Category Archives: Travel

Caracastan: Is Venezuela planning a war against its neighbors?

Venezuelan Attack

Some experts are calling attention to recent developments in the Castro Colony of Venenozuela (a.k.a. Caracastan).

It seems that Venenozuela is preparing for war, possibly on two fronts: against Colombia and Guyana.

Such a move would — of course — follow all the guidelines of The Castro Playbook.

Castronoid General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, and other senior Cuban military officials pose with their Venezuelan pupils
Abridged from INQUISITR:

During the last few months, the Venezuelan government has been positioning troops along the border with the small South American nation of Guyana. This has raised the concern that Caracas may be intending to take the Essequibo territory through military force…

… It is hypothesized that Nicolas Maduro may use military action as a way to unite the Venezuelan people against a foreign foe. Additionally, the occupation of Guyanese soil could become a bargaining chip against the ICJ and the United States.

The fact that Guyana lacks any credible military force makes the country an optimal target for the relatively well-equipped, but logistically barren, Venezuelan military…

… It should be noted that another front has recently opened in this crisis.

Last Friday, the Venezuelan Minister of the Interior, Néstor Reverol, advanced the possibility of military action against Colombia, the Globoreports. He accused Bogotá of providing Venezuelan citizens Colombian identities and military training, which would be a reason for a military intervention. Reverol also added that the recruitment is characterized by the presence of “paramilitary personnel, partisans, and criminal bands.”

The website Poder Aéreo reported the deployment of Venezuelan F-16 fighter jets on the border with Colombia…

… As all the factors are put together, the question remains: Will Venezuela invade its neighbors?

The answer is hard to determine.

by Carlos Eire

TRAVEL ALERT: Hate Crimes At All-Time High In UK

Antisemitism UK

Travelers who are Jewish should take precautions when in the United Kingdom.

FACT: 1,382 hate incidents and 34% rise in violent assaults against Jewish people in 2017 logged [a report by by Community Security Trust].

Anti-Semitic hate incidents have reached a record level in the UK, with the Jewish community targeted at a rate of nearly four times a day last year, figures indicate.

There was no obvious single cause behind the trend, the trust said. “Often increases in anti-Semitic incidents have been attributable to reactions to specific trigger events that cause identifiable, short-term, spikes in incident levels. However, this was not the case in 2017. Instead, it appears that the factors that led to a general, sustained, high level of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 continued throughout much of 2017.”

The report pointed to a rise in all forms of hate crime following the EU referendum as well as publicity surrounding alleged antisemitism in the Labour party. These factors may have caused higher levels of incidents as well as encouraged more reporting of anti-Semitic incidents from victims and witnesses in the Jewish community, the trust said.

The trust’s figures showed a 34% increase in the number of violent anti-Semitic assaults, from 108 in 2016 to 145 in 2017. The most common single type of incident in 2017 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at Jewish people in public.

TRAVEL ALERT SWEDEN: 1 In 8 Swedish Women Will Be Raped

Rape Sweden

Sweden’s government has ordered the country’s National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) to look into why the number of reported rapes in the country has increased.

The agency has the task of finding out whether the increase related to specific types of sexual offences, certain situations, or certain groups of perpetrators, though exactly how it measures these factors will be up to Brå.

The number of sexual offences reported to police in Sweden has risen steadily over recent decades.

However, it is unlikely that this is the full explanation for the rise, since the past four years have also seen an overall increase in exposure to sexual offences, according to the Swedish Crime Survey, also carried out by Brå. This report is based on survey answers rather than police reports, and aims to give a more complete picture of the victimization rate.

As The Local reported at the time, the 2017 survey published in November showed that the proportion of the population who had been victims of what is classed as ‘crime against an individual’ – assault, threats, mugging, fraud, harassment, or sexual assault – was at its highest level since records began in 2006.

