”


At dinner in Dubai last week, the new client prospect I was meeting stopped herself in mid-sentence, laughing, no doubt, at the giant question mark hanging over my head. She paused to explain two Arabic words she had been sprinkling liberally into our conversation. She’s an Egyptian and has lived in seven different cities, picking up phrases and languages at every stop. 


I would argue she is also fluent in Globish. “Yanni” means “it means” and “massalan” means “for example,” she explained. 


My friend Hania (MD of Ketchum Raad Middle East) then added, “When you text “yanni” one does so by typing ya3ni. Using certain numbers such as 3 is the new Arabic way to express letters that not do not have an equivalent in English … such as 7 for the heavy Arabic ‘h’ in words like 7abibi [my love] — a very common word in Levant that we use for all! Also 2 for the ‘a’ in the middle of words sounding like ‘a’ in ‘at’.  For example, “Ya 2allah” = “Oh God”, another common phrase used when frustrated or sad. A third word commonly used among Arabs while speaking in English:  “Yalla” for “Come on” or “Let’s go.” This applies mostly to the new generation – it’s like the SMS lingo of LOL, cul8r.


“So — Ya 2allah! 2 hot for pool 2day.  Yalla … I have 2 go 3abibi!”


Confused? Well, take heart. There’s still plenty of room for retro language with the next generation, apparently.  


Yesterday, while watching the World Cup with my England-born daughter, we were whooping it up after a cracker of a goal by Brazil. She turned to me and asked “Hey Dada, what’s the word that Americans use when they’re excited about something?”


“Awesome?” I ventured.


“Yes – that’s it! Awesome!”


 


 

 

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The Culturalist

Our CulturaLUST of the week is Jonah Hill for being able to pull off two comedic rolls this weekend — one on the lighter side in  Get Him to the Greek as Russell Brand’s well-meaning sidekick the other on the darker side in Cyrus as a jealous son weary of his mother’s suitor. We hope he’s laughing all the way to the box office at haters that thought he was a one-trick pony. Our CulturalBUST of the week is the overexposure of Megan Fox – talent, check, beauty, check, sense of humor, check — so why can we only talk about her hot factor? Come on, people, if we only want to talk about pure hotness, we have a fresh season of True Blood ahead of us. For more cultural picks, check out last week’s issue of the Culturalist.

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When an Idea Is Bad

When an Idea Is Bad

“We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.” Those words, calling for the quiet burial of the Chevy name, recently ricocheted off the computer screens of thousands of General Motors employees, creating an emotional tsunami among Chevy loyalists. Needless to say, the counsel expressed in this General Motors internal memo was soon branded a bad idea by the company’s top brass. Like the New Coke, the Edsel, the Flobee, and Pizza Cones, this “bury the Chevy name” farrago joins a pantheon of bad ideas. 

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Does Social Media Matter?

Research, or any recent conversation with a marketer will tell you that social media is one of the marketing hottest topics. What’s working? What’s not? What’s the latest? How do I put it in context?  That’s why Ketchum’s Brand Marketing Practice decided to sponsor BlogHer’s annual social media study, aptly named the 2010 Social Media Matters Study. Findings from the study will help marketers better understand where to focus online, especially when it comes to purchase recommendations. Key findings include:

Social media is growing with over three-quarters (77%) of adults 18+ online now participating weekly or more.
3 in 4 women online are active social media users.
Blogs are second only to Internet search as the preferred media source for product purchasing information for BlogHer Network users.
Half of the total U.S. online population and 81% of the BlogHer Network audience turn to blogs for advice and guidance.
Men are just as active as women in social media, but they prefer different destinations (YouTube vs. Facebook or social gaming).

  Does social media matter? Just if you want consumers to buy or recommend your product.

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South Africa Calling!

South Africa Calling!

Bafana! Bafana! Bafaaana! This was the sound of thousands of ordinary South Africans who heeded the call of a local radio station and some corporate sponsors to come out and show their support for the national team. Now, it is pretty much accepted that our boys are not going to hold the solid gold symbol of the ultimate sporting accolade up high, but that was not on the point on Wednesday last week.     The Sandton Bafana Bafana parade. 

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Give Yourself a New Point of View

Give Yourself a New Point of View

When it comes to generating new ideas,  a lot depends – literally – on your point of view. As I stand looking out of my office window, I can see familiar sights:  Lake Michigan, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, a small group of people gathered in the shade of a tree; 12 tennis courts; two groups of people playing with a Frisbee; and the architecture and sculptures of Millennium Park. I could use any of these as springboards to new ideas. It’s like a math equation:  Your Creative Challenge + Any Piece of Inspiration = A Brand New Idea. Oops, did I just suck all of the fun out of creativity by comparing it to math? 

