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From: Culture Wizard
Joe Lurie, an intercultural trainer and consultant based in San Francisco, reflects on his observation that the English Americans speak is riddled with words, phrases and terminology rooted in gun metaphors and firearm related concepts. I’d argue this is a unique characteristic embedded in the American lexicon (which has certainly spread to other English-speaking regions and peoples through popular culture). Lurie’s essay was published earlier this month in the SIETAR Europa Journal.
Here is an excerpt demonstrating the violent nature of the language:
As I flipped through tv channels, watching left and right wing politicians and pundits battling in a ‘cross-fire’ of blame, each side looking for a ‘smoking gun’ to explain or cast blame for the Tucson tragedy, I became increasingly aware of how we US Americans unconsciously use gun language to express ourselves, even during the most innocent interactions.
In conversation, we often value the ‘straight shooter,’ yet are wary of those who ‘shoot their mouths off,’ those who ‘shoot from the hip’ or glibly end an argument with a ‘parting shot.’We caution our friends and colleagues to avoid ‘shooting themselves in the foot,’ and counsel them not to ‘shoot the messenger.’
In other kinds of sensitive business negotiations, I’ve advised patience, urging colleagues to avoid ‘jumping the gun.’ When the moment is right for getting the biggest ‘bang for the buck,’ I’ve agreed to bring the ‘big guns’ to the table. We look for ‘silver bullet’ solutions, hoping for ‘bulletproof’ results.
I’d bet many of us don’t think twice about the provenance of these everyday expressions. America’s historical relationship with guns and explosives is an obvious link, but how else has the obsession transferred to language?
Please tell us what you think about this unknowingly violent way of communicating. How does it impact the business process when Americans are taken out of their own cultural context and placed in another, e.g. in China where an interpreter is employed?
For more information about Joe Lurie and his work, click here to see his LinkedIn profile.