Americans speak American English. The Brits speak British English. The Chinese speak Chinglish. Singaporeans speak Singlish. And, the Japanese speak Japlish. What do I speak? A mixture of all of these plus a splash of my own.

London is the first place I’ve lived since leaving the U.S. in 1998 where English is the primary language. In all the years in between, I’ve been picking up all sorts of different ways of using English. Sometimes I think I may be getting myself in trouble and don’t even know it.

Yesterday, I was chatting with Christina about my use of the word “scheme.” To me, scheme simply means plan or system. But to her, it has a more negative connotation and if you type [define:scheme] into Google, the top 5 definitions that pop up are:

  • an elaborate and systematic plan of action
  • dodge: a statement that evades the question by cleverness or trickery
  • system: a group of independent but interrelated elements comprising a unified whole; “a vast system of production and distribution and consumption keep the country going”
  • schema: an internal representation of the world; an organization of concepts and actions that can be revised by new information about the world
  • form intrigues (for) in an underhand manner

I’d say three out of the five make “scheme” seem less than desirable.

I’m sure scheme isn’t the only word that I use in a way which might give some people an impression other than what I intended. Of course, this is the case with everyone. The curse word c*** isn’t really all that bad in England but beyond awful in the U.S. On the other hand, saying that something is bloody something or other is apparently very crass in the UK. And s*it can simply mean poop in Singapore while it’s a rude swear in the U.S. regardless.

Communicating is such hard work. I find it amazing that I’m not pissing people off (another expression that has various interpretations) or misleading them every other minute. I do my best to be as clear as possible but unless both parties are aware of each other’s background and experience, there’s bound to be some miscommunication. The longer I live and the more places I go, the more confused and confusing I get.

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