Good Communication Skills Have Never Been So Important

I got an email the other day from a blog reader who tells me that there are now more non-native English speakers than native English speakers. That leaves ample opportunities for linguistic subtleties going unnoticed. I suppose it can happen to native English speakers as well.

Here is an example:

Back in 2006, I wrote a blog post entitled “You will not find any LemonJellos in Malaysia.” The blog post referred to new laws in Malaysia that banned a variety of non-standard names for children:

Parents will not be able to call their babies after animals, insects, fruit, vegetables, or colours.

Numbers are also not allowed, so little James Bonds cannot flaunt their 007 status on their ID cards.

Other restrictions stop parents giving children royal or honorary titles as names or calling their little ones after Japanese cars.

I ended the post with a plea to blog readers to help us find the ever-elusive twins named OrangeJello and LemonJello:

By the way, we are still looking for OrangeJello and LemonJello. Despite many good leads, we have not found them. If you know how to find them, please contact Dubner and/or me. There is a small gift for you if you lead us to them.

A few days ago I got a friendly email from a woman in Malaysia. Here is what she wrote:

Just read your column. I know of two stores that sell Jello in Kuala Lumpur. Look in the Ampang area for the two expat groceries. I can’t vouch for what flavors are currently in stock but they do sell a variety of Jello flavors. Hock Chun on Jalan Ampang also might sell Jello. I believe that the grocery in KLCC also sells Jello.

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  1. mgroves says:

    I would guess that a non-native English speaker is someone who speaks English not as a first language.

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  2. Chloe says:

    My suspicions were that it was the xkcd joke, thanks for confirming Rev Matt!

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  3. Laura says:

    Would it be legal for paernts in the United States to attach a 007 to the end of their childs name? It strikes me as something they would have outlawed here as well, but I can’t really find anything online to prove that in either direction.

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  4. sarahmas says:

    You know what would be a great name for a kid? 7. It’s Mickey Mantle’s number!

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  5. Drew says:

    Hock Chun on Jalan Ampang does not sell Jello Gelatin only Jello Pudding as far as I know

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  6. MS says:

    Seven Costanza!

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  7. Mike says:

    What is a native English speaker anyway? Even native English speakers can have very different meanings for words and phrases. My favorite example is “a rubber,” which means something very different to Brits than it does to Americans.

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  8. Nick Booth says:

    How friendly, how helpful, how glocal. I hope you frequent at least one of the shops recommended by that thoughtful woman.

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