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Feels Like a Grind? Stress Implications of Creative Work

What’s happening to those people who have been described by Richard Florida as the “creative class” and who have been — according to the urban theorist’s global best-selling book — on the rise: Growing in number, social scale and influence on how today’s and tomorrow workplace will look like. This was in 2003. Florida then traced the fundamental theme that for him ran through a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing role of creativity in our economy. That sounded good, and almost like a good way out of what another academic, Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, calls the “Toxic Workplace.” According to his research, we can observe a significant trend in today’s work environments with overwork and job stress leading to increases in smoking, alcohol abuse and high blood pressure, while layoffs contribute to depression, violence, and even lowered life expectancy. The “disease” of the time, which is a time of dramatically accelerating change, economic pressure and increasing psychological stress, is a phenomenon called burnout. The less freedom to set our own work pace that we have, the less self-direction we have in defining what we want to do, the less choices we have, and the less autonomy we have in our work environment, the more emotional exhaustion, occupational indifference and diminished competence we can observe. The so-called creative class, the people working in more stimulating and creative environments, in self-directed teams or on their own at their own chosen speed, therefore, should not be infected by the ubiquitous burnout virus. All wrong, as we now learn from Sociology professor Scott Schieman from the University of Toronto, who recently published his research findings in Social Sciences Research and looked at the demands and the stress implications of creative work. Schiemann and his team measured the extent to which people engaged in creative work activities using data from a national survey of more than 1,200 American workers. They asked participants questions like How often do you have the chance to learn new things? How often do you have the chance to solve problems? How often does your job allow you to develop your skills or abilities? And, How often does your job require you to be creative? They used responses to these questions to create an index that they label “creative work activities.” In their publication, the authors describe three core sets of findings:

People who score higher on the creative work index are more likely to experience excessive job pressures, feel overwhelmed by their workloads, and more frequently receive work-related contact (e-mails, texts, calls) outside of normal work hours;
In turn, people who experience these job-related pressures engage in more frequent “work-family multi-tasking” — that is, they try to juggle job- and home-related tasks at the same time while they are at home;
Taken together, these job demands and work-family multi-tasking result in more conflict between work and family roles — a central cause of problems for functioning in the family/household domain

In his book from 2003, Richard Florida concluded that “It is time for the creative class to grow up — boomers and Xers, liberals and conservatives, urbanites and suburbanites — and evolve from an amorphous group of self-directed while high-achieving individuals into a responsible, more cohesive group interested in the common good.” It took just seven years for this group to evolve into one that is suffering from burnout while balancing the demands of work and life.

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The #1 Digital Media Trend in PR

Recently, I served as a panelist at  PRSA’s Digital Impact conference. The topic was “Where the PR Industry is Headed,” and we were asked to gaze into our crystal balls to name the top digital trends impacting the future of PR. It was tempting to talk about current tech obsessions — from the iPad to the social media explosion to location-based apps, like  Foursquare and Gowalla, or early experiments in  augmented reality, like  Layar and what GE’s done with Ecomagination. But I ranked the surge in web video as the #1 trend that will cause a sea change in how we do our jobs. Whereas PR people used to be prized for their writing, it is visual storytelling in the interactive, multimedia environment that will make or break the careers of future flacks. 

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Clods and Sods

 Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be goalies. Especially if you’re English. “Hand of clod”, “All-time goal-keeping howler”, “Rob’s clanger”, a psychologist describing the similar traumatic impact of a road accident.  These were just a handful (sorry) of pronouncements from the UK media after Robert Green, England’s goalie, fumbled a shot and allowed the ball to dribble over the line in the 1-1 draw against the US in the World Cup match Saturday night. A groan? A moan? Whatever it was, it was heard all over the country, all at once.

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Bustin Jieber and Musing on Our Teen Influencer Study With myYearbook

Teen culture moves faster than you can say “Why would Chase Crawford pull out of the remake of Footloose?”. One day we read that they aren’t interested in Twitter, and the next month they’re making “Bustin Jieber” a trending topic to mess with the social media site’s new algorithm where sustained chatter on a given item doesn’t register as a trending topic anymore. One-third of the time, it makes my head spin, another third makes me feel old, and the last third just makes me more curious. So in a (humble) attempt to better understand the teen scene, Ketchum partnered with myYearbook to survey 10,000 13-19-year-olds on what type of content interests them most, what they think of being friends with their parents on Facebook and if they are in to Foursquare after all. Below are some highlights from Alissa Walker’s post about the study on Fast Company. For the full piece go here.  Don’t friend them (until they’re 18)56% of teens 13-14 years old were wary of their parents friending them on social networks, but by the time they were 18, only 27% cared. Friends are friendsTeens who are more social online are more social offline. No more envisioning the ultraconnected teen sitting home to iChat on a Saturday night. The more friends teens have online, the more likely they are to socialize and go to parties in real life. No check-ins, pleaseThe survey confirms something we’ve been hearing for some time: Teens don’t like location-based apps. Only 16% of influencers report using a mobile application like Foursquare or Gowalla.

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