The most significant rise was reported in instances of sexual offences, with the victimization rate for such crimes going from 0.8 to 2.4 percent between 2012 and 2016. That equates to around 181,000 people, an all-time high. Among women, the rate is even higher, at 4.1 percent.

In this survey, sexual offences covered a wide range of crimes from exhibitionism to assault.

At the time, Åsa Strid from Brå told The Local: “These results raise a number of questions about why so many more people are reporting that they have experienced sexual offences.”

The government has now called on Brå to estimate “to the greatest extent possible” how the victimization rate has developed.

This will include analysis of whether certain types of sexual crime are behind the rise, and whether the rise relates to a particular group of perpetrators.

It is not clear whether this would include an investigation of the ethnicity of perpetrators of sexual crimes, something which Sweden’s Moderate Party has called for.

by Catherine Edwards

France To Consider Legalizing Child Rape

France Child Rape

Is a 13-year-old old enough to agree to sex with an adult? That’s a question France is asking as the government prepares to set a legal age for sexual consent for the first time.

Twice in recent weeks, French courts have refused to prosecute men for rape after they had sex with 11-year-old girls because authorities couldn’t prove coercion. Amid the public disbelief over the situation, the French government is drafting a bill to say that sex with children under a certain age is by definition coercive.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet provoked consternation among feminist groups Monday by saying a legal minimum age of 13 for sexual consent “is worth considering.”

Activists staged a small protest Tuesday in central Paris to argue that the age of consent should be set at 15. Protesters waved placards that read “for him impunity, for her a life sentence” in reference to the recent cases.

“We want the law to guarantee that before 15 there can be no concept of consent,” prominent French feminist activist Caroline de Haas said.

“I don’t know why (Belloubet) said it,” added Alice Collet, a member of the National Collective for Women’s Rights. “It’s a sign of ignorance of the issues.”

Establishing a legal age of consent is one piece of a pending bill to address sexual violence and harassment in France. The subject of sexual misconduct has drawn fresh attention worldwide since rape and sexual assault allegations were made against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

“In America with the Weinstein fallout, there have been legal investigations. But here it has been radio silence from politicians,” said de Haas.

French women have increasingly been speaking out online and to police in recent weeks about past abuse, but no high-profile men in France have lost their jobs or suffered reputational damage so far.

A report Tuesday night in the newspaper Liberation detailed allegations by eight women accusing the former head of the Socialist Party’s youth movement of serial harassment in 2010-2014. The alleged perpetrator, Thierry Marchal-Beck, is quoted as saying that he was “stupefied” by the accusations and threatened possible legal action. It may be too late for the women to press charges under French law.

A Non Political Understanding Of The Relief Crisis is Puerto Rico…Surprise It’s Not FEMA’s Fault!

Puerto Rico Dale Yeager Blog

FYI current reports show that union workers at the docks are refusing to move relief aid because they want more money. Sad!

‘Inept’ Puerto Rican government ‘riddled with corruption’

Jorge Rodriguez, 49, is the Harvard-educated CEO of PACIV, an international engineering firm based in Puerto Rico that works with the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. The Puerto Rican-born engineer says he has dispatched 50 engineers to help FEMA rehabilitate the devastated island — a commonwealth of the United States — after Hurricane Maria. He refuses to work with the local government, which he called inept and riddled with corruption.

For the last 30 years, the Puerto Rican government has been completely inept at handling regular societal needs, so I just don’t see it functioning in a crisis like this one. Even before the hurricane hit, water and power systems were already broken. And our $118 billion debt crisis is a result of government corruption and mismanagement.

The governor Ricardo Rossello has little experience. He’s 36 and never really held a job and never dealt with a budget. His entire administration is totally inexperienced and they have no clue how to handle a crisis of this magnitude.

For instance, shortly after the hurricane hit, the government imposed a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am and then changed it. Now, it’s 7 pm to 5 am, and makes no sense. The curfew has prevented fuel trucks from transporting their loads. These trucks should have been allowed to run for 24 hours to address our needs, but they have been stalled, and so we have massive lines at gas stations and severe shortages of diesel at our hospitals and supermarkets.

