Here’s an article (or an introduction, at least) that made me time-warp back to my first few years in America.
It’s about cliche and formal writing. The author above, had the wit to realise that he/she shouldn’t take for granted that people in an international audience would get what s./he was talking about when they used particularly US expressions.
Not long after I moved here, there was a national election and I was bamboozled by what I have now realised are ‘pundits’, but who I then thought of as “journalists’, who spewed phrases that were in fact jargon, and excluded people like me, who weren’t in the know. The first time I realised it was when a female writer published an opinion piece in a major newspaper, complaining that so many political cliches were sports related.
Having had that pointed out to me, I suddenly realised why I didn’t understand most of the political punditry over here. Not only was it sports related (and therefore excluding girls like me who had neither been exposed to Title IX, nor encouraged to take an interest in sports), it was almost exclusively US-sports related.
I instantly felt better when I realised that I wasn’t stupid, I just hadn’t been exposed to the sports that contain expressions used every day here.
So here’s a thing. If you’re writing formally, here are some expressions international audiences won’t get (native English speakers may be able to work them out, from the context but for the rest they will be almost completely incomprehensible):
-Stepping up to the plate (baseball phrase – in spite of the name the World Series, very few nations on this planet understand the subtleties of the game I have come to love most of all US sports)
– Home run (likewise)
-Covering all the bases (exclusively baseball)
– Hitting it out of the park (baseball)
-Foul Ball (baseball)
-Hail Mary Pass (American Football – for most non-US-types this is completely meaningless. For people from Catholic nations it implies something reliable, as opposed to the actual interpretation, which means a last-ditch attempt with little hope of success._
-Strike ( baseball, bowling)
-Slam dunk (basketball)
There are so many, many others. Can you think of any?