I’m really tired of Puerto Rican government officials blaming the federal government for their woes and for not acting fast enough to help people on the island. Last week I had three federal agents in my office and I was so embarrassed; I went out of my way to apologize to them for the attitude of my government and what they have been saying about the US response. When the hurricane hit we had experts from FEMA from all over the US on the ground and I was really proud of their quick response. The first responders and FEMA have all been outstanding in this crisis, and should be supported.

I have 50 engineers that I have sent out pro bono to help local companies get back on their feet. This includes getting people gasoline and cash, and helping them connect to others that can assist with repairs without delays.

I won’t allow my people to work with the local government.

I have a message for the U.S. Congress: Watch out what relief funds you approve and let our local government handle. Don’t let the Puerto Rican government play the victim and fool you. They have no clue what they are doing, and I worry that they will mishandle anything that comes their way.

They don’t need another aircraft carrier. They need experienced people to run a proper disaster command center.

How to Avoid Bringing Home Bed Bugs

Travel Dale Yeager Blog

Bed bugs are bed bad. People’s entire lives have been overturned by these (increasingly common) blood-sucking, itch-inducing pests. Thankfully, they’re not disease vectors, but I would rather not share my home with a roommate who wants to eat me, thank you very much.

Scientists have noticed an expansion in bed bug cases across the world, in no small part due to increased international travel. But one team wanted to know how the bed bugs managed to hitch a ride, and how to prevent the spread. It turns out that part of the answer lies with the dirty laundry inside your travel bag.

“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks, but no one has really talked about how they get into the house in the first place,” study author William Hentley from the University of Sheffield in the UK told Gizmodo. “Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”

Scientists already know that human odor attracts bed bugs, though not which chemicals in the odor specifically. But for the newest study, researchers prepared a mock bedroom with laundry bags containing clean and dirty clothes—in other words, there were no humans in the room. The critters were “twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes,” according to the paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the amount of carbon dioxide in the room did not affect their results—the CO2 source would represent a human, since some bugs like mosquitos are specifically attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale.

These results were enough to convince the researchers that bed bugs could travel throughout the world by hitching a ride in luggage containing dirty clothes.

As a caveat, this was an experimental room and not real life, said both Hentley and Toby Fountain, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Uppsala in Sweden who was not involved in the study. But still, said Fountain, the authors “demonstrate a striking pattern that bags containing clothes with human odor were more frequently used as refuges than those without. This result emphases the importance of making sure luggage and other belongings are made as inaccessible to bed bugs as possible when staying in increased risk places, for example by making sure bags are fully closed and secured and kept away from the bed.” Hentley agreed with this advice.

So there you have it. When traveling to possibly bed bug-contaminated locations—like, say, that sketchy-seeming hotel—keep your luggage on metal racks (bed bugs don’t like crawling on metal, said Hentley) or put your whole suitcase in a plastic bag to avoid picking up the horrors that are bed bugs.

TRAVEL ALERT: How Flying Messes With Your Mind

Travel Dale Yeager Blog

Travelling by plane has become an everyday activity – but our bodies and brains are still affected by it.

With the tiny screen bouncing around in front of us, tinny sound quality and frequent interruptions, watching a movie during a flight is hardly an immersive experience.

Yet, frequent fliers may have found themselves – or at least witnessed others – welling up at the most innocuous of films while on a long airline journey. Even lighthearted comedies such as Bee MovieBridesmaids and The Simpsons can trigger the water works in passengers who would normally remain dry-eyed if watching these on the ground.

Physicist and television presenter Brian Cox and musician Ed Sheeran have both admitted they can get a bit over-emotional when watching movies on aircraft. A new survey by Gatwick Airport in London found 15% of men and 6% of women said they were more likely to cry when watching a film on a flight than they would if seeing it at home.

One major airline has gone as far as issuing “emotional health warnings” before inflight entertainment that might upset its customers.

There are many theories about why flying might leave passengers more vulnerable to crying – sadness at leaving loved ones, excitement about the trip ahead, homesickness. But there is also some evidence that flying itself may also be responsible.

An emerging body of research is suggesting that soaring 35,000ft (10km) above the ground inside a sealed metal tube can do strange things to our minds, altering our mood, changing how our senses work and even making us itch more.

“There hasn’t been much research done on this in the past as for healthy people these do not pose much of a problem,” says Jochen Hinkelbein, president of the German Society of Aerospace Medicine and assistant medical director for emergency medicine at the University of Cologne. “But as air travel has become cheaper and more popular, older and less fit people are travelling by air. This is leading to more interest in the field.”

Hinkelbein is one of a handful of researchers who are now examining how the conditions we experience on flights can affect the human body and mind.

The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts

There can be no doubt that aircraft cabins are peculiar places for humans to be. They are a weird environment where the air pressure is similar to that atop an 8,000ft-high (2.4km) mountain. The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts while the air pumped into the cabin is cooled as low as 10°C (50F) to whisk away the excess heat generated by all the bodies and electronics onboard.

The reduced air pressure on airline flights can reduce the amount of oxygen in passengers’ blood between 6 and 25%, a drop that in hospital would lead many doctors to administer supplementary oxygen. For healthy passengers, this shouldn’t pose many issues, although in the elderly and people with breathing difficulties, the impact can be higher.

There are some studies, however, that show even relatively mild levels of hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen) can alter our ability to think clearly. At oxygen levels equivalent to altitudes above 12,000ft (3.6km), healthy adults can start to show measurable changes in their memory, their ability to perform calculations and make decisions. This is why the aviation regulations insist that pilots must wear supplementary oxygen if the cabin air pressure is greater than 12,500ft.

Strangely, the air pressure at altitudes of over 7,000ft (2.1km) has been found to actually increase reaction times – great news for those who like to play computer games during their flight.

But there is some research that shows there can also be small decreases in cognitive performance and reasoning at oxygen levels found at 8,000ft (2.4km) – the same as those found in airline cabins. For most of us, this is unlikely to cloud our thinking much though.

 Flying also plays havoc with our other senses too

“A healthy person like a pilot or passenger should not have cognitive problems at this altitude,” says Hinkelbein. “When you have unfit people, or someone with the flu or pre-existing problems, then hypoxia can decrease oxygen saturation further so cognitive deficits become noticeable.

But Hinkelbein says the mild hypoxia we experience during flights can have other, more easily recognised effects on our brains – it makes us tired. Studies in hypobaric chambers and on non-acclimatised military personnel arriving in mountainous regions have shown short-term exposure to altitudes of at least 10,000ft (3km) can increase fatigue, but the effects could start at lower altitudes in some people.

“Whenever I am sitting in a plane after take-off, I become tired and find it easy to fall asleep,” explains Hinkelbein. “This is not the lack of oxygen causing me to lose conciousness, but the hypoxia is a contributing factor.”

Should you manage to keep your eyes open for long enough to see the crew dim the cabin, however, then you may experience another effect of the lower air pressure. Human night vision can deteriorate by 5-10% at altitudes of just 5,000ft (1.5km). This is because the photoreceptor cells in the retina needed to see in the dark are extremely oxygen-hungry and can struggle to get all they need at a high altitude, causing them to work less effectively.

Flying also plays havoc with our other senses too. The combination of low air pressure and humidity can reduce the sensitivity of our taste buds to salt and sweet by up to 30%.A study commissioned by airline Lufthansa also showed that the savoury flavours in tomato juice taste better during a flight.

The dry air can also rob us of much of our sense of smell, leaving food tasting bland. It is why many airlines add extra seasoning to the food they serve to make it palatable during a flight. It is perhaps fortunate that our sense of smell is diminished during flights, however, as the change in air pressure can also lead to passengers breaking wind moreoften.

And if the prospect of breathing in the bodily gases of your fellow passengers doesn’t make you feel awkward enough, it seems reductions in air pressure can also make passengers feel less comfortable. A study in 2007 showed that after about three hours at the altitudes found in airline cabins, people start to complain about feeling uncomfortable.

Combine this with the low humidity and it is little wonder we find it hard to sit still for long periods on flights. A study by Austrian researchers has shown that a long-distance flight can dry out our skin by up to 37%, and may lead to increased itchiness.

For those who are already nervous fliers, there is perhaps some more bad news.

Low levels of air pressure and humidity can also amplify the effects of alcohol and the hangover it produces the next day.

For those who are already nervous fliers, there is perhaps some more bad news.

Anxiety levels can increase with hypoxia,” explains Valerie Martindale, president of the Aerospace Medical Association at King’s College London. Anxiety is not the only aspect of mood that can be affected by flying. A number of studies has shown spending time at altitude can increase negative emotions like tension, make people less friendlydecrease their energy levels and affect their ability to deal with stress.

“We have shown that some aspects of mood can be altered by exposure to cabin pressures equivalent to altitudes of 6,000-8000ft,” says Stephen Legg, professor of ergonomics at Massey Univeristy in New Zealand, who is studying the impact of mild hypoxia on people. This may go some way towards explaining why passengers often find themselves crying at films more mid-flight, but most effects in scientific studies seem to only occur at altitudes above those that commercial airline cabins are set to. Recently Legg also showed the mild dehydration that might be expected on a flight can also influence mood.

“We know very little about the effect of exposure to multiple mild stressors on complex cognition and mood,” he adds. “But we do know that there is a general ‘fatigue’ associated with long distance air travel, so I guess it is probably the combined effects of these concurrent multiple mild exposures that give rise to ‘flight fatigue’.

Then there is also research showing altitude can also make people feel happier.

But Stephen Groening, a professor of cinema and media at the University of Washington, believes this happiness may also manifest itself as tears. The boredom on a flight and relief given by an inflight movie, combined with the privacy of the small screen and headphones used to watch one, could lead to tears of joy, not sadness, he says.

“The configuration of inflight entertainment apparatus produce an affect of intimacy that might lead to heightened emotional responses,” says Groening. “Crying on airplanes actually consists of tears of relief, not tears of sadness.”

But Hinkelbein has uncovered another strange change in the human body that could also be messing the way our bodies normally work. A new study he conducted with colleagues at the University of Cologne, but yet to be published, has shown even 30 minutes in similar conditions to those experienced on a commercial airliner can alter the balance of molecules associated with the immune system in the blood of volunteers. It suggests the lower air pressure may cause a change in the way our immune systems work.

 If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too

“People used to think they got a cold or flu when travelling due to changes in the climate,” says Hinkelbein. “But it could be because their immune response changes while on a flight. It is something we need to research in more detail.”

If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too. Increases in inflammation triggered by the immune system are thought to be linked to depression.

“A one off inflammatory challenge from a vaccine can produce a mood dip that resolves in about 48 hours,” says Ed Bullmore, head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and who studies how the immune system influences mood disorders. “It would be interesting if a 12-hour flight to the other side of the world caused something similar.”

By Richard Gray


SHAME! A Hypocritical Silence

Hypocrisy on Cuba

Latin American countries “deserve credit for their recent denunciations of what they bluntly refer to as Venezuela’s dictatorship,” says Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald.

Which is why he can’t understand “why they don’t do the same thing with Cuba’s dictatorship. When it comes to Cuba, they all seem to look the other way,” even though it’s been “a hereditary dictatorship since 1959” and likely will remain so.

Even President Trump “has left intact most key aspects of former President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba.” Indeed, “US trade and tourism to Cuba is flourishing under Trump.” Denouncing Venezuela “is the right thing to do. But ignoring Cuba’s abuses is morally wrong.”

How Americanisms Are Killing The English Language or How Americans Made English Cool.

British vs. American English

A book released this year claims that Americanisms will have completely absorbed the English language by 2120. Hephzibah Anderson takes a look.

So it turns out I can no longer speak English. This was the alarming realisation foisted upon me by Matthew Engel’s witty, cantankerous yet nonetheless persuasive polemic That’s the Way it Crumbles: The American Conquest of English. Because by English, I mean British English.

Despite having been born, raised and educated on British shores, it seems my mother tongue has been irreparably corrupted by the linguistic equivalent of the grey squirrel. And I’m not alone. Whether you’re a lover or a loather of phrases like “Can I get a decaf soy latte to go?”, chances are your vocabulary has been similarly colonised.

Speaking on the wireless in 1935, Alistair Cooke declared that “Every Englishman listening to me now unconsciously uses 30 or 40 Americanisms a day”. In 2017, that number is likely closer to three or four hundred, Engel hazards – more for a teenager, “if they use that many words in a day”.

As a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it

But how did this happen and why should we care? After all, as a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it. Words like bungalow, bazaar, even Blighty, have their roots elsewhere. Heck, go far enough back and isn’t it pretty much all just distorted Latin, French or German?

The first American words to make it across the pond were largely utilitarian – signifiers for flora and fauna that didn’t exist back in Merrie England. Moose, maize and tobacco were among them. But there were others, too, that in retrospect might seem laden with significance – words like plentifulness, monstrosity and conflagration.

With no means of swift communication or easeful passage between the two countries, American English merely trickled back into its source to begin with. But as the balance of power between Britain and her former colonies shifted, as America ascended to military, economic, cultural and technological dominance, that trickle swelled to a torrent, washing away any kind of quality control.

Cookies and closets

Throughout the 19th Century, Engel contends, “the Americanisms that permeated the British language did so largely on merit, because they were more expressive, more euphonious, sharper and cleverer than their British counterparts”. What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’? That long ago ceased to be the case, leaving us with words and phrases that reek of euphemism – ‘passing’ instead of dying – or that mock their user with meaninglessness, like the non-existent Rose Garden that political reporters decided No 10 had to have, just because the White House has one (it doesn’t exactly have one either, not in the strictest sense, but that’s a whole other story).

What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’?

Call me a snob, but there’s also the fact that some American neologisms are just plain ungainly. I recently picked up a promising new American thriller to find ‘elevator’ used as a verb in the opening chapter. As in, Ahmed was ‘elevatoring’ towards the top of his profession in Manhattan.

Nowadays, no sphere of expression remains untouched. Students talk of campus and semesters. Magistrates, brainwashed by endless CSI reruns, ask barristers “Will counsel please approach the bench?” We uncheck boxes in a vain effort to avoid being inundated with junk mail that, when it arrives regardless, we move to trash.

It’s understandable, of course. Sometimes, American words just seem more glamorous. Who wants to live in a flat, a word redolent of damp problems and unidentifiable carpet stains, a word that just sounds – well, flat – when they could make their home in an apartment instead? Sometimes that glamour is overlain with bracing egalitarianism – it’s a glamour untainted by our perennial national hang-up, class.

Take ‘movie’. The word has all the glitz of Hollywood and none of the intellectual pretensions (or so it might be argued) of the word ‘film’, which increasingly suggests subtitles (‘foreign-language film’ is one of the few instances in which the f-word doesn’t seem interchangeable with its American counterpart – ‘foreign-language movie’ just sounds odd). Other times they fill a gap, naming something that British English speakers have been unable to decide on, as is increasingly the case with ATM, a boring but brief alternative to cash point, cash machine, hole in the wall. Also to be factored in is what Engel dubs “Britain’s cultural cringe”, which predisposes us to embrace the foreign.

It’s often pointed out that plenty of these Americanisms were British English to begin with – we exported them, then imported them back. A commonly made case in point is ‘I guess’, which crops up in Chaucer. When Dr Johnson compiled his seminal 1755 dictionary, ‘gotten’ was still in use as a past participle of ‘get’. But as Engel points out, good old English is not good new English. Moreover, his beef isn’t really to do with authenticity; it’s more to do with our unthinking complicity. Because it’s not just the cookies and the closets, or even the garbage, it’s the insidiousness of it all. We’ve already reached the point where most of us can no longer tell whether a word is an Americanism or not. By 2120, he suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely. As he puts it, “The child will have eaten its mother, but only because the mother insisted”.

By 2120, Engel suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely

The new Esperanto?

For more than half-a-dozen years (I almost wrote ‘more than a half-dozen’), I was a UK book columnist for Bloomberg News. Despite the nature of my beat, my identity as a Brit, and the organisation’s proudly global nature, I was required to write in American English. A cinch, thought I, but even at the end of my tenure, I was still bumping into words my editors deemed Briticisms. (‘Charabanc’, sure, but ‘fortnight’? That one was a minor revelation, suddenly explaining the many blank looks I’d received over the years from American friends.) Which is fair enough – Bloomberg is, after all, an American company. And yet I can’t help feeling a little retrospective resentment towards my British editors for all the Americanisms that I’ve got past them unquestioned. Likewise, when I published a book in America, I was excited to find out how it would read after it had been ‘Americanized’, but I’ve noticed it’s fast becoming the norm for American works to make it into print over here without so much as having a ‘z’ switched for an ‘s’ or a ‘u’ tacked on to an ‘o’. And if we can’t rely on our publishers to defend British English…

Like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis

None of this would matter if these imported words were augmenting our existing vocabulary. It’s impossible to have too many words, right? But like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis. Engel quotes researchers behind 2014’s Spoken British National Corpus, who found that the word ‘awesome’ is now used in conversation 72 times per million words. Marvellous, meanwhile, is used just twice per million – down from 155 times a mere 20 years earlier. ‘Cheerio’ and, yes, ‘fortnight’, are apparently staring at the same fate.

Even so, you might ask, is this really such a bad thing? When my grandfather returned home from the front in World War Two, he became a firm believer in the unifying powers of Esperanto. Along with Volapuk, Ekselsioro and Mondlingvo, that idealistic tongue came to nothing. American English is succeeding where it failed. But it’s hard not to feel that diminishing linguistic variance isn’t shrinking the world. Engel rues the way in which our national character is going the way of London’s ‘Manhattanized’ skyline, reticence yielding to self-promotion.

And then there’s the very valid theory that you can’t feel or think things for which you’ve no language. A borrowed vocabulary, one that’s evolved to meet the needs of people whose lives are subtly but profoundly different (ask anyone who’s lived Stateside for a while – those superficial similarities and familiarities soon fall away to reveal a decidedly foreign country), deprives us of fully experiencing our own. It’s nothing short of a “crisis of self-imposed serfdom”, Engel says. “A nation that outsources the development of its own language – that language it developed over hundreds of years – is a nation that has lost the will to live”.

It might seem tactless to bemoan the state of any branch of all-conquering English when so many other languages are being wiped out entirely. But ultimately, the battle isn’t really one of British versus American English, but of individual experience versus the homogenising effects of global digital culture. For a provocative glimpse of where this might all lead, it’s worth noting that Globish, a “sort-of language” (Engel’s phrase) created for business types by former IBM exec Jean-Paul Nerriere, consists of just 1,500 words. Jokes, metaphors and acronyms are verboten, being too fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Personally, I think I’d rather communicate in emojis. But here’s hoping it won’t come to that. Engel’s book is certainly a wake-up call. Sorry, cri de coeur. Wait, better make that a call to arms.

By Hephzibah Anderson